For some people traveling is a means to an end where the destination is the prize. Airport security, seemingly endless hours of driving, or being shimmied into a tiny seat on a bus are all necessary frustrations that sandwich the main even; the moment they have worked so hard to achieve— their vacation. I am not one of those people. Traveling is as much a part of the adventure as the destination itself. I thoroughly enjoy the experience of meeting new people and navigating the unexpected challenges that pop up while on the move. The late Jeanne Robertson made a career of talking about maintaining a sense of humor in difficult situations and I have learned that if you keep an open mind even the stresses of travel can be humorous, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time. The following story illustrates this point very well.
In September of 2015 I was traveling from business. At that time lived equally far from the airports in Chicago and Milwaukee. Both airports had flights to Boston (my destination) that were of similar duration and cost so I decided to fly out of O’Hare airport as I had never been to Milwaukee and was more familiar with the Chicago airport.
Now, I am not a nervous traveler by any stretch of the imagination. I love everything about the experience from start to finish and usually spend a great deal of time researching things to make sure I am well prepared for my journey. In the days leading up to my departure I scouted out the most economical parking and worked out an appropriate timeline to park and get to the terminal with some time to spare before my 7:00 AM flight.
My company was gracious enough let my fly to Boston a few days early to visit family before my meetings that were scheduled for the last half of the following week. Excited for the quality time with family, I booked the first flight out on Saturday even though I had to work Friday evening. This perhaps was the second in a series of decisions that made Saturday morning an eventful morning. Given that I had to work late into the evening, I had to rush to get some new dress cloths for the following weeks meetings before the store closed. When you combine that with a late dinner and other miscellaneous errands that needed get done time was ticking by at a dizzying pace. After everything was done and all was packed I finally laid down for a power nap just before midnight.
My plan was to lay down long enough to almost feel refreshed And be in the road by 2:30 AM. Best laid plans and all that… I didn’t hear the alarm and woke up with a panic snort at 3:00 AM. I leaped out of bed grabbed my bag and ran to the truck. Rolling out at 3:30 meant I was an hour behind my planned departure. Though I was not thrilled about this, I still had plenty of time to make it to the airport As even Chicago traffic is good at 3:30 AM. Or so I thought. 15 miles from the airport, road construction reduced a 4 lane down to a 1 lane road. Traffic was at a dead stop for a half an hour. Now I’m starting to get concerned.
Traffic starts moving again and I make my way to the airport and have to opt for the ECONOMY parking lot at $17/day Instead of the off site lot that was $8/day. I pulled into that lot and had a major mental fit over the cost of parking. I’m used to pricing at the far less expensive Indianapolis airport. Per the airport website, I needed to be there 2 hours before my departure time and I was parking at 5:30 AM for a flight departing at 7:00 AM. In my mind, I’m telling myself this is still doable and getting anxious at the same time.
Going from my car to the people mover with swift and deliberate movement caused a torrent of sweat bee bees to percolate from
my face. It was at this time that I came to regret my choice of TSA friendly easily removable sandals. Scurrying onto the escalator with bag in tow, I some how managed to loose my footing and began to wobble backwards. To give you an appropriate mental image of what was about to unfold, you have to understand that I am not a dainty person. I’m 5’11 and about 300 Lbs. The lady immediately behind me was 5’5 and maybe 115 Lbs. If I tumbled backwards I would squish her and take out the whole line of people behind us like a stack of dominos. So, the only thing I could do was grip the hand rail hard enough to leave finger prints while doubling over it.
The lady behind me was a trooper and was extremely alarmed at my general trajectory and she feared I was going to topple over the side of the escalator and plummet to my death never once fearing for her own health and safety. I was more concerned about tumbling backwards and taking out the entire line of people behind me. Some how I managed to recover from this in what must have looked like an exaggerated dance move by Johnny Dell’s Mad Hatter.
Now I’m at the top of the escalator, sweat bee bees everywhere , and out of breath. I make my way to printing my boarding pass.The self service kiosk is having issues printing my boarding pass, even though I left the house already checked in. I could have used an e-ticket on my phone, but that was a new technology at the time and I didn’t know how it worked and opted for a printed boarding pass instead. So, off to the ticket counter, which fortunately did not take much time at all.
Off to the TSA check point I go! I snake my way to the x-Ray machine and make it through with my standard accoutrements only to be patted down and tested for explosive residue. Apparently my flushed face peppered with sweat bee bees and shortness of breath made me stand out to the TSA officials that morning.
Somehow, through all of this, I managed to make it to my gate by 6:00 AM that morning, which gave me time to purchase an extremely overpriced breakfast sandwich at one of the airport eateries. As I’m sitting at what I thought was my gate feeling relief that I will make my flight and my family picking me up wont have to deal with the delays that would have arisen from getting another flight, I look up to discover that the gate for my flight has changed to the one across the hall. Urgh!
I was a little stressed at the time, but thinking about the experience after it was over, there were several funny moments just getting to my gate. Had I not been able to see the experience for what it was, my stress could have gotten the better of me and I could have missed my flight. However, I managed to make it to Boston as planned. Stay tuned for part 2 and see how this saga ends.