Tuesday, October 27, 2009

O'Hare in Prose

Last Thursday we left for my niece's wedding in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Our plan was to fly from Winnipeg to Chicago, then Chicago to South Bend, where we would stay the night with our son. Then we planned to drive from SB to Harrisburg, stay with my folks and enjoy the wedding on Saturday, and finally fly back on Sunday Harrisburg to Chicago, and Chicago to Winnipeg.
Generally speaking, that's what happened; but as my previous post suggests, O'Hare did not cooperate with the program. We arrived in Chicago on schedule at 7:30 in the evening to find the gates in F packed with people waiting for delayed flights. A weather system was bringing huge rain to a large area south of Chicago (and to Chicago), which meant that flights from Cincinnati (for example) were late, and flights on from O'Hare were delayed.

We quickly joined the delays, first from 9:15 to 10 pm, then from 10 to 11 pm. Finally we boarded our flight, and two hours late for the 25 minute hop across to South Bend seemed not too bad. But of course the evening was only beginning. As we sat at the gate, and sat, the captain announced first that a weakness had been noted in the floor near the door. Then he told us that the weakness was "within specifications" and we would take off. Then we learned that the weakness was worse than thought. Finally we deplaned (with some relief), and went back to Gate F12. Finally came the announcement that the flight was cancelled.

Lois went down to the specified gate to get a voucher for a hotel and make plans for the next day. I waited at the gate for our bags, two carry-ons that had been tagged and placed under the plane. Then I realized that I had the boarding passes Lois needed to make arrangements. A quick trot the quarter mile between us carried the passes to Lois, and relieved some of the building tension I felt. No bags. I went back to Lois and talked a bit, then returned to the gate to wait for our bags. Then we were told that the bags would be delivered to baggage area 6 in terminal 1. I went back to find Lois, and she was gone!

A female attendant at the desk checked the wash room for me, eliciting a voice from somewhere inside, "I'm not Lois!" Then the attendant who had given Lois our vouchers recognized me and told me that she had gone to baggage area 6, so I set off again at a brisk trot through a now deserted O'Hare. Out through security, on down the stairs, to the lower level of Terminal 1.
Here I found Lois, along with 40 or so other irate passengers. Apparently our luggage was to be held, and then sent off to South Bend the next day, where we could pick it up. While we milled about Lois told me that we had a voucher for the hotel, and that we could take the next bus to South Bend at about 7 in the morning. It was now after 1:30 am, and the time was moving.
Finally our luggage appeared at baggage area 2, relieving the growing frustration of passengers on the edge of rioting. We took our bags and crossed to the bus terminus. There we found that the first bus to South Bend left at 5:15, just over three hours later. So we forgot about the hotel and rested as well as we could.

Two young girls just back from Mexico shivered on a nearby bench, until a car arrived to take them off. I talked with JJ, a former football player from the Bronx headed back to his old university's homecoming. He had flown from New York to Detroit, then to Chicago, and now was waiting for a bus to take him to some friends in Portage. An even more convoluted journey than our own!

At 5 am we boarded the bus, and left at 5:15. Lois slept almost the full three hours on the bus, and I slept for an hour or two. At 9:20 we pulled onto the Notre Dame campus and looked around for our son to pick us up. I had woken him from a deep sleep with directions for where we would get off. When he woke, his handwritten note said cryptically "Notre Dame Holy Cross 9:20". Missing was the word "intersection" between the two street names. So he went to the Holy Cross College on the Notre Dame campus, where there was a bus terminus.
Meanwhile, Lois and I stood in a wet and rainy morning, in a wet and chilly open air bus terminus. Across from us at the main gate of the campus was a guard, who invited us into his heated shelter, called our son for us (on his cell), and soon we were at our son's apartment.
The journey was almost over. After a shower and breakfast, we got into the car and left for Harrisburg -- 10 hours through constant rain. A final twist came as we left the turnpike, five minutes from Dad's house. Lois reached for the ticket to give to the attendant at the toll booth, but it slipped down behind the ash tray. We could see it, we could touch it, but we could not get it out. We pulled over into the toll area's parking lot and took turns trying to reach it. Finally our son hooked it, and I carried it across to the toll booth. At last we could arrive.
The wedding was wonderful. The reception lovely. Brunch on Sunday delightful. We had good family visits in between. The trip back was unnaturally smooth. We arrived back in Winnipeg 20 minutes early. Every light except one was green, and less than an hour after leaving the airport we were home. A trip to remember!

Our son looking for the ticket.

A tree outside our son's apartment.

Another tree outside the apartment.

Resting in the bus depot at O'Hare.


Terry said...

Wow, quite a trip. Glad your trip home was less eventful and that you got to the wedding after all and had a good time.

Welcome home,
Terry T.

KGMom said...

Sorry the trip was so circuitous and needlessly stressful.
BUT so glad you all made it--it made Kristen and Mike's special day even more special.
I like the phrase sometimes used in wedding--before God and these witnesses.
There is something to said for witnessing--participation in the transitional events of our lives.
Love to you all...

Climenheise said...

I sgree. We make our promises to each other, but witnesses matter. Ask any court! It was indeed a treat to be there. Love to all back at ya!