Saturday, June 30, 2012

Chicago is not the place to go in Summer

Chicago is Not the Place to go in Summer.
(Note: I began this entry in the O'Hare airport on Friday afternoon. Without any wifi I just started typing and copied it to the blog just now. This may help put the date/time references in balance.)

I base this on my second travel-go-round in a row. I've been here more than once but the past two times have been tiring from the travel perspective. Click here to read about the trip in August 2007.

My visit here is work related and once again - despite not being a city girl at all - I enjoyed my downtime here immensely. Touring the city on foot and even getting in a morning run along Lakeshore Drive. The education sessions I attended were awesome as well. The trouble started this morning.
Remembering that it is technically a holiday weekend with 4th of July smack dab in the middle of the coming week, I called the shuttle service last night and arranged for an earlier pick up. I figured I'd rather sit at the airport than be rushing to get through security due to traffic delays and extra people. HA!
As we finished up the last session of our mediator training this morning the skies grew increasingly darker. We just made the short walk back to the hotel before the skies opened up and the thunder and lightning began. A fellow attendee -Hank- also from PA was dismayed (to put it mildly) to discover his flight was cancelled and he had been rebooked on a flight leaving early Saturday morning. I did a quick check and my 4:11 p.m. flight was still listed as live and leaving on time. During the shuttle ride to the airport Hank was able to change his flight to 6:30 Friday night.

At the airport we parted ways and I went to check my bag. At the kiosk I was informed that the 4:11 flight was cancelled and I had been rebooked for 6:00 a.m Saturday. I frowned at the agent and asked if that was the best they could do. She worked her magic on the desk and got me on a 9:45 pm flight. It was now 1:45.

Keep smiling and keep moving, right? I mean it could be worse. At least I would allegedly get out of here tonight.

I passed through security relatively uneventfully and headed for the gate.  I had thoughts of seeing if I could get on standby on another flight but the line ay the United desk was very long. it probably wouldn't have helped. There was only one flight to Philly that had not been cancelled. I toyed with going over and begging myself on standby but I had checked my bag and figured if I was successful it'd be days before I saw my bag again. Also, that flight was leaving from terminal E, I was in C. I'm not sure I had enough bread crumbs to get there and find my way back if needed.

My phone rang. It was Hank. "What time are you getting out of here?" He had seen all the afternoon cancellations. His flight was leaving from Concourse B. I had just bailed on my thought to find the earlier Philly flight leaving from E so we met in connector tunnel between B and C then headed to C for lunch. That passed some time at least. We parted ways once again each wishing the other luck getting home. I checked the board. My flight wasn't even on the board yet. Hank's flight status was delayed from 6:30 to 8:30....waiting for aircraft it read.

As I type this I'm sitting at the gate where my plane is scheduled to depart. The flight before mine however- going to Brussels- is delayed 2 hours. It too is waiting inbound aircraft. And according to the board that is the status of over 80% of the flights not cancelled.

I think it's time to go look for Ice cream. Somebody in our group this week said that calories away from home do not count (As this person LOADED their plate with food). I don't believe that. However empty calories during a (so far) 5 hour and 45 minute travel delay is going to go a long way toward making keeping a smile on my face. :)

Stay tuned!

It's 8:32 p.m. The flight to Brussels is loaded but still sitting at the gate. It was supposed to leave at 8:20. My 9:45 flight is now listed as 10:15. The ice cream was good. Two scoops of butterfinger/vanilla in a waffle cone.

Just spoke to Dave to update him on my new flight number. I'm a little wired though from all this doing nothing. I cut the call short so I wouldn't drive him nuts with all my yammering. He's pretty good at power napping so hopefully he's doing that so he can pick me up and still be able function tomorrow.

Oh and get this. No free wifi at O'Hare. What's up with that? Even Philly had free wifi. It was slow but it was there. I'm typing this offline for now.

8:40 and Brussells is still sitting at the gate.

11:30 - We've been sitting in the plane for about 45 minutes now.

[Note: at that point the crew just announced we needed to shut everything down for take off so it's now Saturday afternoon. Let me fill you in on the rest (if you are still reading that]

The Brussels flight took off about 9:00 pm. The plane for our flight finally arrived (from Denver) and the scheduled departure was set for 10:45. As you can see at 11:30 we were still at the gate. Several storms cells had developed over O'Hare. We watched lightening streak across the sky. The rule apparantly is everyone off the tarmac when that happens.

Everyone except the people in the tin can at the gate that is.

Somwhere between the 10:45 departure and 11:30 the crew allowed everyone to turn on their stuff again since it was obvious we weren't going anywhere. The announcement was we needed more fuel because the weather in Philadelphia called for it. Uh oh it sounded as if we might be circling when we arrived home. The fuel was loaded and then the storms come overhead in Chicago.

There must have been a break in the radar picture and they decided to take off. No sooner had we started to pull away from the gate a huge - rather spectacular actually - bolt of lightening went across the sky. The spectacularness of it would have been better appreciated from my front porch however. We could only hope that whoever was calling the shots knew how to read the radar correctly.

We took off and soared above the storms. It was a bumpy -  although not obnoxiously so - ride to Philadelahia. You could see jelly fish like globs of lightening outside and below us from time to time. That was kinda cool if one didn't think about how we were going to get down below it eventually.

So I just remembered something. The man in front me fell asleep while we were at the gate. He started snoring. But his snores were very light at first it was hard to say that's what it was. If you've every seen "The Langoliers" - it's a Stephen King book/movie - the noise sounded like the static noise they heard. The noise that made Mr. Toomey think the Langoliers were coming. In my advanced state of sleep deprivation it was really creepy.

So we arrived in Philadelphia at 2:25 AM. The landing was hard and incredibly fast. I've never felt that much speed on the runway like that. As the thunder and lightening continued around us I figure there must have been an opening and the pilot was taking it. If they give speeding tickets for airport runways we may have been a candidate for one.

I really do love Chicago. It surprises me how much I do. I'd rather live in the country preferably on a farm or ranch than in the city. But I always enjoy my time in Chicago and the Chicago marathon is on my bucket list. Getting home from there is a challenge however. I know I'm not the only one who has experienced this. Feel free to leave a comment or two about your Chicago adventures.


  1. I know all too well about Chicago in the summer (and Dallas as well). I spent several hours circling O'Hare in bumby air and came as close as I ever have to using the air sickness bag. Then when we landed and finally got lined up for the rest of the flight to Evansville, the wind shifted and the had to turn about 50 planes around to take off the right way. By the time we got in, the only car left at Avis was a Lincoln Continental and we were going to a haz waste site!

  2. Yikes! Stinks to be stuck at an airport when you're on your way home. Glad you're back safe and sound!