I loved the conference in Chicago. Not the conference itself. It was okay, with some really good moments. The fun was in hanging out with co-workers, dancing at the big party at Navy Pier, downing my first oyster at Shaw’s, seeing the King Tut exhibit at the Field museum, exploring the Art Institute, and having hysterics at the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) turnstile.
Hysterics? Yes, but not the bad kind. Most of our group headed out midday to be back to Flagstaff by 8:00 pm, but a small group of us planned a later flight. Hey, I knew that was the chance to see some of Chicago, I didn’t mind getting back after 10:00 pm.
So, the four of us on that later flight got together Friday afternoon to get to the airport. We took a cab to a location where we could catch the Blue Line train. Now, I am not made for traveling – I get incredibly clumsy with a suitcase and a ticket in hand. At the train station I was trying to find a way to pay to get on the train. A 20 dollar bill was too much and no change could be made. Luckily, the guys, who had already made it through the turnstile, came back for me. One had money left on his CTA and handed it over the turnstile. Whew, I could continue on. Right.
There is an art form in getting a loaded suitcase through the turnstile. Did you know that? I sure didn’t.
I was stuck. What was worse, I was hysterical…with laughter. People were lining up to after me to get through, but I was blocking their way and all I could do was laugh hysterically. You know the kind of laughter – tears are pouring down your face and you need to desperately pee your pants. That was me. Finally, my heroes, Chris and Dan, helped me get through and moving again, but I’ve now been labeled as “special” with special needs.
The train ride was great and the flight to Phoenix fine. Luckily we still had some deep dish Chicago pizza left over from lunch that we ate at O’Hare. Lucky, because when we got to Phoenix we met up at the airport with all the guys who had left at noon. It seems the flight to Flagstaff was delayed, which meant our flight was even more delayed.
It seems to always happen. Delays and huge problems keep me waiting at the Phoenix airport to get back to Flagstaff. This time it was a doozy. Due to the long wait one guy decided to hang out with his brother and stay in Phoenix for the weekend; another two got a ride with a spouse who happened to be in town; the rest of us waited. Our boss tried to find a rental van to take us back in case the flights were cancelled. Let’s just say that hanging out at the airport is a miserable experience. Still, it is better than hanging out at the Greyhound bus station, which we ended up doing.
U.S. Airways arranged a bus trip for us all. It would even drop us off at the Flagstaff airport. Oh joy. We gathered our luggage and waited for the bus. Humors were not high, but we kept trying to find the humor in it. In fact, when we were on the bus and heading away from the airport, we all laughed when the bus driver said that the bus was broken and we’d need a different one. What a card! Um…it was no joke. The bus was broken and couldn’t go over 15 mph.
Ah, the Greyhound bus station on Friday night. Is there any better place to hang out? Oh yeah, lots of places. Eventually, around midnight, they got us on another bus and loaded a few extra people heading to Albuquerque. After another false start (someone was hitting some kind of alarm and I think it was me leaning against the window) and we finally were on the road to Flagstaff. Sleeping on one of these things ain’t easy, but I did catch some shuteye. We made it to the Flag airport around 2:30 a.m. Hallelujah!
I got a ride home since I had a flat tire. Oh, didn’t I mention the flat? Just another little issue to deal with this weekend. It happened the day I was driving to the airport.
All in all, a good time in Chicago was not ruined by U.S. Airways, but it sure did dim my pleasure. So, word of advice to you: drive to Phoenix and park in long-term parking and drive back. Don’t ever think of flying to Flagstaff. You could end up on a Greyhound bus.