That was the theme yesterday.
I tried to leave Chicago. Really, I did. The Realtor was to meet me for breakfast and her usual "take me to the airport because then we have an hour to ourselves" run. I had B55 as a Southwest Boarding Pass and three hours between our meeting and my plane's departure. Life was good.
Without cash, with a new car, without the desire to see that car driven by a young valet to a remote parking lot, she disappeared from view just after I spied her through the window. That was fine; she's been blowing in almost-but-not-quite-late for the 31 years of our relationship. I sipped my odd green tea mixture and waited happily. There were two under-two-year-olds at the next table I stared and dreamed.
Safely parking her new car, she tried twice before her egg whites were to her satisfaction. My oatmeal was as odd as the green tea, filled with honey and something creamy with totally tasteless granola on top. I've never been disappointed in oatmeal before, but, as G'ma used to tell me, there's always a first time.
Our waitress was delightful if sporadically attentive. The conversation was, as well. I was trying to find a bite or two that would hold me over until I got to Midway. I decided that I could wait.
The drive was easy, we hugged good-bye, and I was delightfully surprised to find that, for the fifth flight in a row, I was on the TSA pre-screen list. I didn't have to wait in the long line. I was shuffled off to the right, where I breezed down the skinny hallway next to the windows, tossed my suitcase and purse onto the belt, and strolled through the metal detector. It's a whole different experience when you don't have to take off your shoes.... I almost felt like a human being.... not a potentially dangerous one, either.
Gate B9 was one moving walkway from security. The oversized lounge chairs with the charging stations in the armrests were unoccupied. I settled in next to two men with headphones, turned on the Kindle, and read on in Bleak House. That little device comes in handily when the reading material is an 800 page tome and you are trying to travel light.
I had time. I waited, happily. Inclement weather on Monday left many travelers scrambling for escape on Tuesday, but there were no clouds to speak of as I watched the planes take off and land. I'd be home in time for my therapy at 4:15pm.
That was the plan.
I fed myself at Potbelly's Sandwich Shop, a favorite when we lived in town and my guilty pleasure while waiting at Midway. A toasted tuna and a giant Coca-Cola left my belly and my heart happy. Certain tastes bring back vivid memories and, as I returned to the gate, my mind was back at Oz Park with The Cuters. I settled in, gently belching the world's tastiest pepperoncini, and waited to board.
That was the plan.
As the runway became less busy and then empty, CNN and the airport announcer told us the same story - there was smoke in the control tower. Midway and O'Hare were shut down. Our plane had been diverted to Grand Rapids, Michigan. There was nothing further to report.
The helicopters overhead were scary to some, but I was still struck by the silence. Looking at another day in the airport, never reaching Albany, the young mother and her toddler read picture books and colored and were remarkably calm. The family on their way to UofA graduation, planning to celebrate at one of Tucson's fancy resorts, a vacation they never would have taken were their youngest child not celebrating, they'd checked their belongings through. Without underwear or toothbrushes, with another daughter already on her way from another city, the mom assured me that her outward calm in no way reflected her inner turmoil.
There wasn't a lot of information to be given; firefighters concentrate on the job at hand rather than public statements. At one point, there were planes lining up on the runway.... and there they sat.... for two hours.... before this announcement: Attention in the terminal. Do not get excited if you see planes moving. They are going back to their gates.
We waited some more.
Rumors flew. I read. I crocheted. I chatted with the Ironwood Ridge High School teachers to my left. We watched the other's bags for bathroom breaks and information seeking forays. We played with the baby.
Then, the announcement we dreaded. There was no guarantee that the airport would reopen anytime soon. We should get in line to rebook, or call the 1-800 number, or go online if we had access... which, being Boingo in Chicago, was unlikely since the free service lasts only 20 minutes and no one wanted to pay for more. So, I got on line, holding a place for one of the teachers who sat comfortably watching the luggage as the line inched its way to the counter. The pilots waiting nearby shared their news - all flights scheduled before 7pm were going to be cancelled.
I called The Realtor, made a plan to take the train to her house for a slumber party, and prepared to leave Chicago in the morning..... although as the line moved slowly forward the rumor was that there were plenty of seats on the 7:15pm plane. So many decisions... to rebook and hope... to rebook later and plan... and we waited and pondered and then the desk attendant picked up her microphone and told us that We have a plane!
The cheers and clapping were spontaneous.
We boarded as soon as the last person steps off the inbound flight and I've never seen so many people move so quickly. A1 through 30... GO! and they went. There was no pausing between groups; B55 was on the plane minutes after A1. I settled down between a grandpa going to a wedding and a Tucsonan returning home. We pulled back from the gate as soon as the doors shut on the last man on and we took off just as quickly.
The pilots were as tired of waiting as we were.
My plan was to write to you yesterday afternoon, once I got home and unpacked and took a shower. By the time I landed and met TBG for a quick dinner and got home and showered and flopped onto the couch my brain had turned to mush. I forgot that I was late to the party... that I'd not written my post... that you were waiting.
Please, accept my apologies. I hope that reading this over lunch is just as satisfying as reading it over breakfast.