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3.22.2004 Welcome to O’Hare International Airport – the Armpit of Hub Airports

“You should really check this out,” Elizabeth said as she held up one end of the Biore strip, “It's really cool.”

Believe it or not, I appreciated the simplicity of that statement, especially after being away from home for a couple of days, and then being so utterly busy, while back. I’ve been traveling a little bit here and there in preparations for moving to Houston. Most recently, I just flew back from Omaha.

Yeah, Omaha, Nebraska.

I’ll get into why I was there at a later time, but some significant findings did come out of my visit – one of which is my choice of airports. I just remembered coming back from that trip how I utterly, most positively, freakin’ absolutely *hate* stopping over at O’Hare airport in Chicago.

O’Hare is huge and pretty, but it’s not well organized, and since it’s located in Chicago, this itself just spells gloom and doom for anything that is easily affected by the weather, like air travel. Sometimes, there is just no rhyme or reason to that place. If there was ever a black hole in this country where bad things happen to airplane schedules, this is definitely the Mecca.

March 10th 2004 – So, I’m sitting in the airport in Omaha (yeah, Omaha, Nebraska), on a bright sunny day waiting for the airplane. I have a hefty garment bag with me and dressed in business slacks and the most uncomfortable shoes that I own – but they look nice. I look on the departures monitor and notice all flights are on time on all three monitors – well, all except for one flight – my flight. Apparently, it’s trapped at O’Hare with some mechanical failure and the outlook is that there’s a three hour delay, so far.

“We can put you on another flight that should get you there on time to reach your connection,” the customer service representative tells me. I am greatly relieved and raced over to the new gate. Thinking this is when the fun stopped is an understatement. It was really the start. A couple of hours later we were hovering over O’Hare just circling. Looking at the time, it was questionable whether or not I would be able to actually get to my connecting flight back to New York.

The flight attendant reads off a list of flights awaiting boarding, none of which are mine, “If I did not read your flight, there will be a uniformed customer service representative just outside the gate. Please see him or her and he or she should be able to assist you. Thank you for flying American Airlines.”

There was a uniformed customer service representative outside the gate, but guess what – she could not be bothered by me, for she was busy chatting away on her cell phone. When I tried to get her attention, she abruptly waved her hand shooing me away. This wasn’t going to work. I looked on the flight departure monitor behind her and noticed that my connecting flight was departing in about ten minutes. The only problem was that we were about three terminals away.

Let me reiterate something about O’Hare airport, if I wasn’t clear previously, *it freakin’ sucks*

Another passenger yells out, “Over here! There’s an express bus downstairs to the other terminal!” He must’ve noticed that we were looking at the same flight. I heave up my hefty garment bag over my shoulder and race down the stairs and load into the bus with the other passengers.

Finally, arriving over at the other terminal, we notice that the gate we need to get to is at the far end. An honest, non-exaggerated assessment of how gigantic these terminals are, I would have to say they are about half a mile long each. I, once again, heaved my garment bag over my shoulder, and with my uncomfortable shoes, attempt to jog all the way down there. I looked over at my new passenger friend and wondered how he was going to get there. He was about fifty years old and didn’t look so fit. We nodded to each other and continued jogging. He lasted for about five paces. I lasted for about ten before I was slowed to a fast walk. I heaved and heaved. I looked at the time and it was just cutting it really close. I finally approached gate one-million-and-a-half and it’s empty. Nobody was there – no one. There was a uniformed representative nearby however.

“I’m sorry, but that flight has departed. I would suggest that you go over to the customer service desk quickly to get booked on another flight,” she said.
“Where is this desk?” I asked.
“At the other end of the terminal.”

Yes, I had to race back to the other end of the terminal. My passenger friend arrived huffing and puffing and I noticed he was also heaving a garment bag. We started our quick brisk walk back to the other end of the terminal together.

A few minutes later, we reached the service desk. Fortunately, there was no line. He was assertively helped by one representative while I had to coax mine to help me. My rep was lazy – there was no doubt about it. She stood about two steps back away from the desk and stared off into space while looking half asleep and mostly disinterested.

“Hello,” I said. She continued to look off into space as if continuing to ignore me would make me go away. I continued, “Hello. Can you help me? Over here. In front of you.”

I have to admit something. I was a little abrupt with her, but there is one other thing that I cannot stand more than O’Hare airport at this point in time, but was to deal with lazy people who are supposed to help you. Well, I finally finished explaining my situation before she started with the excuses.

“… Umm, I don’t think I can’t book you on another flight,” she said, “Umm … there’s none left.”
After eavesdropping on the other customer service representative that was helping my passenger friend, I had to follow their lead, “Look, she just said there’s another flight that leaves for New York.”
”… Umm… there may be,” she answered slowly.
“Is there or isn’t there?”
“… I guess there is.”
“What time does it leave?”
She tapped away on the computer terminal in front of her. ”In about a half hour,” she said, “Umm… but I don’t think you’ll be able to make it.”
“I want you to put me on that flight. I cannot stay here overnight.”
“I’m not sure you’ll be able to make it.”
“Look,” I said, “She just booked him on that flight. You put me on that flight as well.”
“Umm… not sure if you’re going to make it.”
“Let me be the judge of that,” I said sternly, “Do your job. Put me on that flight.”
“Umm …”
“Just do it.”

I was utterly disgusted and disappointed with some of the service, but the brighter side of things was that this helped fuel my transport to the new flight, for this was located back at the other terminal – two terminals away. And for some absurd and unhelpful reason, the express buses were not running anymore. Apparently, it was too late and they stopped running. Suddenly, the half hour was now, realistically, going to be a challenge to get to.

*O’Hare airport sucks! Sucks! Sucks! Sucks!!*.

I walked at a racing pace, what appeared to be, mile after mile. I was now sweating in my business attire clip-clopping along in these uncomfortable shoes, heaving an oversized garment bag over my shoulders.

I raced around people, tried jogging when I could, and slowed back down to a walking pace at the other times. I continued to sweat inside my clothes. My calves and shins ached with every step. When people saw me coming, they would step aside. Other times, they would gasp wondering why I had suddenly passed them so quickly. The most odd situation was watching a woman scaringly jump aside to let me pass, but didn’t pull her unknowingly daughter aside with her. I thought to myself that if she was really that scared of me, she should’ve tried to protect her daughter as well. The mother received a disappointed glance from me.

Twenty-five minutes later and we finally arrived at the terminal. I approached one of the departure monitors and didn’t see an American Airlines flight departing for New York.

I asked a representative, “Where’s the American flight to New York?”
He said, “That’s one more terminal over.”
“What?” I mumbled in disbelief. I heard what he had said, but I just couldn’t believe it.
“One more terminal,” he repeated.
I gathered my strength and said to my passenger friend, “Listen, I’m going to try jogging over there. I’ll hold the plane for you.”

It was my last ditch effort to try and get on this flight. I just had to. There was no way that I was going to stay in this place over night. I had to get back home. I heaved the garment bag over from one shoulder to the next and just started going. Trying to coach myself, I kept repeating no-pain-just-pick-up-the-knees-just-go-we-are-al-most-there.

I was finally approaching the gate and I saw them starting to close the door, “Wait! Wait!”

They saw me and a small check-in crew rushed out to help. A few minutes later, my passenger friend arrived. We were both too over exhausted to say a word to each other, but a smile and a small thumbs up said it all. I hobbled onto the plane, smiled to some of the other passengers, sat down, and gave a huge sigh of relief.

I looked over to the person next to me, pointed out the window, and said, “Yeah, I just ran over from over there … and I made it.”
“Congratulations,” he said.
“The customer service here sucks.”
“That’s no mystery,” he confirmed.
“O’Hare sucks too.”
“That’s no mystery either,” he confirmed again.
“But I’m glad I’m on this flight. I definitely had to make it.”
“It’s the last flight back to New York tonight.”
“Yes,” I said, “And also, it’s my daughter’s six month birthday today as well. I definitely couldn’t miss it. I’m going home.”

Happy sixth month birthday Megan – daddy loves you.

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...One thing is that no matter how old I am, I probably will not like being called sir or mister, for they have always seemed too far out of reach...




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