It was the worst of trips, it was the best of trips... or something like that. It shouldn't be that hard to get from California to Kalamazoo, Michigan... right?
We were running late. My mom took far too long to pack and instead of leaving when we planned (to arrive at the airport two hours before our plane was to depart), we left in time to arrive at the airport thirty minutes before the flight would depart. Thirty minutes to park in a strange parking lot, figure out how to leave our vehicle in the long term parking lot, then determine the route of the shuttle bus that would take us from the parking lot to the terminal, rush (haha!) through the draconian, orwellian airport security “features” while my dad gets “special inspection” and finally find the gate where we would board.
Somehow we made it. (The door was shut immediately after my parents entered.) And then the flight to Las Vegas to connect us to Chicago. Now, I've been on more than a few flights. The worst of which was from Atlanta to Los Angeles on the way back from a Hurricane Katrina relief trip where I had a fever and constantly felt like losing my lunch... and never finding it again. But this was different.
I've never experience claustrophobia before, except one time as a young child when a hay maze caved in. I'd certainly never felt claustrophobic on an airplane before, but this time the walls were closing in. The air was becoming stale. My lungs could not breathe quick enough. The oxygen was not reaching my blood. I was going to die... then I defeated it with logic. (Have I mentioned I'm a nerd?) The walls could not be closing in, there was plenty of room (and air) on the plane and there was nothing wrong with my hemoglobin. I have no idea what happened. Well, I have a guess, but that's saved for another blog. Ask me and maybe I'll tell you. ;)
Regardless, I arrived at the airport, conscious and well. However, our hotel's free shuttle did not. It was five minutes past the time that we had confirmed (twice!) that there would be a free ride for us from Midway airport in Chicago to our hotel. The hotel that we explicitly made reservations with because they offered a free shuttle from Midway airport to the hotel. The exchange went a little something like this...
“Mom, we should call and make sure they are sending us the shuttle.”
“Well, they are only five minutes late, and it's a thirty minute drive...”
“Mom, it's two in the morning... I'm sure not even Chicago has traffic at this time, and the paid employees who drive the shuttle's certainly have nowhere better to be.”
“Oh I'm sorry ma'am, our shuttle only goes to O'Hare. We don't pick up from Midway.”
“But we made reservations with you because of your free shuttle pickup at Midway.”
“Sorry ma'am, there's nothing we can do.”
“You assured me today, twice, that you would have someone here to pick us up when we came off the plane. You told us to stand at door two at Midway and here we are... where are you?”
“I suggest taking a taxi. Goodbye.”
Supposedly, a manager was also called, but that did nothing to help the situation. We called Best Western's Guest Relations, also no help. In the end, we took a taxi. A $59 taxi. With a driver who played Elvis on his Ipod Touch. Elvis singing gospel hymns. Elvis singing my all time least like song, He Touched Me. I literally felt like I was in a nightmare that I could not wake up from.
We arrived at the hotel and the hallways smelled like a rotten seashore. It was a peculiar saltwater smell mixed with rotten fish and moldy seaweed. But we were too tired to care. We collapsed on our beds, exhausted, nearly two hours after stepping off of the plane and with our wallets $59 lighter due to non-budgeted expenses. After complaining to the manager face to face the next morning (still no help) we left in search of our previously arranged rental car so we could drive from Chicago, IL to Kalamazoo, MI.
Simply because nothing could be simple on this trip, the car rental place was found in the lobby of a hotel we eventually located three miles away. The car was a Subaru Forester and the three of us were cramped in the back seat. An uncomfortable back seat that was our little cubby hole for the next three hours while we braved Chicago construction traffic and a multitude of seemingly random “coin-only” tolls.
Five weary travelers arrived at the final destination, a(nother) Best Western in Kalamazoo, where the wedding party and family was staying. And we found the non-smoking hotel to be filled with the smell of smoke and cigarettes. While there was only a hint of smoke in mine and my brother's room, my parent's room was terrible. After a room change we were finally able to crash.
Here ends Chapter First...
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