Southwestern Seminary had its first every fall break this year. Students got an entire week off! I used my week off to visit three amazing friends from Gloreita Camp, Kaitlyn, Cooper and Josiah (Josie), who attend school at Judson University in the Chicago area. It’s slightly ironic that a graduate student spends her week break from school, going to school, but that is exactly what I did. Undergraduate school is much different than graduate school/seminary. I miss my days at the University of Oklahoma more than anything. And visiting Judson University reminded me exactly why.
But, the story really starts before I ever left the south. For some reason, I find myself in the most absurd life situations. Those movies where everything that could possibly go wrong, does go wrong (like Toy Story 3), some days I feel like that is my life. And I surely do not choose my life to be this way. Those movies wear me out. That’s not entertainment, it’s torture…even if it does include a big pink talking stuffed bear. At the end of these days, I always tell myself “I should write down what happened, just because it’s close to unbelievable.” So today, I’m going to document the insanity of my trip to Chicago.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how I tend to overestimate myself and my abilities, if not, I tend to overestimate myself and my abilities. Not good. When my parents asked if they could drive me to the airport, I told them no. I’m a strong, independent woman who can live life on her own and take care of herself. For the first time, I was going to take myself to the airport. How hard could it be, really? I’ve been to DFW International Airport a dozen times. My flight was scheduled to leave at 9:15, and I would arrive in Chicago at 11:30. Perfect. I would have the entire afternoon and evening to share with my friends. I decided leaving at 6:00 would give me plenty of time to make it to the airport.
I had packed everything the night before, putting all my stuff in a carry-on so I wouldn’t have to check or pay for baggage. My alarm woke me up at the unfriendly hour of 5:30. I hurried myself and attempted to get out the door on time. It was somewhat of a success running only a few minutes behind schedule. Driving on the highway, in Oklahoma, which is flat and boring, in the early morning when it’s still dark is miserable! It was so hard to stay awake. I made fairly good timing…or so I thought. When the sun came up the drive was much easier. I even talked to my dad on the phone and let him know things were great. Until I hit DFW traffic. It’s unavoidable, no matter what time of day you travel. So I fought through the stop and go, not to mention the crazy construction surrounding the airport. The GPS hates construction as much as I do. The two do not mix. And my lack of directional abilities didn’t mesh well either in this situation.
Unfortunately, my ability to navigate around the airport caused me to miss the exit for the Remote Parking Lot, where I was to leave my car. I end up entering the airport, receiving a little white parking ticket from the attendant, then driving in circles trying to exit the airport and get back to Remote Parking. Again, my lack of skills and GPS are of no assistance. Finally, when there are no more circles to turn, the airport exit appears. I visit the exit booth and am required to pay $2 for my leisurely stroll around DFW. What a treat. And the clock is ticking.
I pass the sign for the first parking lot. Unfortunately, it reads “CLOSED.” The next one is about a half a mile further. After entering the second lot, I find my way to the nearest parking spot to the bus station which will take me to the terminal. Nearest parking spot being an oxymoron, because by this time Monday morning, the Remote Parking is almost full. I know I’m in trouble for time. I park the car, grab all my stuff, and quickly walk (because I don’t run) to the bus station. I wait for the bus to come…when it finally arrives and I sit down to breath, the clock reads 8:45. Oh man. I’m getting nervous. Rattling my keys together in my hands. The bus leaves the station, it’s so slow. I’m never going to make it. This is crazy. If I only had found better directions to the Remote Parking.
The bus attendant calls for terminal A. In my frustration, self pity and personal lecturing I grab my stuff and exit the bus. I need A18. The sign above my head says “A30.” I’ve exited the bus too quickly. Great. Just what I needed was some more exercise. And who knew what time it was. I wasn’t wearing a watch. The phone I relied on for time must have been somewhere in one of my bags. I took the first escalator up to the ticket booths. Frantically searching for which direction would take me to my gate. More intense walking followed. I was starting to sweat. You see, I had been told Chicago was cold this time of year, so I dressed warm. In Texas my attire was not appropriate, carrying two bags and walking very quickly through the terminal. But, I kept going because I had to make it to the gate. And a glimmer of hope welled up inside. I saw the blue numbers above my head “A18” and I swiped my passport to receive my boarding pass.
Instead of showing a picture of my flight schedule, the computer screen instructions directed me to select another flight. No!! I focused my gaze on the walls. I had to find a clock. It was 9:00. I still had time, right? The woman in the blue vest reading “American Airlines,” she could help. Yes, she helped. She helped me pay $50 more and choose another flight, insisting that I had arrived too late. What a bummer, my first day in Chicago, gone. But, it was just a few hours in the airport, no big deal. I brought along homework I could do. I went over to a row of seats and dropped my bags, removed my scarf and jacket (told you I was prepared for Chicago weather) and sat down. Taking deep breaths to calm my nerves. I could just call Kaitlyn to let her know I would be late, then my parents to ask for a $50 bank deposit.
I reached into my purse to retrieve my phone. That was funny…it’s not in the pocket it’s supposed to be in. Well, I’m not surprised as fast as I exited my car in Remote Parking. I continued to dig through my over-sized purse. And came up empty handed. Wonderful. Another deep breath. It’s probably in my backpack. So, I just dumped everything out onto the floor. Makes it much easier and I’m too exhausted at this point to dig. Again, empty handed. Check the pockets of my jacket. Nothing. Check the carry on bag. Nothing. Purse and Backpack again. Nothing. Re-enter panic mode. What am I going to do? How can I call Kaitlyn? Or my mom? I’ll never make it to Chicago. I won’t have any money. They will be waiting for me all day at the airport. Hasn’t today been bad enough? I’m missing everything in Chicago. Pity party.
I notice a pay phone on the wall. I can call Kaitlyn from here! But wait, I don’t have her number. Well, I can call my mom at least. Mom is disappointed I missed my flight, but fine. I, however, am about to cry. When I pull myself together, I decide my phone might have been left in my car. I have plenty of time, my next flight was at 2. I can take the bus back to the car, get the phone, then call Kaitlyn and everything is going to be alright. No problem. Another deep breath. Just a little mistake, but I’m still the strong independent one, traveling to Illinois by myself. I’ve got this.
I get back on the bus, slightly embarrassed hoping no one will recognize me. Take the trip back to Remote Parking. Going two miles seems like an eternity at 30 miles per hour. I hike back to my car, which at this point feels like another mile. Time to search. I search, and search, and search. Mom said she would be calling my phone so I could hear it ringing. All I hear is silence. Where could you be phone? I hunt under the seats, but it’s rather dark. Then I remember I keep a flash light in my car for times like this. Then I remember my little brother had taken my flash light out of my car to play with a few days ago. Then I remember he didn’t put it back when I told him to. Then I’m pretty angry. I yell at him like he can hear me. Now it’s all his fault. If only he would have done what I told him to, I could find my phone and everything would magically be alright again. Sadly and angrily, I don’t find the phone. I give up. Maybe it’s not in the car, maybe I’ve lost it going from my car to the terminal. It could have easily fallen out of my pocket at any point.
I visit the bus station for the second time in two hours. And my worst fears come true. The bus driver tells me he recognized me, because I had been taking the bus a lot this morning. Lovely. I want to cry. I explain that I have missed my flight and lost my phone and I can’t get in touch with anyone. He feels pity for me. A young girl traveling alone, lost and scared. This man radios his friends, searches the buses for my phone with no success, then takes down my name and home phone number in case my phone turns up. I consider going back to my car and driving home. It just didn’t feel worth it anymore. But, I was determined not to let this ruin my time in Chicago. Who needed a cell phone anyway? There once was a time when humanity survived without them, right? Feeling a little better, I hop back on the bus once again, and ride back to the terminal, once again. From the time I left the terminal, until I get back to the terminal, an hour has passed.
With my new boarding pass and flight number I check through security, find a cup of coffee and pay $10 to enjoy unlimited wifi for the day. I figure if I get wifi, I can call Kaitlyn via Skype and let her know I missed my flight. However, I would need to hurry, because she would be leaving soon for the airport to pick me up. She was also skipping a class in order to get me on time, and I wanted to let her know she could go to class and get me later. I also figured getting wifi would allow me to contact Kaitlyn once I get to Chicago to let her know where I am. Perfect. That is until I realize I don’t have Kaitlyn’s phone number, or Cooper’s phone number, or Josie’s phone number, because they are all in my phone, which I have lost. Panic rises inside of me again. I hunt for someone’s phone number on the internet social networks, just like I hunted for my phone in the car. Luckily I get Josie’s number. But, he won’t answer. I leave a message. Kaitlyn could be leaving any time, and missing class, and waiting on me to show up. Not only did I waste my time today, but I would be wasting her’s as well. I email all three of them, and post facebook messages on their walls. Maybe someone would get the memo. I also message a friend who gives me Cooper’s number. He doesn’t answer either. And it’s so like Cooper to have his message inbox full!
I’ve made it to the end. There is nothing left to do, but hope that Kaitlyn gets my message and goes to class instead of the airport. I begin my homework. At some point, Cooper gets to chat with me via Skype. Katilyn has already gone to the airport. He calls her to tell her I can’t make it. Then wants to know what time they can now pick me up. I search websites for an arrival time, but can’t find one. I use the wonderful math skills I posses to calculate the flight takes 2 hours and 15 minutes. If we fly out at 2:30…that means I will get there at 3:45. The message is relayed to Cooper, who passes it on. Back to homework.
At last, I’m sitting on the plane. Only two more hours and I will be in Chicago. This can all be forgotten. We sit, and sit, and sit. The captain informs us some wiring on the left side of the plane needs to be replaced. We will be 30 minutes behind schedule. The second announcement, not only does the wiring need to be replaced, but the entire part, and they have to go and get the new part. Another thirty minutes at least. And I have no way to tell anyone. Again, I am wasting their time. I hate that. Pressure and guilt weigh me down.
After takeoff, I attempt to clear my mind and put some of my energy to work productively. I feel like writing a story. With my laptop in front of me I write, and write, and imagine, and write some more, until my laptop battery shuts down. By then, we’ve almost made it! I can see the city out my window and it’s beautiful! Chicago here I come.
I was sure that the unloading and leaving the airport part would be the simplest of all, especially as ready as I was to get out of there. I’d been to O’Hare before, but today it seemed much bigger, and full of people. I had no idea where to go. Where would I meet Kaitlyn? How would she find me? Can she even come into the airport? Does she even know my flight number? And if so, will she wait on me at baggage claim? Baggage claim had to be the best option. It takes much longer than I wanted to get there, but I make it, and I start scanning the crowd. No Kaitlyn in sight.
Ok, I could just get out my computer, use the all day internet pass I bought and give her a call. Turn on the computer, and oh yes, of course, I used all my stinking battery writing on the plane! How stupid was that. I knew it was my only source of communication. Ah!! It’s ok. I could find a plug in. I walk up and down the baggage claim area, through all of the people, to find an outlet. The first one I plug into doesn’t work. Why would it, after the day I’ve had. I find another one around the corner out of sight. This is bad because I don’t know if I can be here, and Kaitlyn, if she shows up, won’t see me. Computer’s up and running. Attempting to connect to the internet. But, fail. The “hotspot” I paid for in Dallas apparently doesn’t have service in Chicago. But, I can buy a Chicago friendly hotspot for only $14. Yeah, right. That’s not going to happen.
Plan B. Pay phone. But, these won’t take my credit card. I rummage through my bag for all my change. It costs $1.25 to make a call! Holy moley. Yet, it’s my only hope. Go to dial the number and remember, I don’t have Kaitlyn’s number. I never did. And I didn’t write down Cooper’s or Josie’s number, because I didn’t think I would need it. Oh my goodness…I am so stupid! What was I thinking? Why did I decide to write and burn my computer battery? Why did I not write down phone numbers when I knew I didn’t have my phone with me? I had just about had it.
I used me $1.25 to call my mother. It’s the only change I have, I’ve got to make it quick. I yell through the phone talking at lightening speed giving her my facebook password to get online and find Cooper’s number, call Cooper and tell him where I am. It’s all I know to do. I’ve placed my life in my mother’s hands, in Oklahoma. I find a place in plain sight to stand and wait for Kaitlyn to find me. And I wait, and wait, and wait. Having no idea what time it is, or how long I’ve waited. I don’t see her at all. Thoughts run through my mind…should I take the train? a taxi cab? would they send someone else to get me if they were busy? do I borrow someone’s phone and call my mom back? is now a good time to cry? I hang my head. My throat is tight. My eyes turn watery. I can’t take it anymore. I think that maybe some fresh air will help, then I will come back to the spot I told my mom to tell Cooper, to tell Kaitlyn to meet me.
I have to look twice to recognize the person walking towards me. I couldn’t believe it. It was Josie! The blue Judson jacket gave him away. At that moment, I was so relieved, I smiled and laughed. He was my hero! He came to save me. I fell into his arms accepting a big hug. I needed it more than anything. I was done. Not a strong independent woman who could find her way anywhere, but a girl who needed a rescuer. And I had one. The time was just after 7. But, I had made it.
I rode back to Judson University with Josiah, whom I hadn’t talked to in weeks. Turns out Kaitlyn had missed class to come to get me, but Cooper told her about my flight. She went back to campus for another class. She and Cooper were both busy that afternoon, and they had asked Josie if he could come pick me up from the airport at 3:45. Josie borrowed a friends car and came at 3:45. He waited at a nearby cafe (in walking distance of where I was) for me to arrive, thinking that I would call him when I got there via Skype. At 6:50ish, he received a call from Cooper telling him to pick me up inside baggage claim. He met me at the door when I was on my way out to get that fresh air.
None of us realized that when I said my flight would be 2 hours and 15 minutes, then calculated the arrival time to be 3:45, that I was an hour off! My flight was destined to land at 4:45 not 3:45. Another mistake I made that day. In addition, no one but me knew that the flight was delayed at least an hour due to the needed repairs making it 5:45. And finally, neither Josie nor I realized that for almost an hour we were within walking distance of one another just waiting to hear from someone with direction on where to go.
My arrival time was set for 11:30. I sat down on Kaitlyn’s couch at Judson University shortly after 8. It was an insane, unbelievable, absurd, and tortuous day. But, I finally made it to Chicago, had a wonderful week (which I will share more about later), and learned a few lessons: airports are mean, I’m terrible with any type of directions, I cannot do math even when my life depends on it, and sometimes we need to be rescued, because we can’t do everything on our own. And there is nothing at all wrong with that.