When my wife first approached me about attending her friend’s wedding, I gave it a lot of thought. We had been living practically like hermits, fortified in our home since the arrival of our daughter. We put off so many invitations while my wife was pregnant and even more after our baby was born. But this was a reunion between her and some of her best friends.
My wife has always had a fondness for France. Mainly because she spent three months there studying the language as well as the culture. While there she bunked with several friends who have shared her passion. As part of an unspoken tradition, they meet up every two years to reminisce and support each other.
Who was I to break tradition?
So, with a clear heart and a smile I told her, “Yeah, babe. We can go.”
She was so excited.
Since it would be cheaper to book the flights, rental car and hotel all in one package; my wife purchased the tickets and we both submitted our vacation time.
Understand, I am not a traveling man.
I’ve visited several parts of Illinois, got myself lost in Wisconsin once or twice and went to Missouri for a day for my grandmother’s funeral.
My wife has not only been overseas but she has visited Rome, France, New York, etc.
I’m 29 years old.
This was to be my first ever plane ride.
If everything went well, we’d enter the hotel on Friday, visit some historical sites and museums, maybe pick up a Philly cheese steak and call it a night. On Saturday at 2:00pm we’d be at the wedding and then make our way to the reception later that night.
But things didn’t turn out that way.
The night of we had a total of four hours sleep.
We got up, already packed and shot over to midway airport.
We checked our bags at 8:35am.
Security took a long time.
So much so that when we got sent through the final checks, we had to huff it to the gate.
As we approached the gate we saw that it was shut.
I checked my watch. 9:04am
Departure time 9:10am.
They left without us.
My wife was overcome with grief.
We sidled over to a help section with phones. I called whoever and explained our situation.
“Were you late, sir?”
“No, we got here on time.”
“Did the flight leave?”
“Then you were late.”
Could you be detained for strangling a phone?
“What should I do?”
“Well, we could book you a new flight.”
“In an hour. That will be an additional 1,100 dollars each.”
Again, my hands wrenched the neck of the phone.
Please feel that, I thought.
“Why should I shell out that much when I was on time?”
“You weren’t on time, sir. You were late.”
I handed the phone to my wife before I yanked out the chord.
Sitting down, a well-worn traveler, we’ll call him Adam, started talking me through his woes. He’d been through our predicament before. On his phone he searched for other options for us, all the while telling us that airport staff can be heartless at times.
“Honey, hang up. She can’t help us. This guy can.”
After our little pow-wow, we trekked back to the baggage check and found out that our bags were on that flight. Go figure. Because of this, we were able to get our tickets for free. The only drawback was that our flight would be five hours later.
So we waited.
My stomach was doing flip-flops and by the time our plane arrived at 4:30pm, I was overcome with relief. This flight would be an hour and would bring us to Minneapolis. The next flight would land us in Philly and would be two hours.
The Delta flight was cramped but we managed. I sat betwixt my sweetheart and a woman who was an old pro at flying.
The takeoff was exciting.
It feels like you are superman for a moment or two.
Then the bumps and cruising altitude begins.
I had mistakenly thought we would be on a jumbo flight.
We were instead on a slim plane that maybe seated a hundred tops.
Because of this, the noise factor was unbelievable…and I refused to open my eyes until we landed.
After landing, we had forty minutes to huff it to the next gate.
This flight I decided to pop some Dramamine.
After the takeoff I tried to read a book I brought with. A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick. It didn’t help. My head was spinning. My stomach churned. I had hardly eaten anything and I was exhausted. My weak hand extended to the slim bag and…
Yep. I heaved.
I’m told that my wife, concerned for me, was repeatedly stabbing the call button and becoming increasingly infuriated with the flight attendants for taking their sweet time. When I yakked and they finally approached me, my wife shouted over the engines, “HE’S AIR SICK!”
I thought, what is this? An outbreak movie?
I found it funny but at the same time, I knelt my head against the seat in front of me for the rest of the trip.
After landing, I was sipping ginger ale and munching pretzels to get something into my stomach. We hopped on a shuttle bus to a place called Dollar Rental. By this time it was already 10:45pm.
As soon as we walked in, lugging our bulky suitcases along, we already heard the bad news.
Some guy up front was yelling at two dudes behind the desk.
“Do you know what you’re in for? Where are the cars? I had a reservation. This is ridiculous. I hope you’re prepared for my company and how they plan to sue you! How are you gonna help me? You need to help me right now!”
“Sir, I told you before, we have no more cars.”
We and about six others all had reservations. But apparently these two guys forgot what that word meant. And they didn’t bother seeming at all fazed by it. With every walk-in, they repeated their standard mantra, “No cars…no cars…no cars…”
One of them played on their iPhone while I dropped the suitcases and sat down. We both agreed that the place most be a front for drugs or something. Lord knows there have been reports of them scamming and overcharging customers with little to no remorse.
“I’m not even gonna start…” I said, laughing.
My other half remarked how this was like something out of a Seinfeld episode:
You can make a reservation…but you can’t hold a reservation.
While my wife got on the phone to remind Hotwire that we had reservations, I watched the TV above as they reported The Burger King Baby. Thirty years ago, a mother left her newborn daughter in the restroom of a local BK Restaurant. Now the woman wanted to thank her mother for leaving her in a safe place, sure to be found, and forgive her. Having a little one, I couldn’t imagine what would compel a mother to do something like that. Even if I were broke, I’d still do anything, sell blood every day if I had to, just to make sure our daughter was taken care of. My wife knows these instincts all too well. Since becoming parents, we are both highly protective of our child.
The news then switched to some douchebag getting a first-ever five O’clock shadow tattoo all over his cheeks and chin.
Why do these people exist?
Meanwhile, there was a Budget Rental place just a stone’s throw away.
We hucked it over there where there was already a line.
By this time it was midnight.
We were both tired, grumpy and hadn’t anything to eat.
We got the rental by a nice guy named Yosiah, who handled us with grace and even joked around with us.
With keys in hand, we got a stunning Silver Honda which looked sleek.
The only bright spot was that the hotel, The Marriot, waited up for us. After checking into our room, around 1:30am, I tried to figure how we could get a bite to eat.
There was a Wa Wa across the way and I decided to try my luck there. I’d never been to a place like this. From what I’m told, you can’t find one in Illinois. It’s part convenience store, part sandwich place. Three touch-screen computers greet you, you build your own sandwich and the guy behind the counter whips into action.
Two Italian subs, two bags of chips, a tall sprite and a nesquick later, I trudged up to our room where we laid out our dress clothes for the day. Exhausted did not begin to cover our mood. But we had made it. Now all we needed was some much deserved sleep.
We woke at eleven, starving and ready to seize the day.
I called the concierge and asked them if they’d be good enough to print out directions to the wedding venue, the reception lodge and from the reception back to the hotel. Then I ordered some salads.
Quick as a flash I jumped in the shower, styled my hair and jumped into my suit. I looked into the mirror, suddenly happy again. “Eat your heart out, Daniel Craig.”
Made a quick call to my Papa to hear how he was doing. He had traveled a lot before I was born. Once he took a ten hour flight to Italy.
“How did you do it?” I asked.
“I drank the whole way.”
He’s old school Italian. This is the same man who has worked through broken ribs, shakes off colds and got the drop on somebody trying to rob his bar by sticking a 357 magnum in their face…I doubt if anything rattles him.
Forty minutes later the salads arrive. We don’t have time to chow down so we pour the dressing on them, I scarf a couple tomatoes, take two chugs of Pepsi and we high tail it to the lobby. By this point my wife is getting the directions while I get some quick cash.
After asking for some scissors, I clip all the tags on my suit.
Then we are on the road.
Talk about going around in circles.
Who do I have to talk to in order to flush money into Pennsylvania's garbled road system?
The signs are old, nowhere can you find the speed limit and everything is sharp turns and wind-abouts. It was like a nightmare created by Dr. Sues.
By the time we got to the wedding, we were just catching some people coming out.
“Babe, let’s just tell them we were in the back.”
The bride and groom exited, preceded by a cloud of bubbles. They spotted us, we waved. Then we jumped in the car where I offered to drive us to the reception Lodge.
That car, man.
It made me feel all-powerful.
I admit, I was speeding.
But I just couldn’t help myself.
Don’t worry. We didn’t get into an accident.
However, two cars behind us plowed into each other.
That was a surprise.
Sometime later, after passing about a hundred farms, we wound up deep into the woods where we finally stumbled upon the Reception Lodge.
Around this time my wife felt flu-ish.
We sat down inside and realized that we hadn’t eaten for 12 straight hours.
When the Hors d'oeuvres arrived, we were scarfing them like no tomorrow.
Mashed potatoes, small burgers, crispy sesame chicken strips, nachos and dip.
We shoveled it in.
Weren’t we a classy bunch?
Finally the reception got underway where we sat at lucky table 13 alongside some nice people.
Not only did we find out that people from 32 states were in attendance but we also found out that everyone else either had a rotten trip or was sick or contracted food poisoning a couple of nights prior.
The band was jumping. They sung classics as well as modern stuff, led by a Gorden Ramsy and Amy Sedaris lookalike.
At 10:00pm the party ended.
I tipped the valet like a slick international spy and me and my girl took to Walgreens where we loaded up on Airbone, Ibuprofen, Dayquil, Nyquil, Benedryl, you know, the important stuff.
The salads were still in the car, completely forgotten.
Midnight at our hotel and we realized that we would lose an hour of sleep thanks to daylight savings time. So that meant we had less than three hours to sleep. We arranged a wake up call, ate some leftover sandwiches and started packing. The whole trip had been touch and go and we were ready to go home. I was not impressed by Pennsylvania. I had it with their winding roads and their confusing signs. Granted, some parts of the state mimicked Chicago in some respect. But why was everything thirty miles away?
When we woke, we saddled up, thanked the concierge and drove out of there, where apparently there was no clear entrance to the rental place. We somehow got in anyway, through some construction, boarded a shuttle, got through security and made our flight.
This time around I was laid back, listening to the ipod after popping two benedryl.
Went like a breeze…but I still held my eyes closed.
I would get dizzy whenever I turned my head or even glanced out the window.
Before the next flight I had a mini-breakdown, brought on by my own stupidity by drinking coffee, but I was able to keep my food down, board the flight and we took off.
This flight I liked the least. Even though it was an hour, the pilot looked like a baby and he landed the plane like one too. So bumby and unstable that I half expected the wheels to snap off. So yes, this flight was worse than the one I yakked on.
Sweet home Chicago.
By now my stomach was settled, we bought a pink sock monkey for our daughter, then found the car and headed back to her.
All my worries melted away as soon as we saw our daughter again.
Was the trip worth it?
But it will be a while since I fly again.