Planes, Trains, and Buses…They All Suck

I don’t know what it is about airports. It seems like they should all operate the same, but they never do.

I like to think of myself as a somewhat seasoned traveler. Am I one of those new-fangled “Trusted Traveler” things? Nope. Do I fly first class or frequently get bumped to an upgraded seat? Nope. Do I fly pretty often though and know my way around the airport bars? Why yes, yes I do.

When I moved to Nebraska, a bunch of people I met found it crazy that I’d traveled so much growing up and had been to a lot of places. Sorry that you don’t get out much, but traveling is something I grew up with and have come to appreciate. Between working jobs that require (and pay for – cha-ching!) traveling as well as having good friends who are scattered around the country like darts I attempt to throw at a dartboard, I take every opportunity to get out and see as many places as I can as often as possible.

This weekend was no different…until I got to O’Hare.

Here I was, off to see (no, not the wonderful Wizard of Oz) one of my best friends, former college roommates, other custodial half of our dog-child, and mother of my unofficial nephew: my Roomdog.

First off, I’d like to say I deserve an award for this trip. Not only did I manage to pack clothes for an entire weekend into an overnight (ok, it’s really a weekender but it usually only holds enough for one night) bag, but I also fit some belated Christmas gifts too. Boom. And the Oscar goes to….me!!

Anyways, yes, here I was…getting to O’Hare with JUST a carry-on and a personal item. Well done. Kudos me.

Although I was early, I still picked the shortest security line because let’s get real…who likes to wait in those lines anyway? Standard procedure. Here I am, taking off my belt and watch while in line with my iPad and toiletries already at the top of my bag, ready to whip out and breeze through security like a pro. Jacket is off and in my bag, shoes are off by the time I get to the bins. Pockets are emptied, and then it happens.

“Please keep everything in your pockets. Leave your shoes and coats on. Don’t remove anything from your bags. Just put your stuff on the belt and step on through.”

I’m sorry. Come again. SAY WHAT?!? What are these foreign words you’re speaking. Remove nothing? How strange.

Apparently they were testing the Trusted Traveler program for us commonfolk at certain security checkpoints this day.

Thanks for telling us this before we stripped down. Whatever.

So anyways…after that it was uneventful. Typical flight. Passed out as usual. Brought a book I’d apparently read three years ago on spring break (judging from the receipts I found inside the back cover – it was like a time capsule telling me I’d basically been drunk for a week straight). The end.

So that was Friday.

Fast forward to Sunday. It was time to do this all over again.

Roomdog and her posse (of her husband and child) dropped me off at the train station to shuttle myself south to the airport. No big deal. I take trains all the time. I’m a pro at this, right?


Apparently after a certain time in Atlanta, trains only run to certain stations at which point you are required to get off, wait for another train, then go again. Google neglects to tell you this when you look up train times, destinations, and directions in general. It also neglects to inform you of the actual departure times – it was off by three minutes to be exact.

So here I am, waiting on a Red Line (and feeling right at home since that’s my usual in Chicago as well) train to the airport. A Gold Line train was going to some Lindberg place that I kept wanting to call the Hindenburg which made me think I’d die if I took it a la Hindenburg Disaster. I just have this feeling I’ll go out in a burst of flames some day. It only seems fitting.

So anyways…wait wait wait. Train to the disaster leaves. My train should be here in 3 minutes. 20 minutes later…nothing.

Another train to the disaster pulls up. Perhaps I should ask someone. Of course, the lady I ask has no idea what’s going on and has no idea if it goes to the airport or not. At this point, it’s about an hour and a half until I’m supposed to be boarding my flight. With an hour of travel time, a security line, and a hike through the airport ahead of me, I start checking the United flight schedule to see if there’s a later flight since, for the first time ever, I might be missing a flight. Bucket list item: check.

So I get to the Hindenburg station. Get off the train. Wait another 20 minutes for the Red Line train to come.

Finally get on the train and what do I see? Commercials for weaves. You know you’re in Atlanta when…right?

(Cue the Jeopardy music)

Finally get to the airport. Check my watch. I have less than 15 minutes until I board. Awesome. I can do this.

Security line: check. Good thing I’m a pro since they didn’t pull an O’Hare and let you go through without stripping all traces of metal from your body.

Now let’s pause for a second. When you’re in elementary school, or even before in most cases, you learn your ABC’s. You learn that T comes way, way, WAY after the letter A. Well not in an airport apparently.

Less than five minutes until boarding and I hop the tram to the higher letter terminals. As the train starts moving, I realize it only goes to A, B, C, D, E, and F. Apparently the T-Terminal is right after security. Of course. Leave it to me to not pay attention.

At this point, I’m texting and tweeting Roomdog giving her a blow-by-blow of the adventure. Not stressed in the least (since she was stressed enough for the both of us) since missing a flight would be a bucket list item checked off, I’m laughing at myself in the situation. Of course this would happen to me of all people.

Back at Terminal T, I start making a beeline for my gate. Contemplating screaming “KEVIIIINNNN!!!” and running through the airport like in Home Alone – or even just “HOLD THE PLANE!” – I can see flight attendants leaning out into the hallway looking down as I’m booking it through the airport. While I’d be fine with hopping a later flight, all I wanted to do was get back to Chicago, hop the train to downtown so I could swing by the office and grab my laptop so I could work from home Monday morning, then get home in time to watch the latest episode of Revenge.

“Mr. So-and-So?!?” I hear the flight attendant calling at me from down the hall. “Yes, that’s me.”

Of course, I’m the last one. The minute I get onto the jet bridge, they close the door behind me.

But hey, guess what, I was still on the plane 15 minutes before it was even scheduled to depart. How’s that for good?

In any normal person’s travel adventure, this would be the end. I’d get home safe and sound and in time to watch Revenge without falling asleep halfway through – even including a stop at the office.

Ha. Ha. Ha. Good one.

Back in Chi-Town, I hop the train from O’Hare to downtown. Two stops from downtown, the conductor comes on to inform us that trains are running on a single track while they work on the tracks. Of course. Why wouldn’t they be?

Wait. Wait. Wait. Finally going. Get to the office. Grab my laptop. Go back to the train station.

Next red line train: Delayed.

Next red line train after that: 38 minutes.

THIRTY EIGHT MINUTES?!?!?! No thank you. I’ll take a bus.

Or not. The bus is M.I.A. so I take a different train…to a different bus – which in the process of walking to I nearly slip on someone’s un-shoveled, un-iced, un-neighborly sidewalk (but I don’t because I’m a self-taught ballet dancer – or I’ve just had enough near-fall-experiences to make me a professional at saving myself from falling – knock on wood).

So finally…at almost 1am…I make it home.

So much for watching Revenge.

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