Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is the world’s busiest airport (in terms of flights)
and the travel nerve-center of America. I liken O’Hare to a woman’s purse: Everything makes it in, but it’s really hard to get back out (be it pacifiers or people). And, so it was for us yesterday. As we left the tropical warmth of Maui, the attendant scanning our luggage gave us a beaming Hawaiian smile and bid us adieu with a cheery,
“Hope you make it out of O’Hare!” Was that premonition or Aloha standard? As it turned out, we did make it out of O’Hare (because we drove out), but our luggage is still traveling somewhere along the 4,000-mile rainbow connection from Maui to Michigan…most likely stuck in a snowbank somewhere in O’Hare. To make a short story long, I have no qualms with O’Hare for cancelling hundreds of flights yesterday, and I have nothing but praise for our intrepid pilot who landed our aircraft safely during the wee hours of Monday morning. In fact, the weather was horrid…howling winds and 19″ of fresh snow dumped in a matter of hours. The airport went from its usual bursting-at-the-seams capacity to feeling totally deserted in a matter of hours. Our flight home was cancelled, but after a long wait, we were able to get on another flight with a different airline…which was summarily cancelled…and then we had to go back to our airline, only to discover that the first possible flight home would now be Tuesday night…hopefully. By then the day was dawning bright and clear, so Alan decided to rent a car and drive home (which, on a clear day, is not supposed to take forever). Travel tip: If at all possible, make your car rental reservation before the storm cancels your flight. (A no-brainer, right?) After a kind snowman dug out one of the last remaining cars for us
(for the small fee of $250 to drive 200 miles home), we were off…for about 15 minutes until all four lanes of traffic came to a dead halt on I-294 due to a 100-car pileup just ahead of us. (Yes, I am acutely aware of the possibilities and thankful that we came along after the crash, not as part of it. This is all I saw out my window as we waited.) Much later, we were funneled off at the nearest exit. However, because we didn’t have our luggage, we also didn’t have our GPS so had to feel our way into the heart of Chicago, where we were finally able to connect with cityscape we recognized and found our way to the skyway and on to Michigan…where it was again snowing like fury. At long last, we made it safely home. Our heroic son, Stephen, had (by hand-snowblower) cleaned out our 1/3-mile lane and shoveled the walks so we could get into the house (isn’t he wonderful?)! We plopped down, praised God, and kissed the floor before falling into a rather dead sleep last night. Whew! Sorry to get carried away with my tale, but I did want to give a couple of true travel tips. One is that—just in case you don’t know it—many major airports have amenities for wayfarers in need. For example, O’Hare’s Terminal Two has a chapel on the mezzanine level above the US Airways ticket counters, and there’s also a children’s museum. In Terminal Five there’s an educational area for children about fire and safety called “Play It Safe.” If you’ve got hours on end with nothing to do, touring a terminal isn’t all bad! We also noticed a medical clinic, passed some interesting art exhibits, etc. Incheon Airport in Seoul is rated #1 in the world right now, and we’ve even enjoyed free concerts while waiting for flights there…but I would say that if you’re ever stuck in an airport, ask around, and you might be pleasantly surprised with the possibilities. My other tip is to follow the Boy Scout model: “Always be prepared” when you travel, because you never know when you’re going to have a cancellation and all your plans may suddenly change…or end. Life is short. Do you have a flight plan that may be cancelled at any time? When you leave this world on your last flight…are you prepared?
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart: and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)