Friday, August 3.
It’s sometime after 8 p.m. when I finally reach the hotel and see my friend Lori.
It wasn’t supposed to happen this year. But after a couple of months of planning, I have finally made it to Chicago.
It’s a long day, though. My flight is delayed by about 40 minutes because the airline has oversold seats, and had to beg passengers to volunteer to take a later flight.
The arrival at O’Hare is a piece of cake. I then elect to attempt having a go at taking transit into town.
Trying to get a transit pass from one of the automated machines is the first challenge. The machine keeps spitting out my crisp bills. I’m about to switch to another machine, when another woman making her way to the airport gives me her pass – making sure to tell me that it’s only valid for one more hour.
Challenge number two: the newly-acquired pass won’t swipe, despite me trying to follow the directions on the automated turnstile, turning the pass every which way, and so on. A transit worker has to swipe me through with his pass.
Challenge number three: Finding a subway that’s in service. A number of passengers on the platform have to wait something like 25 minutes before a subway goes into service.
The rest of the trip is relatively easy, more or less. I alternate between reading my magazine and gazing out the window as the train passes by highway, suburban landscape, apartment balconies and fire escapes.
By the time I reach the station from which I’m supposed to depart to catch my connecting city bus, I realize my pass is probably expired. So I get another pass, just in case. I resurface, just in time to miss the bus I’m supposed to take.
Mildly frustrated, I plop down on the bus stop bench, untangling myself from my backpack, waiting for the next bus in the evening heat.
Luckily, I don’t have to wait very long for one. And the trip the rest of the way goes faster than I expect.
Lori and I enter the hotel, where she retrieves her things from the luggage locker, and we check in. The folks the reception desk are friendlier than I expect, and quite helpful in answering questions.
As I swipe the key card and enter our room, I hold my breath a bit, not knowing what to expect. But the room is just the right size, with very nice (but typical) boutique decor, and very quiet.
After dumping our things, we decide to head out to dinner – somewhere close. Luckily for me, Lori had done some walking around sooner, and offers me some options. We end up at this English pub about five or so minutes away from our hotel by foot.
The interior is huge – and dark. The Summer Games are blaring on the TVs overhead; I’m automatically drawn in.
We order beers and dinner. I have a lobster mac ‘n cheese which is way less cheesy than I had braced myself for – which is a good thing. And there were nice, tasty chunks of lobster that hit the spot.
Our evening isn’t a late one. We opt for an early evening – the real exploration begins tomorrow.