That time I joined a slumber party with a few hundred people

As a continuance from the previous post, I was in Chicago for the NBAA’s LRGC Roundtable conference.
At the conclusion of the event, the trek to O’Hare began, in traffic of course. After about an hour long ride, we were there. I arrived at about 5:30 for an 8:20 PM departure, and almost as a moment of foreshadowing, I stopped to reapply deodorant from my soon-to-be-checked luggage before surrendering it to the agents. Breezed past security, and found myself a place to have dinner and a frosty beverage and to try and catch up on some work, but the in-house WiFi failed me. So a quiet dinner was shortly followed by a visit from Dave D. from MAMA, another traveler on the same corridor of the L Gates. We chatted for a bit, and he went back to his gate, in anticipation of a departure update. You see, there were storms all over, and they were delaying a lot of flights. Including mine! I saw the 8:22 departure pushed back to 10:40.

I failed to mention that the carrier I chose was Spirit, who is notorious for delays and cancellations. So I was refreshing my screen with baited breath. Storms were causing a ruckus in MN, so I wasn’t expecting to get out of Chicago soon. The delay continued. Other flights got to leave, but there we sat. As a means to entertain myself, I took photos of planes surrounding the gate, and as it got dark I noticed the landing lights of arriving planes off in the distance, and wanted to try and get a photo of them. The corner I wanted to shoot from was behind a desk, so I asked the Spirit agents if I could go beyond them and shoot; they had no issue with this. The photo wasn’t coming together like I wanted, so I looked at the page again to see if there was an update on the flight. Indeed, there was, my flight home was CANCELED. I approached the desk to ask about it, and the agents were not happy with that news. After a few minutes they finally got the ‘official’ call that the flight was in fact canceled, and people were pissed. By this time, its around 11 PM I’d guess. We’re all exhausted, hungry, and just want to go home. I personally had a Board of Directors meeting at 11 AM, where I was to not only catch up on the golf committee update that I had missed on Tuesday but to present on the LRGC event as well – so I really needed to get home. There were no other Spirit flights available that night, and the soonest one wasn’t until 9AM. The agents directed passengers to the counter PAST security to be rebooked, but I did not want to leave the secured area for that. I was told that the airport was prepared for overnight guests, and had cots and blankets available — so I made my way to the concourse to collect bedding for myself. The man whom I found to be passing out the pillows and blankets was such a charming and nice man. His smiling face was welcomed in such an event. He even laughed at my ridiculous joke about ‘looking for an unoccupied cot’ since they were small and certainly only fit for a single occupant. (My nervous energy comes out as bad jokes, what can I say.) I’ve traveled a small amount in my life, and have never experienced anything like this before. He was comforting and welcomed me ‘to the slumber party’. I had to laugh, y’all. I was determined to make the best of this situation. I walked back to the gate where my flight was supposed to depart from, and asked the same agents to rebook me. They obliged as the crowd cleared out, so I was officially set to get home in the morning.

With this news, I walked back to the slumber party and decided to find a place to settle in for a nap.

This is how I met Tyler Durden.
Ok, not really, but I did make some awesome ‘single serving friends’. I found an open cot next to the person who I’d later learn was named Steve. Not more than a moment after I got settled in did a security officer come by to tell us that we’d have to choose new cots as there were tornado warnings over the airport and we were right against a wall of windows. Oh, joy. So we collected our things AGAIN and walked down where we were told to go. This stretch of terminal was lit up like noon in the desert, but this was our sleeping place for the night.
This was where we met Marla Singer.

Kidding again. This additional ‘single serving friend’ is Bill. I’d say we’re all about the same age, but I’m also silly enough to still call myself 29. These two are probably in their mid 20s though. We got settled in, cracked a few jokes and realized that we had the same senses of humor, and the guys bonded over their gaming hobby. Bill breaks out a thing called a ‘Switch’ and we played Mario Kart. MARIO KART, Y’ALL! At 1 AM in O’Hare, surrounded by cots and fellow stranded travelers, while the lightning storm outside raged on. The storm that was in MN must have moved down to us at that point, so we had a light show! This was actually pretty great, and by that I mean the Switch and the company. We created characters, and played until the batteries died and my eyes had just about completely dried out. As was promised, the 4 AM wake up call came, and we were jolted awake before the rush of new passengers arrived for their travels.

And just like Christmas Morning, laid on our feet were travel toiletry kits supplied by the airport. I’ve NEVER been so happy to see a travel toothbrush, y’all! After freshening up, we found ourselves a 24 hour McDonald’s and had some expensive McMuffins, and I told them about my obsession with hiding googly eyes (heh)

We watched the sunrise, then we found a bar.

Sadly, this was around the time that we lost Steve to his flight out East, but Bill and I continued the adventure when we found National Rental Car’s setup — plush leather seats and TVs. After trying to relax on the cots, these chairs felt like clouds.

It was a couple of hours before it was my turn make my way home, so we went to the same Spirit gate for my departure, to go back to reality.

When it was time to board, I was seated in the aisle seat, which makes it tough to take photos out the window. Luckily the person in that seat was a lovely lady named Nancy – and we hit it off rather quickly. We chatted a bit before takeoff, and decided that we both needed to nap on the flight — given that neither of us had slept, it wasn’t long before we were both asleep.

We landed at MSP, collected our bags from baggage claim (luckily!) and life was back to normal.

Kudos to the Chicago Department of Aviation for the cots, blankets, and toiletry kits, and the great staff who made being stranded in an airport an adventure.

I hope to never experience a delay such as this again, but if I do, I’ll have my own Nintendo Switch to share.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s