I am not a happy bunny. To paraphprase P.G. Wodehouse, it would not be hard to distinguish me from a ray of sunshine at the moment. I’m currently at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, trying to make my way home from New York. For reasons I won’t go into – rest assured, it mainly just concerns me being useless – I’m flying to London from New York via Chicago and it’s all going horribly wrong. Here’s a brief chronicle of the journey so far.
Yesterday, 9am: Rise and shine full of the joys of a sunny New York morning in a big comfy bed in a rather posh and swanky hotel. My bag is packed, breakfast has just been delivered to me in my room, and the only cloud on the horizon is whether I can get away with pinching the dressing gown.
9.10am: Decide against pinching dressing gown. Won’t fit in bag.
9.30am: Emerge from shower smelling all nice and wafty courtesy of posh complimentary toiletries.
9.45am: Josh good naturedly with maid who wants to the clean the room.
10.00am: Meet my co-traveller Polly in the corridor. Descend in very posh lift with original 1920s panelling and a nice man in uniform and white gloves whose job is to press the lift buttons just so you don’t have to.
10.15: Look in posh designer clothes shop on Fifth Avenue.
10.16: Leave posh designer clothes shop thoroughly intimidated, not least by the prices.
10.25: Buy new scarf from posh but less intimidating clothes shop, purely so when winter comes I can toss it around my neck and announce that I got it on Fifth Avenue.
11.00: Return to hotel with a spring in my step and a hey-nonny-nonny in my heart. Nice man in lift pushes button to 15th floor. Josh with man in lift about Mary Poppins, whom he thinks Polly sounds like.
12.00: Check out of posh hotel. If receptionist has me down as a potential dressing gown thief, she’s not showing it. Anyway, I’m not. Not until I get a bigger bag, anyway.
12.05pm. Nice man in uniform and white gloves hails taxi for me. I inform him that he’s a gentleman and press two dollars into his gloved paw. He informs me that I am too.
12.20pm: Cab arrives at Pennsylvania station in perfect time to board the Newark airport train.
12.25: Airport train arrives, I get on it. I am, as usual, ridiculously early for my flight, which isn’t until 4.45 to Chicago, where I’ll connect with the 9.30 flight to Heathrow, arriving refreshed and jolly mid-morning tomorrow. Which, as I write this, is today. Or something.
1.00pm: Things start to go wrong. Make hash of computerised check-in, and am informed that I’m flying to Chicago Midway. The Heathrow flight leaves from O’Hare. Bugger.
1.10pm: Go through tortuous security procedures. Find that far from there being a myriad of shops and restaurants, there’s a small newsagent and smaller American sports bar to keep me occupied for the next few hours.
1.25pm: Helpful customer services person informs me that there’s a fast, cheap rail link between Midway and O’Hare. I’ll have plenty of time.
1.40pm: Eat pizza in sports bar.
1.50pm: Regret eating pizza in sports bar.
4.30pm: Having read every newspaper in the shop, but not bought any of them, I note that the flight time is pushed back fifteen minutes to 5pm. Phone Polly, who is due to fly the same route as me on Wednesday and inform her of multiple Chicago airport situation. She’s confident that there’s plenty of time to make the connection at O’Hare.
4.35pm: Note that departure time is now put back to 5.45pm.
5.00pm: The word is that Chicago is experiencing terrific thunderstorms, hence the delay.
5.10pm: Departure time has gone back to 6pm. Am now cutting it very fine.
5.12pm: “Ha, six o’clock? Yeah right, we’re gonna be here hours,” says woman opposite me.
5.13pm: Consider strangling woman opposite me.
5.15pm: Regret not stealing dressing gown from posh hotel.
5.45pm: Board plane to Chicago.
6.15pm: Plane takes off for Chicago. Am really going to need some lucky connections, as this is normally a two-and-a-half hour flight.
7.45pm: Pilot announces landing in twenty minutes. Phew.
8.10pm: Pilot announces that due a storm near the airport, we’re in a holding pattern until it clears. Bum.
8.20pm: Give up hope of making connection.
8.30pm: Pilot announces airport is closed and we’re going to Indianapolis to refuel and wait for news.
8.45pm: Land at Indianapolis. We’re allowed to use mobiles. Polly is delighted to inform me via a voicemail message that she’s checked on the internet and my flight’s leaving on time. Polly wishes me bon voyage.
8.46pm: Consider strangling Polly. With stolen dressing gown cord.
8.50pm. Pilot announces that Midway’s open again and we’ll do a quick refuel and be on our way.
8.51pm – 2.15am today. Nothing happens for nearly six hours, other than the pilot announcing every half hour that there’s no news. Cabin crew dispense turkey sandwiches. Child two rows back starts screaming and doesn’t stop. I read book and nod off periodically. As in ‘every now and again’, I’m not comparing myself to a magazine.
2.20am: Pilot announces we’re off at last. Flurry of tray table raising and seat-back uprighting.
2.50am: Land at Midway as lightning flashes across most of the horizon.
3.00am: Retrieve luggage. Ask at information desk the best way to get to O’Hare. Information person raises eyebrows and puffs out cheeks. I decide on taxi.
3.02am: Commence four day camel ride to end of world’s longest taxi queue.
3.10am: Reach end of world’s longest taxi queue. In the distance, at the front of the queue, a woman is waving her arms around and shouting ‘O’Hare’.
3.11am: Commence four day camel ride to woman at front of world’s longest taxi queue, where I am billeted with three fellow O’Hare aspirants to share a taxi.
3.25pm: Taxi finally pulls away, containing me, a member of the American navy, a blonde American woman who doesn’t want to talk to me, and a woman bound for Tokyo where she repairs aeroplanes for a living.
3.55am: I’m first drop off, hurrah!
3.57am: Join international check in queue, in order to try and get on a flight today. There’s only one desk open, where a woman is ministering to a Korean family’s needs, and the queue’s not too long considering. Phew.
4.57am: Korean family leave check-in desk, to ironic applause. I count the line. At an hour per passenger, I would reach the desk some time on Thursday afternoon.
5.05am: Some people push to the front of the queue. The queue protests. Pusher-inners turn round and shrug. Man behind me says they’re probably Canadian.
5.06am: Pusher-inners hand over what are clearly Canadian passports to check in staff.
6.10am: I drop my pencil on the floor.
6.11am: I retrieve my pencil from the floor.
7.00am: I am, after three hours, nearly at the front of the line. A feeling of camaraderie has developed between my neighbouring passengers. I spot a large replica dinosaur skeleton behind the check in. “Heh, when I joined this queue that was still alive and a eating leaves,” I say, gesturing at the skeleton. Nobody laughs.
7.05am: Gadzooks, I’m next. The next London flight they can put me on leaves tonight at 6.28pm, just a little under twelve hours away. It gets in at 8.15 tomorrow morning. Polly texts me to let me know she’s changed her travel plans and will fly from New York tonight. Her flight will arrive twenty minutes before mine, despite the fact I’ll have commenced my journey nearly a day and a half before she commences hers.
7.06am: Consider strangling Polly again.
7.15am: Join queue to go through security, which is longer than the Midway taxi queue.
7.50am: Reach front of queue. Fall over while trying to remove shoes, headbutting the middle-aged American businessman in front of me on the buttock.
8.00am: Am through security.
8.10am: Buy Snickers bar.
8.11am: Eat Snickers bar.
8.12am: Walk to one end of terminal.
8.42am: Walk back.
9.12am: See above.
9.42am: See above.
10.12am: See above.
10.42 am: See above.
11.00am: Decide to use extortionately priced web access to kill time and update website. Only another seven hours to go. Ho Hum.