An American Journal: Day 6 (New York -> Chicago)

Early starts, background hangovers, jet lag and the prospect of another plane ride are right up there with the absolute worst ways to start a morning.

Bleary eyed we leaned up against the wall of Alice and Gabe’s apartment and waited for our Lyft driver to arrive. I had asked Mari previously how long the flight to Chicago would be and got a casual “not long”, which served to ease my nerves and not give too much thought to the flight ahead.

Getting through the airport security for local flights in the USA is a more thorough experience than many of the international flights I have taken over the years. Shoes off, laptops out, hands up, body scan, body search and ‘bam!’ you’re out the other side. They’ve certainly got the process down pat and I can only imagine the insane increase in delays if some of the South East Asian airports I’ve been through tried the same thing.

Sipping airport coffee and munching on a reasonably priced avocado and chicken wrap (do I ever have to leave?) we waited for the call to board our plane. I used this down time to enjoy another round of American people watching. I don’t know exactly what it is, but personalities just seem to be louder and more pronounced here, and it certainly helped to have the odd group of New York Comic Con attendees on their way out of the city.

We flew on Spirit airlines and the airline obviously sets itself apart by being the ‘wacky’ airline, with flight attendants busting out quips and asking for audience participation during the flight prep. So when the lead attendant made remarks about a bumpy trip coming into New York and how we could expect the same on the way out, it didn’t set off the alarm bells that it normally would. A “not long” flight with a relaxed plane atmosphere, sounds good right?

Immediately after take off the plane began to shake in ways that previously only my overactive imagination could have imagined. Left to right, up and down it took a full 45 minutes before the captain would allow passengers to unbuckle their belts. That’s 45 minutes of white knuckled seat grabbing, praying to gods I didn’t believe existed, convincing myself that my thoughts and my thoughts alone were keeping the plane from breaking apart entirely, and a heart rate of  well above what I’d self diagnosed as normal levels. Just as things began to even out the captain then announced the flight would still be another two hours before arriving in Chicago. I sighed, resigned myself to my fate and chose Arcade Fire as the soundtrack to my inevitable doom.

Against all of my  calculated odds of survival, our plane touched down in Chicago ten minutes ahead of the scheduled time. The flight attendants gave us a friendly goodbye, seemingly unaware of the trauma I had just experienced. No matter, my feet were back on solid ground and it was time to see what this next part of our journey would bring.

Mari’s brother picked us up from airport and we went straight to Mari’s nephew’s birthday party. Normally the contrast between a stressful travel day and a room full of excited kids might be difficult to bear, but the proximity of a next door bar with delicious beer and the arrival of the biggest pizza I’d ever seen in my life made it a great welcome to Chicago. Along with the pizza and beer, Mari’s family also kindly supplied us with big slices of peppermint ice cream pie which made it very easy to forget the previous stresses of the day.

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