I am sitting in the Midway Airport. When my train pulled in after 10:00pm last night (nearly 24 hours after leaving Denver), I had clearly missed my D.C. train, which left at 7:05pm from Chicago. They wouldn’t even let me go to New Orleans; New Orleans sounds closer than Chicago, and like a better city in which to be stranded. I’m stuck in Chicago without a coat. So Amtrak decides to put me up in a hotel, give me cash for cab fare and food, and re-book me on the 7:05pm train to D.C. the next day. I can’t seem to figure out why Amtrak isn’t making money. Dozens of other disillusioned train riders and myself congregate in The Chicago Inn lobby, only to find that their bar is closed. What kind of hotel is this? When drinking’s not an option, I might as well sleep.
Come morning my phone ringing wakes me up; right on cue, my mother is looking for options to get me home. With my current ticket, I get home the morning of the 24th, rather than the 23rd. Normally this wouldn’t be THAT much of a problem, but I’m supposed to be hosting a part at my house on the night of the 23rd. Seems kinda awkward if I’m not there. As it turns out, one-way tickets from Midway this afternoon are quite cheap. While I’m trying to decide if I would feel like a pampered, wussy, sell-out if I fly the rest of the way home, another call comes through on my cell phone. Berkeley Physicist is calling to see what happened to the rest of my trip. [At this point I should note that he’s not actually an overboard stalker, we actually exchanged contact information after bonding over bitching about grad school, advisors, research projects, and funding situations.] As it turns out, his train to New York is running 6 hours late already. Decision made. Book me, mamma!
Not knowing what the day will hold, I begin my tour of the city. First stop Union Station. In Denver I had checked my main luggage through to Atlanta – time to find out where my clothes are. As it turns out, they’re in the station and will be waiting for me at baggage claim. What helpful people. Then I ask about a ticket refund. They’d be happy to fully refund the last two legs of my ticket. Really, why ISN’T Amtrak making money? I was comforted to find out that the majority of the other people in line around me had worse stories than I did – at least my trip (to this point, and I’m probably jinxing myself here) didn’t involve one or more busses. With luggage in tow, I hop a cab to Midway.
Upon arriving at Midway, I am firm in my belief that riding in cabs in Chicago is by far the most dangerous thing I have ever done. One cab actually tried to drive away when I was only half way out of the cab – I have the bruise to prove it. After tipping well in homage to my arrival anywhere not in an ambulance, I check in for my flight. In my search for coffee to ward off my caffeine headache, I run into another paleontologist – what a small world. As it turns out, his travel plans are proceeding just as he had planned them; I’m in awe. After an enjoyable few hours of conversation to mask our internal struggles to remember if we’re friends on Facebook, its time to part ways as his flight is boarding. I return to my gate to face my next adventure.