I know better. When it comes to work, I should just stay home. In Houston that is. But recently I said “yes” to a day trip to Chicago.
The first sign of trouble was that in order to make the gig, I had to abandon Eric in Denver, where we were visiting his youngest for the weekend, at her college. We drove from Alamosa to Denver, arriving at 11 p.m. Sunday night at our economy motel. We got it for a super price, only $49.
Which was great, except I didn’t bring a blow drier, and my flight was at 7 a.m.
Everything else was super except that we forgot to buy drinks and food, and there was no cheery breakfast buffet or even a basket of fruit when we left at 4:30 a.m. the next morninig.
I had google mapped our directions to the rental car return the night before. Sadly, google failed us. We followed its directions only to end up at a Holiday Inn five miles from the highway. The clock was ticking like a wacked out metronome. We raced back to the highway while I frantically re-googled, to no avail. We came upon signs to the rental car return.
We drove up to a locked gate and a sign that advised us “after hours” customers to stash the car in long term parking and then visit their location inside the airport to drop the keys and car site.
We sped to the airport and parked in one of the few and hard to find spots. We hopped a bus. Of course we were its first stop. It lurched to a stop seven more times before it finally dropped us at the terminal, only 300 yards from where we parked.
We sprinted to drop our bags — that at least went well — and on to the hunt for the rental car kiosk. It was nearly time for me to board my plane. And in case you forgot, I had really bad hair. We found the kiosk, made the drop, and ratcheted back up to a run for security. We queued up in a ginormous line, and watched the big hand move around the watch dial. We got into the line for a TSA agent. Immediately, a second TSA agent joined the one processing the line next to us, while our TSA agent struck up a lengthy conversation with the 3 small children of a couple in our line. Time dragged. The line next to us spit people out like a ball thrower. Ours advanced like an old lady in a walker.
We finally (finally!) made it through. Of course we picked the slowest line for the scans. Then we started our dash for the train to get us to our terminal. By this time, my flight was nearly boarded. Eric and I smooched and I took off down one hall while he ran down another for our flights to separate cities. I was the last person to board, but I made it.
When I arrived in Chicago refortified from the big breakfast served on the plane (not), the skies were blue and the air crisp. It was going to be a perfect day after all. Really.
Until I got in the taxi for the 45-minute drive to Naperville. My cabbie either had absolutey no eye-foot coordination, or he wanted me to puke. Either way, I spent half the drive with the window down and my head out, gulping in cool air. This had no impact on his driving style. Or my hair, which still sucked. He managed to get lost, which extended our drive time by 10 minutes. Add another five for the flock of Canadiaan geese crossing the exit ramp that backed up traffic for a mile.
I made it to my client with all the fat trimmed out of my schedule. As usual, the minutes leading up to a presentation were tech hell. Not because of my equipment, but because of theirs. And their IT person, who literally moved me aside from my laptop to mess with my settings. Nevermind I already had it working perfectly. She critiqued my system down to my power cord, slammed my screen when she got frustrated, and ultimately achieved her goal of messing all my shit up. It was five minutes until “go” time when I forcibly reclaimed it, reset it, and dismissed her in what I hope was a friendly and appreciative manner.
But the presentation was fabulous. No one even mentioned my hair.
Then it was grab a cookie from the trainees’ leftovers, repack my gear, retaxi, and retramp to a flight. All of that went fine. I even managed to contact Eric, who was flying out to Tulsa for a few days from Houston at about the time I was departing Chicago back to Houston. He had a huge surprise for me:
He had risked missing his flight to retreive Petey from boarding at the vet, knowing I would get in that night after they closed and have to spend the night sans Eric and sans Petey Sweetie. Ahhhhhhhhh.
But the airlines had a bigger surprise for him. His flight was delayed four hours. Only they couldn’t guarantee the delay, and they told him he needed to stay at the airport (rather than return to his office) in case his flight was able to depart earlier. Horrible news for him. He had tons of work to do that he had planned for his quiet hotel room that evening, only now he was stuck in a noisy airport and wouldn’t arrive until late that night.
“Time to turn off and stow away all electronic devices,” a disembodied voice announced on my flight.
We texted our goodbyes, and I closed my eyes for a nap.
When I awoke, we were descending into Houston. I turned on my phone when we were on the runway, and texted Eric.
“Run to gate 46. I’m still here, but we’re boarding soon,” he replied.
A stupid smile cracked my lips. I tucked my bags into a streamlined position, deplaned, and literally did an OJ through the terminal at Houston Hobby airport. * That’s an OJ as in running for your flight, not an OJ as in ‘if the gloves don’t fit you must acquit.’ *
I huffed and puffed my way to Gate 46. There was a man with a stupid smile to match my own, looking really good in his Loving the Bike t-shirt and jeans. I dropped my bags and barreled into him for our bonus hug.
“How long do we have?” I asked against his neck.
“Five minutes,” he said and kissed the top of my head.
I remembered the woman who had asked if we were newlyweds on our way out of Houston three days and many cities before. If she could see us now. Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr had nothing on us in From Here to Eternity. Five minutes passed in a blink and then I was waving goodbye as he boarded.
A whirlwind. A frickin frackin hackin schmackin whirlwind.
But, see? Once I was headed back to Houston, good things started happening.
Reminder #3272 not to travel for work. As if I needed another. And note to self: no one but me seems to care about my hair.