I walk as fast as I can, even running in parts. Carrying my backpack and holding Tanvi’s hand, I am trying hard not to bump into people who I cross. It is turning out to be a constant struggle. Heading towards gate number 6, I look up at the overhead sign for direction. We still have eight gates to cover.
Ten minutes ago sitting in the boarding lounge of gate number 16 at Chicago’s O’Hare International airport I was beginning to relax. It had been a rough morning but it was over now. Our flight to Kansas City was to leave in 45 minutes. Baroon, sitting next to me was reading on his iPad. Tanvi as always, was unaware and self-entertained.
I stop to catch my breath. I look around and the terminal is full of people. Most of them seem at ease. This annoys me. I have swapped my backpack with Baroon and am now carrying Tanvi instead. I figure this will make us move faster. In actual fact it has managed to slow us down. ‘ We’ll make it, don’t worry’, says Baroon. I huff and I puff. I have just about had enough.
‘I think we will be there by ten’, I’d said to him this morning when boarding the CTA for the airport at 9:00am. For an 11:30am flight, that sounded good. Turned out, it wasn’t. For starters, the train has a couple of extra stops in the morning which we did not know of. To top that, there was a twenty minute mid-way halt due to technical issues. It was twenty minutes too much.
Tanvi is back to walking. I have to drag her now. We are going past gate number 8. ‘Nearly there,’ Baroon declares. I can’t believe how calm he is.
‘Run..’- was the call as soon as we got off the train at 10:30am. O’ Hare is big and difficult to navigate especially on a Sunday morning. Losing our way twice, we finally made it to the check-in counter. We knew we were pushing our luck.
‘I’m sorry, check-in for this flight is closed,’ we were told. There was nothing we could do. The next flight was in an hour and we would be kept on stand-by for that. Thus, began the real ordeal.
Three hours gone and we were still waiting. Two flights had since flown and we had missed both. The first was full and a frequent flyer family was given preference over us for the second. Hearing their names being called out over ours had been excruciating.
I see the board that says Gate 6. I go over to read the flight number on screen. With only twenty minutes to go, most people are already standing up for boarding. Deflated, I flop myself on one of the lounge chairs. ‘Don’t let this take the sheen off Chicago for you,’ says Baroon. He can read my mind.
We had made it the third time. Boarding passes in hand, we sat in the lounge of gate number 16. ‘Finally!’ I sighed, looking at Baroon. We were all set. I was wrong. ‘The departure gate for American Airlines flight 197 has been changed to gate number 6.’ I found myself running again.
‘Morning from hell’, I mutter. ‘Come on, these things happen’, says Baroon. ‘This is O’Hare after all.’
‘O’Hare or O’Harrow?’
Baroon sighs and sits down next to me. ‘Does it matter?’ he asks.
I close my eyes. I ask myself the same question. I answer is simple. No, it does not matter. The essence of traveling is experiences, both good and bad. What I learn from them is what matters. I have learnt my lesson. Chicago to me will always be the two brilliant days that I spent here. Not the Sunday morning that went wrong. Suddenly, I feel better.
Holding Tanvi’s hand I walk towards the gate happily.
‘Hare not Harrow’, I say to Baroon as we enter the aircraft. He grins. We both chuckle and take our seats.