Warning: This is longer than my usual posts. Also Note: Newbie travelling. Some of this maybe old hat to you.
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We don’t need to worry about our luggage as it flew ahead direct from Toronto to Beijing. What a blessing, yet this causes me discomfort not knowing exactly where it might be. A whole string of what ifs torment me anyway. The most nagging: what if my luggage goes to the wrong destination? Pul-eese. It’ll be fine. I’d packed two changes of clothing in my carry-on thanks to advice from my blogging friends.
It turns out we’re a long way from the main building and a shuttle arrives as we land in Chicago. We jump on in a fine spring mist hoping we’re delivered to the right terminal, then jog in the now drizzle to the entrance. First stop a washroom.
What is this? I feel like a country mouse. The toilet has unusual self-sanitizing seats. Think ultra-soft (memory foam). This video will show you best: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cokBht49qt8
Only five hours and 45 minutes to kill.
Now what? We see nothing but Starbucks, McDonalds, a kind of deli, various healthy food shops, tons of neck pillows and sunglasses on offer, books and magazines, and a bar or two. Maybe we should consider sampling our way through all the food shops to keep busy. Instead, in no particular order we:
- Walk, limp, stumble. keep moving
- Learn to avoid lineups around boarding and arrivals gates on both sides of the building
- Dodge weary travelers more concerned about their wheelies than who’s in front or behind them
- Gape at the zillions of people (I don’t get out enough), from all parts of the world, who arrive and depart in giant waves like schools of fish—big ones— with luggage
- I close my mouth time and again and do my best not to stick out as if I’d just left the cabbage patch. The world is such a big and confusing place.
- Make a deposit at each washroom we wander past. When the opportunity presents itself, I figure it’s best to grab it. Best keep the tank empty.
- Hang around the unusual new-fangled toilets. What will they think of next? (refer to Youtube video). I wonder how often the plastic covers are replaced and ask an attendant, but she doesn’t know either.
- Stand in long lines to buy food / water even though not hungry
- Fight the crowd to buy coffee
- Search for an empty table to rest aching feet. Why are all the tables occupied? Pull out my now soggy pizza out of my carry-on.
- Take pictures of a plane through restaurant window, not exactly proof I’m in Chicago but what the heck
- After tiring ourselves out walking around the gargantuan airport, sit and try to read or people watch
- Sue combs the gift shops for a Chicago fridge magnets but doesn’t buy one. They are $5.99 each (U.S. dollars of course) and tiny—the width of two of today’s postage stamps.
- Check the screen for our gate too early but the waiting area is full already. Lucky to find a seat each.
- Count tall people / short people but they keep shifting up and down. Start over. Give up.
- Survey couples in boarding area to guess which ones might be going to Beijing. Sue spies a couple from our Toronto flight.
- Without hesitation, we approach them and Sue strikes up a conversation and yes she knows how to peg them. They are going our way.
- Stare at the time in two-minute intervals but it doesn’t move any faster. One hour and 25 minutes to boarding.
- Notice a planeload of pilots attached to carry-ons on wheelies, who mill about purchasing food. I’d never seen so many at once. Why are they hungry? Are they arrivals or departures?
- Gawk and wonder how all these pilots happen to be so good looking, but much more important, fret if they are indeed old enough for the job? Most look around fifteen.
- Shift and re-shift from one numb butt cheek to the other and blink faster than a turn signal to stay awake. Can’t read. You wuss. You’ve only been awake 29 hours. Fifteen and a little bit to go.
- Evade running and screaming children
- Stew over whose toddler is wandering around alone. Not my responsibility, but where are the parents? I want to know. Where ARE they? No-ones paying attention to the little guy.
- Line up as directed with visa and boarding pass to get the visa to China stamped. This takes five minutes. One hour and 15 minutes to go
- Spy a female pilot. Wow! My guess is she’s about 40. Old enough and I expect she has lots of experience under her belt. I could trust her but where’s her crew?
The clock clicks one mouse hair at a time. Time’s up. Boarding is announced by a distorted male voice. Not unlike not conscious sleepwalkers, we funnel into lines and shuffle forward, necessary papers clutched.
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Next Friday: Are We There Yet? A Long Haul to Beijing: 13 hours, 40 minutes