How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE

Day 1 (cont’d): Killing Time at Chicago Airport

137 Comments


Warning: This is longer than my usual posts. Also Note: Newbie travelling. Some of this maybe old hat to you.

* * *

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:

  1. Walk, limp, stumble. keep moving
  2. Learn to avoid lineups around boarding and arrivals gates on both sides of the building
  3. Dodge weary travelers more concerned about their wheelies than who’s in front or behind them
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Stand in long lines to buy food / water even though not hungry
  9. Fight the crowd to buy coffee
  10. 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.
    At Chicago O'Hare Airport killing time

    At Chicago O’Hare Airport killing time


  11. Take pictures of a plane through restaurant window, not exactly proof I’m in Chicago but what the heck
  12. After tiring ourselves out walking around the gargantuan airport, sit and try to read or people watch
  13. 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.
  14. Check the screen for our gate too early but the waiting area is full already. Lucky to find a seat each.
  15. Count tall people / short people but they keep shifting up and down. Start over. Give up.
  16. Survey couples in boarding area to guess which ones might be going to Beijing. Sue spies a couple from our Toronto flight.
  17.  Without hesitation, we approach them and Sue strikes up a conversation and yes she knows how to peg them. They are going our way.
  18. Stare at the time in two-minute intervals but it doesn’t move any faster. One hour and 25 minutes to boarding.
  19. 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?
  20. 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.

    Someone's tired of waiting and waiting and waiting

    Someone’s tired of waiting and waiting and waiting

  21. 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.
  22. Evade running and screaming children
  23. 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.
  24. 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
  25. 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.

*  * *

Next Friday: Are We There Yet? A Long Haul to Beijing: 13 hours, 40 minutes  

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Author: Let's CUT the Crap!

I'm getting a little LONG in the tooth and have things to say about---ouch---AGEing. I believe it's certainly a state of mind but sometimes it's nice to hear that you're NORMAL. I enjoy reading by the truckload. I'm a grandma but I don't feel OLD although I'm not so young anymore. My plan is to stick it out as long as I can on this lovely planet and only will leave it kicking and screaming!

137 thoughts on “Day 1 (cont’d): Killing Time at Chicago Airport

  1. Do you call a group of good looking pilots a flock? I actually love people watching at airports, fascinating what you learn from a sea of humanity. And Chicago airport seems so crazy even for someone hailing from a rather large cabbage patch.

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    • I don’t know but they do look like a flock. 😀
      Love people watching. It’s better than television. The terminal we were in only had mostly food and we WERE tired, especially me because I’d been up since 7:00 a.m. Thursday and we flew out 6:30 Friday morning.
      I’m like a kid in a candy store because I haven’t traveled in almost 20 years. I must have been a sight with my mouth open…

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  2. Whew. I’m ready to return home.

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  3. I hope you rested on that flight. I’m exhausted just reading it. 😉

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  4. It sounds like you don’t fly very often, so the airport experience is fresh for you. It was fun to see the things you noticed that I barely pay attention to anymore. When I have a long layover, I power up my laptop or iPad and get so much work done that before I know it it’s time to board. Of course, I probably wouldn’t be taking my laptop to China…

    Thanks for giving us more. I enjoy reading about your adventures!

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    • Thank you for reading my greenhorn experience. You’re right. I haven’t flown anywhere for almost 20 years so my mouth flapped open a lot.
      I HAD brought my laptop but wasn’t comfortable pulling it out with so much activity around me. Anyway, had to keep moving because the flight to China would be long and my poor butt…you know.

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  5. Wow! You might have exhausted all your plane diversions in the airport!! Hope that your flight is easy!

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  6. Oh, Ms. Tess, this was a riot! I love your descriptions. I agree, some airport restroom fixtures are maddeningly modern to the point where they should include technical explanations.

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  7. I was actually laughing through this one. Though Chicago isn’t my favorite layover, it is one of the better for people watching. That is a long layover though, like Carrie I would have had my laptop out and been working away.

    I loved seeing O’Hare through your eyes, fresh and funny. I hope we get a similar view of the flight! Having made these long hauls myself I am curious about your experience.

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  8. Now I remember why I was always drunk when I flew. When I went to see my mom in Nov, in Tampa, I had checked my luggage (one piece) and had an easily carried, light carry on. I had downloaded three books on my Kindle for reading. I spent a few extra dollars to fly business class so I wasn’t jammed in small seats in the plane. AND they had nicer snacks. I don’t chat with people when I travel and discourage it. But on the way back, I sat next to an extremely engaging and nice looking young Japanese doctor on his way to Boston. Poor Tess…I am so sorry about all those waits and trudging and shifting from one numb butt cheek to the other….and then having to repeat on the way home. I am so glad you are home safe and sound. I can hardly wait to hear all the adventures though of China!!!! Date: Fri, 9 May 2014 21:50:07 +0000 To: thspencer51@hotmail.com

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  9. You had a pizza in your carry-on? I think that’s weird, Tess. But then I have been know to fly with cat food in my purse.

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  10. Your description of everything is brilliant. The toilet seat … Mmmm … Never thought of how often that plastic is changed … Euuuuu . Can’t think about that one. What used to trick me as it seems each country has their own idea as to how to flush a toilet. I have discovered a pedal on the floor. Nothing at all then suddenly it flushes by itself, sometimes before you are ready. A handle, a button, oh, yes and let’s not forget the hose!
    I can’t wait for more. I go next week so I will have to keep check on your blog to see the next instalment.
    Ps. I won’t even start on the Dutch toilet. Let’s just say it allows you to check if you are healthy … Hugs

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  11. It seems like so much fun–especially with a good friend with you. I don’t like flying, but if I had to, the way you approach it is great. What a long lay-over! I guess because you’re going to China.

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    • I guess that’s the reason for the long layover but sheesh, why really, when you’re anxious to get going? 😉

      Don’t forget everything is (will be) new to me. I haven’t been out and about for as long as it takes a baby to be born and finish college. ~(*_*)~~

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  12. Loved your description and I look forward to the next stages! You are embracing my motto, borrowed from G.K. Chesterton, that ‘An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.’

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    • Thank you for reading and commenting.Ha ha.
      Thank you for the quote. Loving it.
      I like to look at the bright side. There’s no fun in negativity. I’d finally found my wings and I wanted to fly, to enjoy an adventure. 😀
      I suppose I’m naïve regarding the world at large but that doesn’t bother me. ~(*_*)~~

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  13. Who cares if this was longer, I enjoyed every word and laughed so hard at your time filling, especially 5 and 6 and 21! I do like however that you noticed how there are MANY young good looking pilots..but yes often wonder how long they have been flying for. This was brilliant Tess! I love going to airports, yes even when I am not flying anywhere, just to absorb the surroundings, wonder where folk are off to and why the heck aren’t I going 😦 loved..loved. 🙂 xx

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    • Thank you, Jen, for laughing and enjoying. I like to get to the basics (cut the crap). I’m about the real thing not about sugar coating.
      About the pilots…heck, I still have eyes (hubba hubba), but they were all so young… 😀 Sigh.

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  14. Thoroughly enjoyed your O’Hare wait. Great stuff. Would never have thought of all the things one does to kill time. Ha!

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  15. I’ve love your list of to-do’s!

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  16. I’m laughing before I even get to the airplane seat! Making deposits and numb butt cheeks. All in one post. 😀 this trip is very promising.

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  17. Well done for surviving the airport lounge wait. I saw those self cleaning toilets in Switzerland. I liked it so much I took a video of it operating.

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  18. I love airports, up to a point, I love the buzz and all the people to watch, but I too have experienced long waits and it really does drag and become mind numbing, and you can end up spending far too much money on buying drinks and snacks just for something to do. I guess reading is a good way to pass the time. It’s worse when you have young children to entertain though. This is fun Tess, can’t wait for the next instalment!

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    • Thank you, Vanessa. Hope next phase of my trip will be fun to read as well.
      I saw lots of people traveling with small children and I cringe at the energy that takes especially in economy class. 🙂
      I’m fresh out of the cabbage patch so everything is interesting to me. ~(*_*)~~

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  19. Hilarious Tess. Yup sounds like a usual layover. I laughed out loud!

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  20. Long haul short haul it is the same old! The furthest I have flown was Heathrow to New York like you I felt like a country mouse . I do love people watching I can do it for hours. Wow those Loo’s are scary I have yet to meet one! Really interesting post. 😉 xx

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  21. love it! you are hysterical!! and I can totally relate to #6 😀 Can’t wait for the next installment!!

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  22. Oh Tess, this brings back so many (some not so good!!) memories of all the years I flew between Heathrow and LAX, with kids in tow in my case, but not left to wander about like that little boy..I’m too paranoid…where WERE the parents indeed?
    Like you, I find people-watching the best way to kill time, I love it! As for the toliet changer, I’ve never seen anything like it! I could have played with that button all day, haha!!!
    Looking forward to the next part of your journey, which you make so entertaining. Oh…and Happy Mother’s Day to you my friend 🙂

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  23. I have not traveled all that much, and I never have any money to spend while I am traveling so I usually make a beeline for the first earth loo, then the closest smoking section to my boarding gate and while away the waiting time there with tunes and a book 😉

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    • I tell everyone it took me almost 20 years to save for this trip (haven’t traveled in that long) and I’m gaga over everything. I couldn’t concentrate on reading but I enjoyed people watching, especially those pilots. 😀

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  24. You are hilarious, Tess. As I said before, I’m not a fan of O’Hara Airport. I’m so glad you put extra clothes in your carry-on. If you hadn’t, you would have needed them. It’s Murfee’s law and the law of the universe.

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  25. It’s precisely because this isn’t old hat to you that it’s such brilliant reading. I’ll never lose my childlike wonder about life and I’m sure you won’t either!

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  26. Why oh why is sitting around so tiring? What a relief to get you on that plane. Although now it’s more sitting … I find that when I travel, time gets funny, zipping along, then drag, drag, dragging. You capture this experience!

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    • Thank you for reading, jb. 🙂 This experience has provided me and still is, with many insights and benefits. Blogging is also helping me process the adventure, which I don’t believe I would otherwise.

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  27. Travel is bloody tiring..but think what you now know about toilet seats! My favourite is to go through Seoul or Changi airports and have massages and spa baths while I’m waiting. Stuff people watching!

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  28. Traveling is far from the joy it once was … long ago. By the time we get to our destinations, we need a vacation. 🙂

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  29. I once had a long layover in Chicago, i ended buying a t-shirt since I felt it qualified considering I felt like I spent an entire lifetime there. layovers are the worse. When I flew from South Africa to London and had a four hour layover before going home I nearly broke down in tears I was so tired. It was at the end of the trip and I had a massive cold. I feel your pain. But I’m excited to hear more of your trip

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    • I know you pain with the massive cold. Ugh.
      As much as I didn’t enjoy the long layover, I’m already planning (dreaming) and wondering where to go next–but no 13 or 14-hr. flight. No thank you. 😀

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  30. It’s the tedium of flying that puts me off travel. I think the Powers that Be build in the endless waiting around to get us all to buy their vile coffee! 🙂

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  31. I warmly greet you and invite you to see my new photos.
    I wish you a successful week.

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    http://ajaytaobotanicalblog.wordpress.com/

    thank you so much dear 🙂

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  33. I’m due for some travelling soon, I must remember the kindle. Hope you’re rested now Tess.

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  34. OMG, I LOVED your post! And you need not apologize for being a newbie traveler. I still worry about my luggage. I do. Maybe the worry thing is kind of wound in our DNA. At any rate, hope the long flight went well. I’ve flown a number of times to Asia, especially when we lived in Vietnam. I know how hard it is to sit still for close to 14 hours. AGONIZING!

    Thanks for visiting my blog recently. So happy I found a minute to stop by and visit and can’t wait for more! LOVE your writing!

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

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    • Thank YOU, as well. I need to put my thinking cap on regarding the first leg of the long flight. Blogging will help me process otherwise the whole trip would have disappeared as soon as I returned home–as in a lot of holidays.

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  35. Pingback: Day 2: Are We There Yet? | How the Cookie Crumbles

  36. Tess – I love your responses to the comments almost as much as the original blog. You are quick on the uptake. I’ve been stuck in that dang Chicago airport so many times in my adult life, I consider it a foregone conclusion. I’ll do most anything to avoid the place. Between Chicago and Denver, I’m not sure which is worse. I’ve spent three days in each because of bad weather multiple times. I’ve given up air travel due to climate change (except for those times when it’s absolutely necessary).

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  37. Written exactly as it is, with your newbie ears! I love all the different nationalities at airports! And the wave of people is shocking, isn’t it? I imagine Chicago must be extreme! Fascinating Tess! 🙂

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  38. Pingback: Beijing at Last! | How the Cookie Crumbles

  39. Pingback: Bejing at Last (Part 2) | How the Cookie Crumbles

  40. I’ve travelled a lot for the job, and so much of what you say is spot on.

    “We don’t need to worry about our luggage as it flew ahead direct from Toronto to Beijing.” – Actually that would worry me more. Who knows where it’s going?

    ” I wonder how often the plastic covers are replaced” – When the roll is empty? I always thought it’s a one way thing, and each segment is only used once, and then the entire thing discarded once it’s through. Otherwise would hardly be more hygienic than leaving the normal seat cover.

    “Gawk and wonder how all these pilots happen to be so good looking,” – I am always amazed at the female cabin attendants. They always look so perfect, so beautiful turned out, as if they’d just stepped out of a magazine. I love to watch them glide like swans through the crowds of disheveled passengers.

    “fret if they are indeed old enough for the job? Most look around fifteen.” – Yup. More and more people seem to be around fifteen. After my flat was broken into the police came round, rather, two young boys did. If they hadn’t been carrying guns, I’d have been tempted to offer them milk and cookies…

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    • Milk and cookies. Ha ha ha.

      About the luggage, I DID worry but we didn’t need to check it out and then in again at Chicago. Sue and I talked about what ifs when we arrived in China. It’s what kept me awake all those hours. Ha ha.

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  41. Tess, is the photo of you or Sue? I think it’s you and you do look like you’ve had just about enough! Love the new toilet seat experience! I remember being in some airport and finding out about the new automatic faucets. Stood for a looonnngg time trying to figure out how to get water to come out…. Some kind soul advised me to wave my hands around underneath the faucet. And then there’s getting the paper towels to come out, yikes!

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    • No, this is Sue. I hadn’t managed to read the instructions on how to flush the toilet; somehow got lucky. The next time I knew how to do what needed done because I read the instructions. Can’t help it. I’m a quick study. 😀 Right. I hadn’t traveled in almost 20 year and felt like a new kid in a candy store. So many new, shiny things to see. 😀 😀 😀

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