Our Thanksgiving trip north was a three-legged extravaganza.
Minneapolis was in the midst of its usual transformation into a Winter Wonderland…
This was followed by a week and a half in Chicago, and then a return to Tampa. The Chicago leg was spent doing things that can ONLY be done in Chicago, including: seeing the Dentist, Doctor, renewing drivers license, picking up Passports that had been renewed, New License Plate Tags, Shingles shots, flu shots, etc. etc. I even had a visit to that particular medical specialist that one is supposed to visit every 10 years beginning at age 50.
Suffice to say that Liz, who claims with some evidence I am full of shit, was wrong for ONE DAY ONLY of that Chicago Leg.
Prior to our visit to Chicago, we had made our apartment available to former friends and neighbors Brian and Sara Walsh. Former because we and they are no longer around the ‘hood — they moved to the Peoples Republic of Berkeley (California) several years ago. (We are not former friends, as far as I know…) Our trips through California have always included a stop and a meal, and we have each time offered HAR-BnB if they ever visited “home.” Since we were in Mpls for T-Giving, our space was available and utilized!
Left unsaid but undoubtedly considered by the Walshes: Best time to visit the Harrises? When the Harrises are elsewhere! Or, the RV-corollary: Best time for the Harrises to visit you (and your driveway)? When you are (or can escape) elsewhere! Brian at one point promised they would try to leave the place cleaner than they found it…I said the only leaving they should be doing would be a nice Single Malt Scotch.
They did, too! Not “Scotch” per se, but a single malt Japanese Whiskey. Can’t wait to “endure” their gratitude!
We left Minneapolis for Chicago on the day a major winter Storm was also visiting Chi-town – winter travel is always a crap-shoot in the northern USA, and this year especially so. The airlines cancelled over 1000 flites into and out of Chicago and nearby airports, but ours was still showing as “on time” (4:00 departure) when we had to return our rental car at noon. We decided to head to the airport early and have some lunch (it having been over 1 hour since our last Thanksgiving-related gustatory excess).
We got through security, which was as invasive as I have ever experienced despite being “TSA-Precheck.” Even with this status, which is assigned randomly, as far as I can tell (sometimes one of us gets it, and the other not, and it is not always ME, with my Million-Miles-Plus of travelling history), I ALWAYS insist on the fancy new scanners, because the Magnetic Portals always flag my metal hips and lead to really close relations with a TSA agent. But this time, even the scanners felt I was “packing.” The shoes that “TSA-PRECHECK” means you do not have to remove needed to be removed and double-scanned. The agent tugged on my pants until I cried “Uncle” in my best falsetto, then patted me extensively (nearly @ #MeToo levels) and then had me wait while the sniffer investigated my clothing. All of this was done respectfully and in a way that made be think the agent ALSO was not enjoying it, but still…
Early to the airport, we acquired lunch, and just then I got a text from American Airlines: “Flite cancelled…we have “accommodated” you on flite xxx TOMORROW.” “Accommodated” was their word, certainly not mine — we had already checked our luggage, and were now expected to stay overnight – I guess in a chair in the airport as far as AA knew. (We could have gone back to my sisters, but we are wary of wearing out that welcome in perpetuity…).
It was noon — we did not want to spend 30 hours in the airport…so instead of confirming this most-gracious-if-totally-inconvenient accomodation, I called the airline. They magically had 2 seats on the 9:20 AM flite, which was now expected to leave at 1:20. If true, this was only 1 hour from the cancellation and “Accommodation” call, and was waiting for us at a gate nearby. The catch: The agent apologetically said she did not have 2 seats together!! I said we have been married 28 years – plenty of togetherness — we could survive 90 minutes apart.
You cannot make this stuff up…In this day and age of Airline “Service”, in the midst of a winter storm, it just doesn’t get any better than that!!!
We got confirmed (if separate) seats and headed to the gate, where DOZENS of folks were on standby for that flite. Not sure why our seats were confirmed and they were all on standby… perhaps The Force was Strong for this elderly Jedi?? Perhaps my million+ miles on American ARE worth something (though they no longer get me an Exit row OR a free beer)? Perhaps it was because I was very civil and grateful with the phone agent — I suspect she had been screamed at all day by people angry about their “accommodations.” I had adopted a different strategy.
As it turned out, this new flite was delayed twice more, but still arrived in Chicago ONE HOUR BEFORE our original flite would have, pre-cancellation. And, it arrived with our Suitcase on board, having made the necessary change in the bowels of the Minneapolis airport! You cannot make this stuff up…In this day and age, in the midst of a winter storm, it just doesn’t get any better than that!!!
There was one confusing moment where, far from being “lucky” we thought we had been diverted to an alternate airport, or perhaps an alternate universe. We realized somewhere along the way that the CHICAGO BEARS were in FIRST PLACE, while the Chicago Blackhawks were in LAST PLACE. That is just not right!
Being home for such a short period of time, we could not catch up individually with all our friends, neighbors, former work colleagues, clients, Liz’s family etc. Our only “one-on-one time” was spent at the end of a Dentist’s tool, or stethoscope (or worse scope). So we had an “Open House” — a fabulous afternoon and evening visiting with all sorts of friends. We still missed some folks for a variety of reasons – there was some sort of GI Virus going around, and lots of people were in some phase of that. We appreciated their choice to NOT share the fun with us or others at our party.
One dear friend, we discovered, had been planning to visit with the cookies she promised to make. Unfortunately, she had the wrong date, time and perhaps city, country and planet written in her diary. She is not even blonde! I won’t mention any names (Loretta, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE).
Not to bury the lead, or anything, one of Liz’s appointments was with her Oncologist. She is OFFICIALLY Cancer free now…it has been 5 years since her diagnosis and treatment!
The open house actually occurred the evening before my ten-year-appointment-with-Destiny. A “Last Supper” of sorts. Put a less dramatic way: My last scheduled obligation in Chicago involved ingesting a gallon of visciously awful liquid, followed by multiple long moments on the porcelain shrine (WHY oh WHY did I not put a TV in the Bathroom we just built for our apartment). Eventually I was visited by an elf-like creature with a long wand, lighted at the end. I do not THINK this was Harry Potter, but my recollection is somewhat affected by the “Twilight Anesthetic” offered and gladly accepted.
Now, I try to be optimistic and open-minded about all things — which really helps as we travel through places with different cultural orientations (can you say “SEC FOOTBALL” or “NASCAR”) and political leanings. So, let’s optimistically say that the “purge” I endured will help me start the new year “unencumbered” by the remnants of the last…
While in Chicago, we had a chance to visit some of our favorite restaurants. Have I mentioned that the best Burritos in the world are here, less than 3 blocks from our Chicago base?? Why yes, I have. Here–>
We noticed, at our favorite Sub Sandwich place, the caricatures in the booths very closely resembled our Retirement Planning Process…One of us reading the La-Z-Boy catalog while the other reads about motorcycles and tattoos.
Getting ready to return to Florida and pick up the bus, I called the Hitch guy, where we stored the bus, and who was going to install the hitch over the three+weeks it would be sitting in his lot. “Dan Who?” “Bluebird?” He had NO IDEA who I was. This was unexpected…most people don’t forget a 30-year-old vehicle parked in their lot, but this guy apparently had! He said he would call me back.
A week passed, and I called him. “Dan Who?” “Oh yeah…” (Progress in small increments..at least he remembered me!). He said he would call me back…and this time he did. “Here is what needs to be done (blah blah blah…)” “and we will not be able to finish before you return to pick it up – it will take 3 weeks.” What needed to be done (The “blah blah blah”) would take someone about 2 hours – this we agreed. But there was a backlog… HIS backlog was the issue…
I reminded him that he HAD THE VEHICLE for OVER THREE WEEKS. Surely he would take that into account and complete our work as promised. No matter, no could do. And being PISSED would not help the situation. Well, being Australian-pissed (drunk) might help, but he simply wasn’t going to do what he had promised.
Short term, I knew we could manage this by driving the 2 vehicles separately until we found a welding shop willing to help. My biggest worry was that Liz would find she ENJOYS driving separately! Not wanting to risk this, I made contact with Bob Weaver (whom we stayed with in Lake Wales) and Randy Shrimplin (who lives not far away) – both folks with Bluebirds and the inclination to help. Randy said DEFINITELY he could get it done or knew the right people with the right welding equipment. Bob said he’d get right on it (finding someone…I ASSUME he did not mean that the hitch would be done by the time we got back down there…). Either way, problem solved.
So all that remains is to get out of Chicago ahead of the Snow predicted for Thursday. We used up all of our accumulated snow-luck flying TO Chicago, so we are hoping for CAVU. Speaking of “CAVU,” I was reminded by the eulogies for President Bush, and by the registration screen at my doctors’ offices that inclusiveness is a GOOD THING, and a thing often forgotten. Shall we try it for a bit?