I know that no one is ever interested in the banal details of the discomforts of someone else's travels, but today's trip to Chicago and back was marked by four distinct and separate brutalities, and there's really no point in maintaining a blog if I can't get these off my chest.
Brutality Number 1: The time of departure, 7:30 am, doesn't sound too bad, but a 7:30 departure means that boarding starts at 7:00, which means that I had to get to security by 6:30, which means that I had to get to the parking lot by 6:00, which means that I had to leave the house by 5:30, which means that I had to get up at 4:30 am.
Larks and owls. I'm not a morning person, and what with taking the Zennists out for ice cream last night and all, I didn't get to bed until after 11:30. Today was a big day, and I had to do it all on 5 hours of sleep and waking 2 hours earlier than my norm.
The Second Brutality: The flight itself was uneventful, almost pleasant. I met one of my two clients at the Atlanta Airport and the other at O'Hare. The weather in Chicago was not so much hot (high 70s) as overwhelmingly humid (damn close to 100 percent). We took a taxi from O'Hare to the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower), the three of us squeezed into the back seat, with me in the middle, my briefcase pressed into my chest. The cab had no air conditioning and the morning rush-hour traffic was stop-and-go the whole way. In my blazer and tie, I started sweating and sweating profusely, streamlets of perspiration rolling off my bald head. It felt like we would never get there and by the time we finally did, I was in dire need of some serious freshening up, which we didn't have time for due to the traffic, so we rushed right in, rode a maze of elevators and escalators halfway up Willis Tower, the tallest building in North America, to the 50-something floor, where I gave a Power Point presentation to a roomful of attorneys, even while sweat was still dripping down my back.
Brutality the Third: After the presentation (which actually went quite well), we walked several blocks in the thick humidity to Michigan Avenue, where we had a very pleasant lunch, even if we did sit outside in the soupy weather to eat, across the street from Millenium Park, where Obama celebrated his 2008 election victory.
As you can see, the temperature was only 78 F, which doesn't even hint at how it felt. After lunch, we took another cab back to the airport for the day's third brutality. Same story, just different direction: no air, traffic, three of us crowded in the back seat, profuse sweating.
The Final Brutality: We had a long wait at the airport before our flight home, but I passed the time answering emails on my Droid and taking a little nap. The plane boarded on time, but then idled on the tarmac for two full hours waiting for clearance to take off. To conserve fuel, the pilot turned off the engines, shutting off the air conditioning in the plane, which quickly heated up in the humid Chicago air to the same temperatures I had enjoyed in the taxis. The pilot advised us to close the windows to keep the sun from warming us up even more. After two hours, though, we finally got clearance to leave, and the engines started up and the air came back on, but it was still another two and a half hours before we finally got back to Atlanta (which felt cool and dry by comparison). By the time I got home at 10:40 pm, I had been up for 18 straight hours, the last four and a half of which were spent sitting in a cramped plane, and had been repeatedly dehydrated, hydrated, and dehydrated again.
I know. Everyone has travel stories like this, and yours are probably even worse, if for nothing else, because they happened to you. I'm not arguing that mine was any harder to endure - instead, I'm sending you my sincerest sympathy.