Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sleepless in Chicago : The Ivy League Misconnections

Day 02/Plan B

You may be picturing nine smiling faces, happily resting their smart heads on some nice Sheraton Hotel pillows on the evening of June 24th. I am sorry to say that you would be wrong.

We sat waiting for our flight from Chicago to Syracuse for approximately 4 hours. On my left sat Ms. Kaplan and to her left, sat Mr. Ramsey. This was around the time in which I was finishing the last few words of my last blog post. “We’ve been in this airport for six hours,” I overhear Mr. Ramsey tell Ms. Kaplan. “And we’re all waiting for one crewmember to show up?” As it turns out, United Airline’s Syracuse flight was not departing because the plane was waiting for a flight attendant that was coming into Chicago through another flight. Pretty ridiculous, right?

Cornellians play cards to pass the time

By the time the stewardess did arrive, a large applause rang from our boarding room. It’s impressive how the passengers of the Syracuse flight arrived first for boarding, but ended up as the last group to leave in the end. The plane was now scheduled to leave at 12:30 AM – originally 9:30 PM. Despite how sick we all were of waiting for the plane, we were just glad to finally board a flight to New York. I, for one, was ready to get into that Sheraton Hotel, no matter how early in the morning we were to arrive.

And as fate would have it, another twist in our adventure sprung out on us like an annoyed skunk about to spray its victim. “Sorry, your flight was already canceled,” the lady receiving our tickets told us. WHAT?!

All of us were confused and she explained that apparently, the flight that our ticket described was a different one from the one in which we were sitting there waiting 3 hours for! My fellow Cornellians couldn’t help but chuckle at this situation. It wasn’t funny that we were definitely not going to New York that evening, but we were laughing because we couldn’t help but be amused at this sudden turn of events. None of us expected this to happen, but it did. Though it was partially our fault for not double-checking our flights, it was also the ticket-buying process prior to this trip that also held some of the blame. Despite whose fault it was, it was more important that we figured out what it was we ought to do next.

As the last flight to Syracuse departed O’Hare Airport without us, we returned to the floor above us and worked our way around the situation. Charles Ramsey and Ms. Kaplan were extremely stressed and trying to organize another route to New York ASAP. The rest of us sat around, waiting for their findings. Eventually, Charles Ramsey decided to go talk with United Airlines and left for a good 30 minutes or so, but before he did, he told all of us: get comfortable, we’re going to be sleeping here tonight. And so, that was how the Cornell group of the ILC ended up homeless and sleeping around O’Hare Airport in Chicago.

Stranded at O'Hare Airport - Homeless for a Night

We were not alone though. Because of the horrible storm that occurred earlier that day, 150 flights in the O’Hare Airport were completely canceled. Many other passengers, much like us, had to resort to staying behind and trying to find some good rest for the evening. I wasn’t tired at all, but I knew that if I wanted to keep up with anyone tomorrow, I was going to need some time for shuteye. The other “homeless passengers” around me looked so comfortable sprawling their curved bodies on the 3 seats in the rows of chairs in the waiting rooms, that I too was very tempted to make sure I got my own three-seat bed to sleep on.

Trying to get comfortable at the O'Hare Sleepover

Boy, was I wrong. At first it seemed fine, but I had to face reality: I was trying to get comfortable lying down on 3 seats for the night. My surroundings got colder and colder because my jacket wasn’t so thick. The man sleeping on the other side of my seats was snoring up a storm. The lights were too bright to sleep in. And on top of that, I was trying to sleep during airport cleaning hour. I shall never forget that awful zamboni-like vehicle that passed by us more than 20 times in its slow and loud pace. I must’ve tried sleeping in at least 5 different places and at last, it was concluded that I was definitely not going to get any rest that night, which was perfectly fine, since I was more energetic and awake than ever. The others felt the same way and we ended up staying up, doing absolutely nothing but possibly disturbing the sleep of others with our conversations.

By the time Mr. Ramsey came back, more news was to come. Did he find a flight to Syracuse at last? Not quite. With triumph and a grin on his face, Mr. Ramsey raised both of his hands and declared: “Guys, we’re going to Hartford, Connecticut!” The rest of us were still trying to wrap this new idea in our heads when Mr. Ramsey continued: “and from there, we shall rent a car and drive down to Syracuse!” Quickly, the smiles we had from before slowly subsided. We were not too thrilled to hear that we will be on the road for four hours straight, but we also knew very well that this was the only option.

For the rest of the morning, we all sat around the Hilton Inn, just outside the O’Hare Airport. We could’ve stayed in the airport further, but we were all quite tired of Chicago’s troublesome airport. It was another two hour sit, doing absolutely nothing but chatting amongst ourselves from time to time. All of us took some time to step out of the hotel though, because that way we all have “officially been to Chicago, Illinois”. 

The weather was nice and humid; I felt very nostalgic because if I closed my eyes and really concentrated, I could imagine myself back at my hometown of Hong Kong. Their summer weather was very similar.

Nothing to do at the Hilton

Eventually, the sky finally lightened up and the lack of sleep finally started to kick in. We started speaking in slurred speeches and we laughed at everything that was being said. If it wasn’t for breakfast, we would’ve all eventually collapsed in the hotel’s nice red carpets.

For our morning meal, we ate at “Andiamo – Bar and Restaurant”. It was a nice sit-in place located within the Hilton hotel. Mr. Ramsey ordered a buffet-styled breakfast for all of us and we immediately got started with filling our plates with lots and lots of food. After all, we hadn’t eaten anything in the last 12 hours.

My first plate from "Andiamo"

From there, Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kaplan decided that it would be ridiculous to keep going with any plans until we get some form of rest. And the kind of rest they were talking about was the kind in which we would all sleep in hotel rooms and try to get seven hours of sleep down before our 4:00 PM flight to Hartford, Connecticut. Although I didn’t sleep the full seven hours, I was able to get some good shuteye and let me tell you, it makes all the difference. Once again, our team of nine was fully recharged and we were off again to our favorite airport: the crowded and bustling O’Hare Airport of Chicago, Illinois!

Ms. Kaplan and Beilul, well rested to keep on going

On our way to the gate for the flight to Hartford
There were zero problems as we boarded a quick one hour flight down to beautiful Connecticut. In our little plane, I was the only person misplaced from the group and had to sit with two complete strangers. It was an interesting ride because the man next to me was curious about the sketches I had out that he asked if I could do two simple portraits of his two daughters. Seeing as I had nothing better to do, I agreed. In the end, I got a not-so-bland flight, and $10 more to my wallet.

View from the shuttle bus: beautiful Connecticut skies

As soon as we got our two rental cars, we split up into two groups or, as I like to call them: Team Ramsey and Team Kaplan. In Mr. Ramsey’s car sat Andrew Woo, Alex Elms, and Beilul Naizghi. In the Kaplan team, we had Jacky Lares, Christopher Habash, Andrew Gonzales, and I. I have no idea just what Team Ramsey did during our long drive down to Syracuse, but I knew that our car was nothing but quiet. As the shotgun passenger, I had the honor of becoming the car’s designated DJ of the night. All of us had a fun time cruising through Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York as songs with heavy bases rang from the car’s speakers. When it came to the East Coast, Team Kaplan knew how to drive down with style.

Jacky Lares on a shuttle bus to the car rentals

View from shotgun seat - Hello Team Ramsey!

We took a short break for dinner at this little fast food-type place at a rest stop area. The food was good because again, we were all famished. Once we were done, it was back to the road for us. We had another hour and thirty minutes ahead of us so we tried our best to get there as quickly as possible. There was a point in our trip when we had a miscommunication and confusion with the directions that Team Kaplan ended up falling behind. “We’ll see you at the Sheraton, I guess.” was what Team Ramsey told us through the phone.

Afraid of detouring from our destination again, we made sure to drive extra cautiously as we followed our directions on Jacky’s cell phone faithfully. When we arrived at the Sheraton, it was already one in the morning. We were so happy to be there that we were okay with getting a little bit behind, because in the end, we got there! And it was even more of an award when Team Kaplan discovered they had arrived earlier than Team Ramsey to the hotel because they too had made a wrong exit along the way!

Now, I am sitting in my room at the hotel. It is 3 in the morning and I have to wake up at 6:45 for tomorrow’s packed schedule. I am very anxious to visit all our appointments, especially the Erie Canal. Now it is time for me to hit the hay again, but this time, not on 3 airport seats, but in a nice comfy bed.

1 comment:

  1. Dyana,

    We pick some of the smartest kids in the District to be a part of the ILC and we try to find some of the best chaperones to join them. And, of course, we have administrators like Mr. Ramsey who has skills of his own to boast about.

    Then, as it turns out, everyone we send east seems to want to get lost. First Ms. Bulls in Providence and now Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kaplan in New York. With all of the smart phones in your pockets and the GPS devices offered on rental cars, it's a wonder that you all could lose your way so easily.

    It had to feel good, though, to finally get somewhere in the same community where you were destined. And those beds and showers had to be a welcome relief.

    We're all glad that you're finally getting closer to your final destination.