the night before i left for chicago last week, i was a little nervous. in college, i flew a good bit, but it was always to vegas or denver or charlotte or ohio or another part of florida. always places i was so used to flying to that i could probably maneuver the whole thing with a blindfold on. this was the first time in a good while that i was flying alone to a place i'd never been. i wasn't scared, but i wanted to be sure i'd be comfortable. so i stayed up all night deciding what to pack, exchanging at least 4 outfits for better ones.
i made my 7am flight to philadelphia, where i was meant to connect on an 11am flight to chicago o'hare. but the 11am filled up as i sat disappointed, across from the sleeping man in the picture above. i was mostly disappointed because being stuck in the philadelphia airport without a single starbucks after a sleepless night is some kind of cruel travel torture. i didn't care about getting to chicago so early, except that there would certainly be a starbucks there to keep me alive! :(
and how come this guy could sleep so peacefully right in front of me as a flock of passengers noisily boarded the plane i was supposed to get on? i've never been able to sleep in an airport and i was aggravated with this stranger for doing it so well! he found chairs without armrests, used sweaters for blankets, and even had his arm over his luggage, for peace of mind. meanwhile, i sat caffeine-less in knee-high boots and a sweater dress.
once my would-be-flight boarded without me, i got up and gave the sleeping man a silent kudos--only because there was construction right across the hall and i imagined the strange, sleepless horror he must've gone through in the previous days that allowed him to sleep through all that noise.
as i walked away from the gate, i also noticed two girls about my age who looked longingly at the closed door to the jetway. standby, i thought. i hope they're lower than i am on the list for the next flight. standbys that don't make their flight always roll over to the next, so seeing fellow leftovers at a gate sometimes lessens my chances of making the next one, depending on seniority.
i walked around philly international and reluctantly bought my first dunkin donuts coffee. and then i felt dumb for being a starbucks snob because dunkin was half the price and just as good. i drank my cheap coffee and people watched from the rocking chairs between concourses and thought sometimes the waiting is just as special as the arriving.
when the next flight rolled around a couple hours later, i made my way to the new gate, unsure of my chances. i watched a huge mass of people all around me form a line as their zones were called. i noticed an older man talking to a younger blonde woman. he was gathering his bags and making his way toward the end of the line as he said, "good luck, i hope you get on the plane!" standby. a few minutes later a name was called over the intercom and the little blonde woman jumped up. the man she had been talking to said, "there ya go!" and she smiled as she retrieved her ticket.
a minute after that, as the blonde was still gathering her bags, my name was called. i jumped up, relieved. she looked at me and gave a sympathetic, "yay!" as we both got in line.
while in line, i saw the two girls my age from the last flight we all missed. and since i was in a good mood from the kindness of the strangers before me, i said, "i saw you guys missed the 11am flight, too. i hope you get on this one!" and literally two seconds later, their names were called. they thanked me as if it were my doing and we talked as we made our way down the jetway.
they were chicago locals, going home after a day-trip to see the changing of the leaves in virginia. i told them it was my first time to chicago and that i had no idea what i was doing. they offered to help and invited me to come with them on the train into the city. on the train, they gave me advice and even e-mailed me a list of things to see over the weekend.
it was such a happy little series of events. traveling is stressful and isn't always conducive to the friendliest of moods, so when i find them, i cherish the memory of them--always. thanks, chicago angels, for your sweet kindness! :)