Today I would like to tell you a little tale of Chicago...
My brother Derek was in Chicago this week (to give a presentation and attend a convention I believe... I am so bad with the details) and when he first told me, I immediately made the plan to go see him. After all Chicago is only about 2, 2.5 hours away. My first brilliant plan was to drive out Sunday since I would have all afternoon and evening.
Sunday morning I got up and saw the radar for the day. High winds and tornado outbreak across the Midwest ESPECIALLY from Illinois to Indiana. I was tempted to say, Tornadoes, psshh, we never really get anything. But I knew some people would not be at all happy with me. So in the afternoon I waited to see what happened. Around 4pm we had to run over to our neighbor's basement. And... nothing really happened. The storm passed. But there had been a severe tornado in Illinois, there were still high winds and I was tired... I decided that getting to Chicago on Sunday was not necessarily wise.
Derek and I attempted to find another evening when I could drive out after work, but it didn't look likely.
Then on Tuesday night he called me up to say that Wednesday evening if I wanted to come out, we could have dinner with some mutual friends who also happened to be in Chicago that night! A friend of his from school and a friend of friends of mine.
Well that was exciting, I agreed to it. Even though I had a meeting till 5:30 on Wednesday. Which said meeting ended up leaving me so stressed out and feeling like a failure that for the first 20 minutes of my drive to Chicago I could hardly pull my heart up from the depths.
But then I finally got distracted by the interest of trying to get to Chicago, especially without a proper GPS. I had Google maps but it didn't seem to be giving me directions, just showing where I was... Well that's ok, I thought, I did print off Google directions before I left. Not easy to read them in the dark but HEY, I had my nifty little new flashlight!
I had to take the 80/90 toll road and I was considerably surprised to find we would have to go through automated machines... and for the line I was in, every car was taking a minimum of 3-5 minutes. It was incredible. When it was my turn, I had come to the conclusion that cards were not working well for my predecessors in the line, so I pulled out my $20 for the 60-cent toll... and for a minute I wondered if that had overloaded Toll Machine's brain. Then hundreds of quarters came clattering down. Ok maybe not technically hundreds, but that is what it seemed like.
As I was getting into Chicago and heading up the Skyway, I began to get a little concerned about how exactly I would find Derek... he said the McCormick Place center was huge and he would be waiting out north of it. As it turned out I missed the Place almost right away... turned around at the University of Chicago and got on the phone with Derek. I was slightly concerned to find out he was waiting for me outside, his phone was about to die, and I was not seeing any of the roads he tried to direct me to... Oh whew! There it was. And there he was. Well that was exciting.
Now that I had Derek safely with me I was much more excited about bopping around Chicago. We set out to find the restaurant - Gino's East. There were several Gino's in Chicago as we found on Google maps, but we found an Original Gino's East and Derek confirmed he knew it was this one. Derek had somehow figured out how to make my Google Maps act like a GPS, which I was ticked off but ultimately delighted to have happen. As we were headed down Michigan Avenue and getting close... we suddenly started hitting a surge of emergency vehicles. Fire trucks, ambulances, police cars... Most of them headed the wrong way down streets. Cars pulled over as best they could. Derek and I found that the majority of them seemed to be headed exactly to where our restaurant awaited us... so we ended up heading ahead several blocks as best we could. There was not always someone directing traffic, and when we did come to an intersection with a policeman in the middle, he started waving our lane of cars on only to have the oncoming traffic start going... so we stopped. Then suddenly a fire truck appeared out of nowhere trying to get past us. I pulled way over into the cars against the curb and it was still not quite enough... it had stopped but was trying to inch past me. I inched over more, as much as I dared. It pulled past me and shot on. It had passed literally within one inch of my car. Derek was somewhat concerned for my car and amazed at the close quarters, but that did not bother me particularly, after all this was city driving.
When we finally found Gino's, we searched around for a bit for a free or cheap parking spot. But ended up pulling into a privately-controlled parking area which was $8 for about 2 or 3 hours. That didn't seem too bad to me, I paid up and we went inside to find our friends. Except we couldn't find them. Even after walking around the restaurant twice and peering at everybody, which was kind of fun actually. Finally I made Derek get in touch with them and yes indeed, we were at the wrong Gino's. There are several. Gino's East was different than Original Gino's East. However, it was only a 6-minute drive away. And apparently the deep-dish pizza that they had already ordered for all of us would not be ready for a while yet. So we went back to my car and piled in. I did not even bother trying to get a partial refund, I did not care. Money psshh!
When we found the RIGHT Gino's we attempted looking for parking again, failed since it was right near a hospital and it seemed hardly any parking was allowed, and ended up using the valet service, which was not bad... $14. Right inside the door one of our friends was waiting for us, that was a welcome sight!
When we parted from our friends after the meal, I took Derek back to his hotel, which was really only a 5-minute drive away. This time we DID successfully find a spot to park on the street. I paid for an hour. Derek showed off his super-posh hotel and snazzy room to me... quite fun. That hour went WAY too fast, suddenly it was time to leave. But just as well since both Derek and I needed sleep.
For the trip home I made Google Maps work like a GPS and I had a very easy time getting out of the city, getting through the tolls - except the pay-toll that kept trying to spit out my ticket - and all the way home. It did get hard to keep my eyes open for the last half. For a while I fought off drowsiness by popping in my barbershop CD and singing along, but I finally had to stop and get some nice cold water and snacks to wake my head up a little more... That did the trick and I arrived safely home at the reasonable hour of 2:40am. Hey, if you get in before 3:00am, it's not too late!
Well that was our evening, we enjoyed it quite a bit and I must say it almost entirely distracted me from the stresses of work, which did ease up slightly the following couple days. So I thank God for the gift of Wednesday night! Even if my friends did laugh at me and call me crazy for driving to Chicago after work. They probably don't realize the awesome experiences you can miss by not doing crazy things.
P.S. I wrote this in 2 sittings and did not proofread so I hope it flows reasonably well.