few people are ambivalent about chicago o'hare international airport, and even fewer have positive feelings toward it.  i myself have mixed memories that include the inevitable missed connections due to mile-long inter-concourse dashes, balanced against happy meetings with local friends during college years.  on balance i would have said i fell into the ambivalent group until recently.

i connected through chicago last thursday on my way from omaha to vancouver, a flight path that made about as much sense as the trip last year from auckland to south africa via bangkok.  (and had, i might add, a similar conclusion.)  whatever else may be said for it, o'hare presents excellent people-watching opportunities.  no sooner had i landed than a leggy pre-teen girl wandered in front of me in miniscule white terry-cloth shorts that said 'hello sailor' in large letters across the butt.  a couple wandered by having a high-volume discussion, the only part of which i was treated to being a leering 'but that's not what we agreed to last night, baby.'  i wandered into a women's restroom, naturally choosing the stall without a luggage hook on the door, and watched in horrified fascination as a slow tidal wave of something crept under the wall from the adjacent stall and across the floor toward my bag.

one thing i do like about o'hare is the tunnel between the B and C concourses, and luck was with me, because i landed at B and had four hours before my scheduled departure from C. so i had ample time to enjoy this

even though my vision was more along these lines

having just left my mom in omaha and knowing i had another nine hours before reaching vancouver.

as it happened, i checked a departure screen when i arrived in C concourse and discovered that an earlier scheduled flight to vancouver had been delayed until an hour before my departure time and, long story short (we'll skip the traipse back to B concourse where the earlier flight was scheduled from and the subsequent gate change back to C… oops, sorry), i booked myself onto it, intending to arrive an hour earlier than planned.  when i changed my ticket, the clerk dutifully examined my baggage tags, printed me a new boarding pass and sent me on my way.  and i did fly out an hour ahead of my original flight, and had a four-hour sunset as i traveled west across north america.

but i'm sure you can tell where this is going.  if you guessed 'lost luggage,' you're right – no checked bags made it to vancouver.  serves me right for treating this journey as essentially a domestic one; all changes of clothes, contact lens stuff and prescriptions were safely stowed in my checked luggage, something i have learned to avoid on other international flights.  to make matters more interesting, i would be spending less than ten hours at the hotel in vancouver before departing for whistler the following morning.  oh, and the checked luggage included my wedding dress.  not that it was imminently needed, but still, you don't want that to go missing.

a quick inventory of my hand luggage revealed the following helpful items: many books, a copy of my thesis, some heavy glass candle-holders and about a kilo of pebbles from lake superior (wedding thing, don't ask), a travel scrabble game (never leave home without it!) and a cat brush.  very, very luckily, about a dozen pairs of underwear hadn't fit into my checked bags and i'd thrown those into my backpack, but all i can say is, it's a good thing we didn't crash-land in the desert and have to survive on my carry-ons.  although maybe i could have set fire to my thesis using the glass candle-holders.  let's not explore that subconscious desire too deeply.

well, the bags didn't turn up at the hotel in vancouver, and had not arrived in whistler by 4pm the following day either.  two phone calls to <insert nameless airline here UNITED> got me nowhere, although i did get treated to two separate sets of 15 minutes on hold, one of which ended in me being disconnected before reaching anyone.  the other was hardly more helpful; the baggage agent 'couldn't reach' the hotel OR the baggage delivery service and advised me to call back in two hours if i hadn't heard anything.  at this stage, having been in the same clothes for 30 hours (except clean underwear!  yeah!) in 95-degree heat, and having stupidly, stupidly, STUPIDLY not bought travel insurance this time around, i set out to buy a new shirt and try to forget about my table-flinging rage and frustration, because after all, that would only get me sweaty and i didn't have a swimsuit. 

the bags magically appeared in our room while we were out, in fact, about 24 hours after i had landed, so all ended well except that i wasted about an hour of my life trying to find a shirt that a) cost less than $15 (failed) and b) didn't say 'whistler' (managed).   and of course i will be sending a helpfully constructive email to <insert nameless airline here UNITED> about their policy of charging for and subsequently losing checked luggage. 

the end.

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