I can't even count how many times I have been in the Chicago O'Hare airport. That was the routine layover on our way from Los Angeles, California to Rochester, New York all the while I was growing up. My mother always had us dress up for our flights too ... I think that was much more the norm for everyone in those days. O'Hare seemed so overwhelmingly huge to me. When we would get into Rochester (okay, we did leave from LAX which was also an enormous airport so Rochester didn't really stand a chance against that and O'Hare), the plane would land and we would walk down the ramp, out onto the runway and make our way through the airport doors - out of the elements, whatever those might be at that particular time of year. It was a tiny airport for a long, long time.
My how things have changed .... where there once were only souvenir/magazine/snack stands, now there is just about anything you would need, and things you would never need from an airport. (It would make for being stranded a little less bothersome, except that the stores tend to keep "normal" store hours - where is the 7-11 when you need it?!?!?!) O'Hare had several restaurants (we wanted to eat at their Macaroni Grill but the wait was a little long), all kinds of stores and sundries ... but what kind of blew my mind the most was the grocery store. It was tiny, but, a grocery store? Pretty cool. (No, I don't get out much for those of you who have experienced these things for years now.)
I loved seeing the big Oprah banners all over the airport too. But it reminded me of two things - first, I had 25 years to try and get to the Oprah Winfrey show and never made it, and second, I don't think I had ever stepped foot outside of the airport once in all these years ... until this time, because
Our plane was seriously delayed in Salt Lake. The counter attendant said that there would be no way we would make our connecting flight in Chicago and there was nothing else leaving for Rochester until the next morning. Bummer. But she did book us two hotel rooms and gave us vouchers for food and made sure our bags would end up in Chicago, not all the way to New York since we would be spending the night. That's a good thing, right?
When we arrived in Chicago, however, our connecting flight was also delayed and we absolutely could have made the flight! Leslie tried sooooo hard to get on that flight into Rochester. She was not keen on losing a day in her "beloved" Pittsford with our mom and dad. The problem was, they had already given up our seats and our luggage was already unloaded and would be sitting on the carousel down in the bag claim area. Oh, all of our luggage except Leslie's, that is. Hers was somehow misplaced.
I don't know how long we paced and Spring cursed the airlines before we did end up finding Leslie's bag in a "lost luggage" area. There was another girl whose luggage had been lost too. She had missed her connecting flight home, and hadn't even been comped a hotel room ... lots of tears were happening all around us. So I said to the girlies, "Hey, look at the bright side. At least we don't have kids with us and we are with each other. It will be fun."
Spring wasn't buying it. She didn't think that $10 for dinner and $5 for breakfast was nearly enough, what with airport prices and hotel food prices as high as they were, plus the inconvenience of it all. I told her I thought that the hotel they had set us up in was in the Marriott family so it would be nice. She wasn't buying that either. She was sure it would be some seedy joint that we wouldn't ever choose to stay in.
I felt so bad for the girl that was crying though - and she kept crying too. As we were standing in a line to find out where the bags might have disappeared to, she said, "I have never flown alone before. I don't want to be like this either." My heart went out to her, so I said, "You can stick with us if you want. They comped us two hotel rooms and you can have one of them. My sisters and I can all just stay in one room." I knew my sisters wouldn't mind, and they didn't. So we all waited together for the shuttle to the Renaissance Hotel.
I was right. The Renaissance was indeed part of the Marriott family, and dare I say one of the nicest hotels I have been in. It was pretty darn swanky. And $10 for dinner bought me a yummy chicken ceasar salad from the cooler by the front desk, and lots of treats for my sisters. (Oh, and the girl who tagged along said, "You know, I can just have my work pay for a room for me, but thanks for your hospitality." So we ended up with our two original, really great rooms after all!) And in addition to that, because we got into Rochester during the day instead of at midnight the night before, we kept tradition alive by getting to stop off at our FAVORITE frozen custard place on the way home from the airport! Four double chocolate almond custards with extra nuts - heavy on the extra nuts please.
Yum, yum, and double yum!