I’d struggled to find a place to stay after Sunday’s road trip, and there’d been no alternatives offered for moving on other than a flight from Pittsburgh to Chicago. I’d wanted to traverse the US by land to prove there were plenty of Twitter users who could help. I hadn’t counted on Pittsburgh blanking me.
It didn’t matter, Wheeling showed me all the hospitality a travelling man could want. Kathy and Alston were aware that my four changes of underwear required the attention of a washing machine after nine days use – hopefully they made that deduction through mathematics rather then their sense of smell – so we hooked up the big tub and I enjoyed my first clean set of clothes since Paris. Bliss.
Kathy drove me from Wheeling to the airport on Monday morning, and I attempted not to be so rude as to fall asleep. Nine days in, my body had had enough of been thrown around the world; I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep since I’d started, trying to work and travel and spend a little time with my hosts. There were bags under my eyes, dark lumpy sacks of coal and mud, my skin was dry and I’d had a constant headache scratching at my skull for the past couple of days.
The plane to Chicago was by far the smallest I’d ever seen. It was a private jet, but with 52 passengers vacuum packed in, the right hand row of seating comprised of a single place, and anyone taller than six feet had to stoop like a cripple as they made their way along the aisle. If your hand luggage was too large, it became checked luggage because there was only one set of overhead bins, and they were too tiny to fit much more than a multi-pack of crisps in. Even an amateur cat swinger would have been horrified.
There’s a curious sort of sweat you suffer on board trains and planes, a similar sort of sweat to that you experience when you go to sleep in your clothes. It’s a hot, oily perspiration; you soon become aware that your underwear is molded to your groin and the odour emanating from your own armpits. It’s a skin-crawlingly disgusting sensation, one that would see you kill for a shower. Not that the gentleman next to me noticed. He was asleep. He wore his mobile phone in a holster on his belt, like so many American business men do. It not only suggested their calendar still read 1997, but that most of middle-management in this country were special needs.
The flight to O’Hare was mercifully short; my attempt to find the shuttle bus, less so. Trying to find my transport to Chicago took half the time it’d taken to fly in from Pittsburgh; those are the sorts of statistics that unpick the convenience of flying, although O’Hare didn’t help matters by seemingly moving the information desk as I walked through the terminals.
By the time I reached Chicago, I smelt like a four day-old ox tongue sandwich. @orbitzgal had flown me there, and offered to put me up for a couple of nights too. I didn’t expect the InterContinental to be all that, but it turned out to be all that and a big scoop of extra that on top. A lavish hotel stood on the Magnificent Mile, next to the Chicago Tribune, and there was this greasy, grubby foreigner loitering in reception.
@orbitzgal turned out to have a split personality – both Laura and Kate were responsible for the account at Orbitz, a very well known travel portal in the US. I suspect I was slightly grumpy company – I was so tired I was going blind – but we met up in the hotel bar and recapped my adventure so far. We didn’t go overboard on the Chicago nightlife; I retired to my impossibly big hotel room early and admired the view from the 18th floor; it was a gothic landscape, shrouded in mist and mystery. I barely kept my eyes open long enough to appreciate it, before melting into my pillow for another six hours sleep.
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