Tuesday was a day off from travelling, so I attempted catch up on the writing I’d spectacularly failed to manage over the past week. It was a brave effort, but my brain was having none of it. It was fuzzy and miserable, grouchy as hell and it all but refused to entertain the notion of hard work. The lack of sleep or consistency in my day meant I was hemorrhaging wages at a frightening pace, but try as hard as I like, I couldn’t find any focus or clarity in my thinking.
So for most of the day, I slumped over the desk in my hotel room and stared out across Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, trying to will the words from my head onto the screen, repeatedly bringing my hand to my forehead and making the motion of yanking the sentences out.
All the while I had half an idle eye cast across Tweetdeck, watching out for an offer to move me on from Chicago the next day. I’d only had one the previous day – a flight to Dallas – and while I’d been determined to continue my travels across land by possible, I wasn’t been left with much choice. And so I buckled, and decided to make things interesting to stir people into action – if I received a second offer of a ride out of Chicago, I’d let Twitter decide which I took.
And the second offer duly came – a Megabus to Kansas City, courtesy of @ajmullin. I looked up the timetables and swore very loudly – Kansas City was eleven hours away by bus. The thought of spending so long on a bus filled me with dread, cut with a little anger and hopelessness, too. I was already struggling to find enough hours in the day to get online and earn a living, and now I was looking at a full day sat on an increasingly numb arse, offline and going broke.
Shit, in a word.
Because I already knew what was coming. Twitter’s reaction was inevitable. People wouldn’t want me to take the easy route and fly any distance, and if I wasn’t becoming so miserable and tired, I’d probably agree. But I was. So I didn’t. I reluctantly set up the poll on Twitter and left people to have their wicked way with my travels, while I met up with Laura, Kate and Dave from Orbitz for lunch – a Chicago-style pizza as wide as the moon and as deep as Sartre.
My belly full, my mood improved as I walked back up North Michigan Avenue and to the hotel. Then I remembered the poll. I glanced at some of the messages from people who were voting; some were choosing the bus on environmental grounds, others because it would make for a “better” travel experience, and some because they liked the idea of me suffering for eleven hours. Bastards.
Well, I only had myself to blame. I’d pushed Twitter into action and they’d responded, so I could hardly piss and moan because I didn’t like the outcome. Besides, I was enjoying the sights and colours of an America I’d only ever seen on television, so I…
I’d fallen asleep.
In my chair, at the desk, while typing. My head had rolled and dropped momentarily. Despite been asleep for a few seconds at most, my mouth tasted of kebab glazed in blood. That curious texture of tongue that afflicts only the day sleeper – why, exactly?
After a long, lukewarm shower to shock my body back to life, I headed out to The Kerryman a few blocks away. @wibjess and the team at Chicago-based Where I’ve Been had organised a last-minute tweet-up and while I wasn’t particularly alert, I was in the mood to get spectacularly drunk.
It was a fine night. About a dozen people passed through the bar, some lingered longer than others. Shots of Jagermeister were ordered and duly dispensed with – I reasoned if I was going to spend 11 hours on a bus, I may as well be hungover. It’s that sort of destructive thinking that leads you into trouble, and in this instance it led me into the Blue Frog karaoke bar.
I’d always thought I could sing God Only Knows reasonably well. At least that was my perception when I’d sang along with the song turned up so loud I couldn’t hear my own voice. It turned out I’d been lying to myself for years. Thankfully I wasn’t as bad as the pin-stripped suit who’d wandered in off the set of Wall Street and wouldn’t know a tune if it kicked his face clean off his head. It was Love Shack, for crying out loud. How do you get that wrong?
Drunk, tired and having made a spectacular arse of myself in a bar full of strangers, I staggered back to my bed. The dread of what was to come had vanished, replaced by the quietly light-headed contentment afforded by five hours of drinking Guinness and Jagermeister.
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