Gonna start this off by saying it would have made a cute book (“Same-sex couple struggle to get home from loving in-laws! It’s a diverse version of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, from the author who brought you other cute Jewish queer stuff!”) but as the adventure expanded into the second half of the second day I realized that it was just too unbelievable to fictionalize.
Seriously. Sometimes, real life jumps the shark.
So, it started on Monday morning after Christmas, when we opened the door to leave House In-Law in the south-side suburbs of Chicago. Snow! It was snowing! The whole time we were there, the weather had been relatively mild for a Chicago winter, and I live in Florida, so it was a complete surprise. I danced around in the gently falling ice-pretties, my face probably looking like some five-year-old in a commercial for Disneyworld.
Here is my spouse de-icing our rental car. They made that hat.
We got in the car and headed for O’Hare, about an hour away. We had plenty of time, so I felt great. Then we got the text from Aunt-In-Law. “Your flight’s canceled.” Huh.
The only other flight from that airline back to central Florida was literally twelve hours later (and probably wound up canceled later on), so we just got our money back and tried our luck with other airlines. After a lot of frantic flailing at the Jet Blue, Delta, etc. counters we finally found something at United. I had a crying fit because of the amount of money involved, but we had to get home somehow because of my spouse’s job. (Spoiler: hopefully we got that money back because… see below.)
Our flight was at 2:05. No, 2:30. 3:00. 5:00. 8:00. We waited and waited all day, playing on phones, eating potato chips, and enjoying each other’s company. I remember jokes about sacrificing a goat to Thor, to appease the storm.
O’Hare is actually kinda pretty, in places!
Finally, after about five gate changes and all the above delays, they finally canceled the flight. It was 4 pm. Nothing was open for days. We began checking ground transportation. Amtrak was $500 a ticket and sold out. What about Megabus?
We took public transit back into the city and met Younger Aunt-in-Law for dinner, after a run through a freezing rainstorm that had me literally sobbing (lol wimp.) A cab got us to Union Station, where we waited for a few hours until Megabus time. I was here when I got my contract for Lioness in Blue, a romance novelette set in an orchestra. I’ll always remember having been stranded when I signed for this one 😛
Our first Megabus leg was from Chicago to Atlanta, where we’d get on a different bus to get back to Florida. This is where things really got weird.
The next morning, in Tennessee, a massive accident caused a two-hour standstill, and yes, I literally mean standstill as in, if I’d had my fiddle with me I’d have taken it out and entertained the bus, after which they routed us onto the other side of the highway because they still didn’t have it cleared. And then there was another accident on the other side of the highway. As we waited in the second standstill, we saw that the cops on the first side of the road were now sending people the “wrong way” down the clear stretch of the other road. Surreal.
When we got off the highway, Megabus tried to reroute the driver through back-country roads so we could get to Chattanooga, the next stop, but they didn’t really know what to tell him so we wound up dithering at a gas station for a while. I think some people bailed at this point.
While wandering around in rural Tennessee near Murphreesboro, the bus driver managed to execute a three-point-turn in some random person’s driveway in a residential neighborhood:
…as on-lookers stared in confusion.
More local color:
We continued like this for several hours, bonding with the other passengers. My spouse had woken up with a migraine, so I tried to help as best I could.
And hey, it wasn’t all bad, right?
We were supposed to have gotten to Atlanta at 3:55 pm. At around 7 pm, the bus driver announces that due to all the extra time he’s running out of gas so he needs to stop. “And please, either stay on the bus or keep me in your sight because I WILL leave when I’m done pumping.” Well, the station wouldn’t take the Megabus corporate gas card, so he left. A voice pipes up that two ladies were in the bathroom. We didn’t turn around!
Two more gas stations also refused to take the card, so he said he was going to go look for a truck stop. He drove several miles to… a truck stop that was no longer open.
Finally he found an open one, several more miles later, and we continued to Atlanta. By now, it was five hours later so naturally we’d missed our connection. We had to book Greyhound because the next Megabus to our destination was 24 hours from the one we’d missed.
Guess what, though? The Greyhound trip, and the walk home from the Greyhound station, were without incident. And then we got home and took a nap and the cat was glad to see us and Lobelia Sackville-Baggins was not auctioning off our stuff.