No such thing as free lunch

Look. I know better. I am a rational adult, and have travelled fairly extensively. But somehow, after a long day, my brain cells sometimes just go a bit numb. Take a little time off. And my true New York insanity pops through.

It's a beautiful day in Orlando, FL. Happiest place on earth. Until they close the airport. Well, unless you're a kid.  But for grownups, nothing but disaster looms ahead. After being told several times that our flight to Chicago was delayed, and no, I still hadn't figured out why I'd been booked Orlando-Chicago-Tucson, they said that little Thunderstorm outside was getting worse...too much lightening...and no more flights could come or go. Until further notice. So I plopped down on the floor next to a convenient pole with an outlet, plugged Droid in and did a little work while I waited. Confident that my flight, 1529, which I was told was also my flight to Tucson, couldn't possibly leave Chicago without me. Same plane, thank goodness. And I waited. And waited. Until finally, 2 hours later, we actually boarded the plane. Eyes closed and fingers crossed, we held our collective breaths while the plane took off into that really lovely black cloud. And finally ascended above the nightmare and blue skies reigned.

Wasn't a long flight to Chicago, a few hours, and of course I'd armed myself with a sandwich and an apple just in case. Good thing. Because oddly enough, when we landed in Chicago, there was no mention of going on to Tucson. Seems not wanting to be too delayed, they sent a different plane out. Or maybe I was misinformed by the airline. Several times. So there I am, Chicago O'Hare and no more flights out to Tucson. No luggage either. And, as the gate attendant explained, I didn't need to worry because they automatically had rebooked me on the morning flight and my luggage would be on that plane with me. Yay. Had my brain been working, I might have asked for a flight to Phoenix instead. But as you will discover, I was operating in idiot mode.

Now I just want to interject that as a frequent flier on this airline, they were sending me messages every 15 minutes about the flight delays, when the Chicago flight would depart, what gate... it was a constant barrage of information. Even in the air, since I had WiFi, I was able to get the messages. Yet I never did receive that all important alert about the flight actually departing! Or the rebooking. Hmmm. Anyway, I dropped my laptop case and big bag of fun purse on the floor next to the gate attendant and patiently awaited my next set of instructions. "You do know," she said. " that since it was a weather delay, we don't actually pay for a room." Huh. That didn't sit well with me. "So where would you like me to go?" I queried. Now I was traveling on business, and had my brain been functioning, I would have said, "just book me a room at the airline rate and I'll take care of it." But nooooo. I was getting that free room if it killed me. Which turned out to be a real possibility. Turns out with a little investigation that my Tucson plane hadn't left until AFTER we'd actually landed. But since we had to do figure eights on the runway for 20 minutes waiting for a gate, we didn't actually pull up in time for me to make that flight. So I win. Free room it is. At the lovely High Rise Bates Motel in Glendale Heights, which is apparently just a "few minutes away." I called my sister in Chicago, and when I told her where I was headed, she didn't seem too concerned. Just wished me luck. Must be something I did as a child and she figured this may be the perfect opportunity to get back at me. She could have looked it up. Called me back and said hey, don't go there, I'll pick you up. But no.

It took a while to find the hotel shuttle pick up. 40 minutes at least since the gate attendant gave me some really bad directions. Probably on purpose. So I called my sister again who at this point thought this whole thing was pretty funny. And for those of you who frequent O'Hare, you'll know that as you stand waiting for a shuttle, directly opposite is the Hilton. And as I stood there waiting for my shuttle of doom, I thought, I should just cross the street and book a room. Hubby said the same thing. "Why don't you stay at the Hilton?" he asked. But I had that damn voucher. And I'm a New Yorker. How could I justify a few hundred dollars for a room when I could have a free one? Couldn't do it. Must get the Airline to pay. Later I would remember of course that I was traveling on business and the company would have paid it, not me. But that was later. Plus some of my traveling companions from Orlando had arrived at the shuttle pick up headed to the same place. So I wasn't alone in this. Funny it took them longer to find it than me. And they were headed to the same hotel, only they had to pay for it with the Airline discount. I was going to see this through just to make a point.


And so we waited. While the Hyatt shuttle pulled up. And the Westin. Oak Park Inn. We were waiting for the Ramada. Now I haven't stayed in a Ramada for awhile. But I'm thinking, hmm, must be like Holiday Inn, right? Um, no. Let's just say 2 hours later, I arrived, a little bruised up from that smooth shuttle ride, at what could only be described as airline's revenge. Now I won't say the staff wasn't accommodating, but I will say they didn't have much to work with. And I was at the tail end of a two week conference tour. First at the Venetian, then The Disney Yacht Club. So my expectations were perhaps a tad high in terms of comfort and convenience. And cleanliness. I wasn't really expecting the peeling wallpaper and musty smell. Or the linens that made you think twice about sleeping under the covers not on top of them. Which made those environmental cards placed on the pillow suggesting you not have your linens washed during your stay all the more ludicrous. There was a thermostat on the wall, but it wasn't connected to anything. I said a quick thank you to the gods that the cups were wrapped in plastic. Until I found out the vending machine had run out of water. And that I wasn't alone at this place.

It seems a Latino version of the Grandmother from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" was staying there too. Wandering the hall, couldn't speak a word of English, waving her key card around. Several hundred facial expressions and gestures later, (I really should have paid more attention in Spanish class) I figured out she couldn't get into her room, and I took care of it for her. Showed her how it worked. She looked at me, grinned a toothless grin and smacked her forehead, yelling "Stupid" and cackling.  It was going to be a long night.

To be fair, the shuttle ride was free, bumpy, yes, but free, and they had one to take me back to the airport in the morning. I'd have to leave a little earlier than I wanted, but hey. Free is free. My functioning brain would have called a car service to take me. Actually, my functioning brain would have called a car service to take me back to the Hilton asap! But idiot brain didn't.

And they did have complimentary breakfast in the lobby. If you could get  past the appearance of it, it wasn't too awful. Functioning brain would have eaten at the airport. Idiot brain had me holding my noise while I swallowed.

My friend Maria looked my classic hotel up on line and it was rated 2 stars. I am actually going to agree. The cable on the TV had about 50 channels, including House Hunters. So that alone is worth one star. And despite my concern about sleeping under the covers, I slept like a rock. And as any insomniac will tell you, that is worth a star as well.

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