Holiday Hell: December 24th

So far, my trip to Michigan, with my son, has spanned two days and covered about 38 hours. We’ve spent one night in a hotel, worn the same clothes the entire time, and gotten to know the airport at Chicago O’hare airport pretty well. We have tried to get out of Chicago on a plane, a train, and car…with a fox in a box and house with a mouse. We finally managed to get out of the Windy City, and it was damned windy, by bus to the airport in South Bend, Indiana where my mother and step-father met us.

So there we are approaching midnight on the freeway in Michigan (I don’t remember if that is what they call them in Michigan, anyhow an interstate I-something or other) and the wind is blowing quite a bit and at times visibility is very, very bad. And as I’m driving another motorist comes up on me in the other lane and zips right past me. I thought the guy was crazy to be going that fast in these conditions, but hey he’s probably been driving in Michigan/Indiana his whole life. Then his tail lights start moving in a funny direction, and then his headlights are pointing at us. He had lost control of his car and it spun out of control. Realizing that hitting the breaks was probably a bad idea, I take my foot of the pedals and coast and steer around this guy.

Now it starts to get really bad and people are doing a rather odd thing: driving with their hazard lights on. While this might sound like a good idea, one problem is that it becomes harder to spot when a person has their hazards on and is not moving. But oh well, I end up behind a semi-trailer and in front of him is a long stream of cars and trucks moving at a much slower rate of speed. Snow is now starting to stick and things are getting more and more slippery as time goes buy. But we are closing in on our destination inexorably.

I realize that now it is actually Christmas Eve and that my son and I have been traveling for a time period that managed to span three days. My step-father who was at the airport we were supposed to fly into after leaving Chicago informs me he is actually kind of glad we didn’t leave the ground in Chicago. The winds were so bad he couldn’t imagine landing a plane safely. And it is at this point that I realize why I’m truly angry with the airline: they just kept us in the dark. They never actually levelled with us, “Hey folks, I know this really sucks, but conditions are too bad so we can’t fly…you’ll either have to make other arrangements or wait till we can fly, and we can’t make any promises as to when on the latter option.” Sure it would be annoying, but Julian and I could have gotten out of Chicago on a much, much earlier bus. Heck we could have tried even the night before! But NO! They had to keep jerking us around: 15 more minutes, soon, we are at the top of the list, etc., etc.

By now we are coming up on our exit, and the surface streets aren’t any better. In fact, they are worse. But I manage to get us to my mother and step-father’s house. We get out and head inside. My step-father is exhausted so we get him to bed. Julian and I are so relieved and happy to be “home” that we can’t sleep. I spy my mother’s various alcoholic beverages and figure I deserve a couple of nice drinks. I go for the tequila and fire down two shots. My mom can’t sleep either and wants to hear more about our awful trip. So Julian and I fill her in on the gory details and then after about an hour head up to bed. The next day I have to try and find out what happened to our luggage (which had some alcohol I brought to share with my mom and grandmother–booze is rather pricey in Michigan), and go shopping for toiletries, and underwear. I was determined to change my underwear before another day passed. And of course, when my wife flew a few days later in she had no problems. And overall we did have a very nice and relaxing visit.

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Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Steve, I wish you’d called or emailed me. You could have taken the L to downtown Chicago and the South Shore from downtown Chicago to South Bend.

  2. Christopher says:

    still whinning, Steve? Jeeeeez you are like an annoying b*tchy woman! Maybe you were too boozed up to actually know what you were doing. And if you hate the airline so much, why don’t you go start your own? Its not a “right” to have airlines behave the way you want them to.

  3. Steve Verdon says:


    Thanks. Next time I’m traveling through your neck of the woods I’ll be sure to e-mail you ahead of time in case I need some assistance negotiating my way around Chicago.


    When I grow up I want to be as tough as you.

  4. mike says:

    why not let foreign carriers bid on routes and one of the factors should be customer service, on-time records etc…