Monday, October 20, 2008

Surprise Visit

The call came unexpectedly.  I was in the midst of reading Twilight when the phone rang.  My eldest daughter, the other Harry Potter fan in the family, had recommended it to me as a pretty good young adult novel.  And it is!  I was enjoying it when my reverie was interrupted by the demanding ring of the phone.  What an annoyance!  But, in checking the caller I.D. I decided to answer it because it was my son,  Jeff, calling.

Jeff had traveled to Portland, Oregon this weekend to attend the wedding of a friend from college.  While traveling, he sometimes he calls to chat, killing time while waiting in the gate to board a flight.  I suspected that this was the case, and I was happy to hear from him and  to help relieve his boredom for at least a few minutes.

There was something in his tone that told me this was not that kind of call.  He had something more on his mind.  Turns out, he was supposed to fly home the next morning, but changed his flight so that he didn't have to find a hotel room and he could be back in time for work on Monday.  As a result of the change, he had a two hour lay over, in Chicago!  Yes!  We could go to the airport to see him.

He wanted to do dinner, but all of the restaurants (with the exception of a couple of carry out vendors) at O'Hare are inside the security check stations.  Well, since my husband and I weren't flying, that wouldn't work.  You have to have boarding passes (which we didn't) or be escorting little kids (which we weren't) or be a military family (which we are but that didn't apply here since Jeff isn't the Marine) to get past the security forces guarding entry to the gates.  What to do?  Maybe we wouldn't be able to eat dinner together after all, but we could still meet up with him and visit for awhile.

I went online to see if there were any options that might be open to us.  There are restaurants outside security in Terminal 5, which is the international terminal located in a separate building.  That wouldn't work; we only had 2 hours and that included Jeff going back through security again.  

I found a phone number that I thought might be helpful, but I kept getting connected to 311, the City of Chicago's help line.  They didn't know what I was talking about.  Investigating further, I found another number listed for "guest advocacy" or some such title.  Aha!  They were able to tell me that we could go to the O'Hare Hilton and there was a restaurant there.  Good!  I called Jeff back and we set our plans:  meet him at baggage claim, head to the hotel, eat and then back to the airport.

It took awhile for us to find our way to the Hilton. The signs aren't much help with this, we found.  But once we got there, we were able to enjoy a good, if expensive, meal.  We talked about all kinds of things, checking up on the details of our daily lives.  Jeff is doing well.  He seems happy, fulfilled.

One hour. It was all we had. One hour to connect, eat and see for ourselves that Jeff was healthy and happy.  It wasn't much.  But when you see your child only a few times each year, it was something wonderful. One hour of joy and pleasure.  An unexpected bonus in an otherwise routine Sunday afternoon.


Lin said...

How fun that you snuck in a visit with your son! Those are the best times-the unexpected, spur of the moment times. Glad you figured out a way to see him in spite of all the limits the airports put on us now. Fun story!!

butterfly woman said...

Another story that tugged at my heart. So great that you worked through the red tape of airport procedures to get some quality time (albeit short) with your son. I haven't flown in some time and it makes me shudder about all the details one must endure before boarding a plane or something as "simple" as dinner with a loved one. This I am sure will be a special memory for you. Glad you perserved and it all worked out.