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.