Wizard World Chicago ran from Thursday, August 18th through Sunday, August 21st. Alex had the hotel booked from Friday through Sunday, so I could arrive anytime then or I could come on Thursday and find a hotel for the night. My initial thoughts were to fly in Thursday morning, get a hotel, and see the town a bit. But, after adding up the additional costs, I couldn’t afford that. So, I found the cheapest flight on Friday (leaving at 6 AM) and made plans to get into Chicago that early morning.
I awoke at 3:20 AM, took a shower, and made the drive to the airport. This was my first time flying in six years, and the first time flying ever with using long-term parking. That was a bit nerve-wrecking, but being that it was really early in the morning, the lack of traffic helped keep me calm. It was actually really easy to find the lot, park, and ride the shuttle over to the airport, so I spent my entire drive worrying about things being confusing and missing my flight for no reason.
I arrived at RDU around 4:30 AM, made it through security within half an hour, found my gate, and decided to go grab a bagel. It was only after I had my bagel in hand and an hour to kill before the flight that I started to have some doubts. Was this the right decision? Am I wasting a ton of money? Am I really going to enjoy this? I let the negativity take over some. I started to regret my decision, dread the flight, and the whole weekend. But it was too late to back out now, so I fuddled with my phone and got ready for my flight.
I had an issue with the flight attendant (that ended up getting me a voucher from United due to his disrespectful behavior), that didn’t help my current mood. I was plumb miserable by this point. It didn’t help my mood any that Alex was flying into Midway (I was flying into O’Hare) and he wouldn’t be arriving until a couple hours after I landed. So, I was flying into a town I’d never been to, traveling public transportation (something else I’d never done), while thinking about all those horrible news stories about Chicago.
My concerns were unwarranted. We landed at 8 AM, I quickly made my exit, and easily found the train. I was able to buy my three day pass with relative ease, and even took a moment to appreciate the view of the trains waiting to depart. I know millions of people see this sort of thing every day, but for a guy who has spent his entire life in the suburbs in the South, this isn’t something I’ve ever encountered. It was exciting.
The O’Hare train station is the end of a line, so the train was empty outside of people coming in from the airport. I found a seat next to a window with lots of room and sat with a smile extending ear-to-ear as I watched a beautiful city pass by while taking a bunch of photos.
All the fear and frustration I had flying to Chicago had faded away and I was simply on cloud nine. I think I just needed a little confidence and all that I had experienced earlier in the day and making it onto the train with no problem instilled that confidence that I needed. I was going to Comic Con!
Well, first I needed to make it to Midway airport on the other side of Chicago where Alex would arrive in four hours. I watched the train stops like a hawk and read the map above the door like it was a lifesaving message. Unfortunately, due to my arrival in Chicago at 8 AM, I was riding the train during the morning commute. My comfy seat by the window soon became a very cramped and uncomfortable as peopled filled in all around and standing above me. Still… I had my window, so I just kept an eye on the city and got ready to hop up and exit once the stop I needed to change trains came up.
I made the switch to the Orange line and rode the less congested train straight into Midway Airport. I maneuvered my way over to the baggage pick up and pulled out my Kindle Fire and finished watching Kung Fu Panda and then started The Shining. I still had over two hours to kill before Alex would arrive, but luckily I found a great seat with lots of space around it complete with an outlet to charge my electronics. I watched my movies, taking a quick break to grab a nine dollar ham and cheese sandwich from the snack vendor and then got the text I’d been waiting for. “We are taxiing in, see ya in a few.”
I hopped up, gathered my things, and went and stood at the bottom of the stairs. Fifteen minutes later, I saw a familiar face coming down the stairs.