It was February of 2011 and I had just finished up an amazing visit to the city of Chicago with a few friends and a few new ones. A blizzard had gone through Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and an airport closure that had cancelled thousands of flights back into MSP meant that it was going to be a busy day at the airport at Midway Airport in Chicago. I didn’t have to be back at the office until 11 am that next day, so I called Delta Airlines and offered to give up my flight on the early 7 am flight in case my seat was needed by anyone needing it and took instead a seat on the later 9:30 flight.
Now that I had a couple of extra hours in the morning, I decided to go out with a bang in Chicago. Found a bar called Halligan – an old Irish bar and Firefighter hangout – which had great specials and a lively atmosphere. I met more awesome fun people and enjoyed my last night in the city.
Even with the later flight…you can imagine after a good night out I still managed to be running late for my flight. Good thing I was already packed….j quickly showered, grabbed my bag and made my way towards the train to the airport. As I reached the Delta ticket counter at Midway, the ticket agent informed me that I was supposed to be on the 7 am flight….my change request was never processed and because of the cancellations the day before, there were no other seat openings for the rest of the day. The old me would have been fuming….but the new me just laughed it off. I’d find a way to win.
I didn’t panic…in fact, my first thought was that I was absolutely starving and saw my misfortune as a chance to get breakfast, haha! I got back on the train and headed back towards Downtown Chicago, found myself a Starbucks and planted myself there to plan my strategy. I called my personal assistant to put them on alert for any openings on Delta that may arise, while I navigated my options on the ground.
My first thought was to find a rental car and just drive back to Minneapolis. After combing through my travel site, it appeared that because of all the travelers whose flights were cancelled, there were absolutely no cars left in the entire city of Chicago. Wow. How else can one get out of Chicago? I then remembered….MegaBus.
With a smartphone equipped with Google as my only ammo…I searched for MegaBus and found their central location. I hopped back on the train. Along the way, I struck up a conversation with a few of the passengers about sports, the city…had such a great time that we exchanged contact information and we still keep in touch to this day. I arrived at my stop and found myself somewhere on the Southwest side of Chicago. I quickly realized, only to be confirmed by the lady at the desk, that I wasn’t at the ticket office or the place that the bus actually picks up travelers….I was at the bus garage. There were about a half dozen drivers who were either on the lunch break or about to start their day sitting at a table playing dominoes and watching Sanford & Son. I needed to go BACK downtown to the stop. One of the drivers overheard my dilemma and offered to take me downtown an hour later, he was heading that way anyway.
The next 60 minutes was just a cool experience filled with great conversation and just taking in the comradarie of these bus drivers. The nicknames, the jokes, the competitiveness of the game, the shop talk…I was completely immersed and in awe of the friendship and the family they created for themselves. It was just one of those times that you realize that people often spend more time with the people they work with than their own families….your work family is a family too.
I arrive downtown at the stop on Canal Street to a crowd of people awaiting their bus out of town. I instantly spot a gentleman collecting tickets, ask him where I BUY a ticket, and he tells me that I have to call or go online. I call the 800 number, thinking I’m 20 minutes away from finally getting on my way back home….only for the ticket agent on the other end to tell me that there are no openings on the bus for TWO MORE DAYS. Again….there was nothing I could do but laugh it off.
Next move, I call my personal assistant to see if there is any progress on either any seats on flights or any rental cars. Zero zilch nada. I decided to just head back to the airport and actually talk to an agent at any of the rental car companies and see if there happens to be ANYTHING available. I get back to Midway and go to the Hertz counter….and was told that there is a minivan available, but I’d have to go to the location in Chinatown to get it. Ugh.
Another train ride! At this point I’m absolutely just loving the adventure. I hop BACK on the train eagerly hoping the train moves faster so I can get to the rental car before anyone else puts a claim on it. I was more excited than a kid on a road trip asking “Are we there yet?” repeatedly.
The train got about 4 stops away when I get a phone call.
“Rich, where are you?” my personal assistant asked.
“I’m on the train heading to Hertz to get a rental car.”
“I found an opening on the 4:25 flight out of Chicago back to Minneapolis. I can hold it for you, but you need to get back to the airport NOW to claim it!”
I always think of this story when I find myself in a situation where I’m met with an initial disappointment. Sometimes it’s just NOT EASY. Obstacles will be put in your way sometimes, but you have to FIND A WAY TO WIN. Sometimes, these obstacles are put in your way as a test…a test to see if you want it bad enough. In my experience, if you have faith that you will get it, if you are determined to get it, and commit to action….the universe will conspire to make it happen for you. It’s not guaranteed, but one thing that is guaranteed is that you’ll never get what you want with a crap attitude and quitting at the first sign of resistance. My (extra) day in Chicago could’ve been viewed and perceived as one big headache….but it was a great learning lesson that gave me the opportunity to grow and meet MORE people along the way.
Determine what you want. Free yourself of distractions. Be open and aware of your surroundings. Be prepared to sacrifice. Have faith in yourself and your abilities to navigate the course..