Thursday, February 28, 2008

If This Doesn't Scare You...

Imagine a scenario for a moment if you will. You are asleep in bed one evening when the front door is crushed in a dozen government agents bristling with flashlights and guns bursts into your home and take you into custody. You are whisked out of the country in the dead of night and languish in an unidentified prison for five years. This country doesn't have habeas corpus so the use of coercive interrogation procedures, perhaps even water boarding are used against you to get you to talk. Finally you are charged for conspiracy to commit murder, lots of them, but have to stand trial with five other people. You are being tried as a group and you all receive the same sentence as the next man though you have never worked or seen any other of the five until your first day of court. You obtain you lawyer but you are denied access to evidence that the prosecution used to bring about the charge. Even your lawyer can't see the evidence so in sense you are defending yourself blindly with no idea what the prosecution is saying against you. But you do know that the prosecution can legally use hearsay and statements obtained through coercion against you.

The verdict when it comes doesn't have to be unanimous. A two-thirds majority vote by the jury is enough but the jury is comprised of soldiers who are fighting in a country that if fighting back and killing some of them. Even though you are Canadian and not from that country, your skin color and name are similar to citizens from there. You are not sure if you will even get a fair trial because your lawyer has no say in the jury members. Doesn't sound fair. In fact, if I were from another country reading this in the paper, I would think this government is ruled by a brutal tyrant and probably that of some third world country. But I would be wrong.

The scenario is real and is happening as I write this. The United States under the U.S. Military Commissions Act of 2006 was given permission to try people in front of a military court who have been held without charge for the previous five years. Over a year later after the law was passed by Congress, the trials are just beginning. Each defendant has been charged with conspiracy to commit multiple murders and have been denied, along with their lawyers, access to evidence being used to convict them. That evidence was submitted secretly to a judge behind closed doors and without a lawyer, even your lawyer present. Basically you will be allowed to provide your defense without knowing what evidence against you has been gathered. They are being tried as a group and only a two-thirds majority vote is needed to convict them by a jury that is most definitely not of their peers.

Very scary stuff if you ask me.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Who Are You John Henry Baker

Recently while looking at an Iowa Census for the year 1925, I accidentally hit the wrong button and learned that there are two pages to the census instead of the usual one. More importantly, in that census year they recorded the names of the parents of each individual tallied, something that they haven't done in any other census. Using that bit of information, I started going back through my list of relatives living in Iowa in 1925 to see if I had the correct parents. I did on everyone but John Henry Baker.

I wrote about my search for John Henry Baker almost one year ago where I thought I might have found his parents. I ended up putting the whole task on the side burner until my recent discovery with the 1925 Iowa census. When I flipped to the previously hidden second page of the census, John Henry Baker's parents were listed as John Baker and Fanny, not Joseph and Francis as Emma Sometimes and the granddaughter living in Illinois had said. Suddenly it seemed as if I was back to square one again.

My first priority was to go back and fill in the blanks I had in the census record. In short order, I found the 1915 and 1905 Iowa census records to go along with the 1925 record. I was still missing the 1920 Federal Census record and after quite a bit of searching and scrolling through names, I found it. John was listed as John Baka instead of Baker, a typo by whoever did the transcription. The reason I couldn't find it was because even by using genealogy Soundex standards, Baka was sufficiently far enough from Baker not to show up. But after viewing the actual census record, I have no doubt that it is John Henry.

So I now have every census taken between the years 1900 and 1930 for John Henry Baker but in all of them he is married. He was born in 1971 and married in 1897 so in order to pin his parents down I have to find him between those years. The 1890 Federal Census was destroyed by fire and very few records exist so that it out. So that leaves me with the 1880 Federal Census and the 1895 and 1885 Iowa Census. (Iowa didn't start taking a census before 1885.) After literally many hours of searching, I have yet to find him there. There are many reasons for this.

Baker is a common last name and there are multitudes of Bakers in the Midwest in those years. During the six years of census records I do have, John Henry listed his birth as occurring in Iowa twice and Wisconsin four times. His father is listed as being born in England three times, Iowa once, USA once and just left blank once. His mother is listed as being born in Wisconsin once, England four times and blank once. Also, in almost half of the census records, his last name is misspelled which makes it that much harder to find.

If I had to guess, I would say both parents were born in England and he was born in Wisconsin just because those are the most common places written down. But I have searched to no avail. Not to mention I still have two people who claim he was born in Illinois, which has yet to be mentioned in any census that I have located. I still search now and then when I get time and won't give up easily. His parents are the last of my great great great grandparents whom I have yet to associate a name to on both sides of my family, including my biological fathers side that I have been able to trace back that far fairly easily. It will be a major milestone for me should I finally figure out that mystery.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Times Square: Part Two

We were all pretty hungry at this point and looking for something to eat but my traveling companions are pretty finicky eaters and nothing seemed to look good to them. We walked for two hours looking for places to eat but they would always veto it. Basically they wanted some midwestern hamburger and fries type of place and there seemed to be none around where we were. Finally I spotted a place called Jacks and practically drug them in. We were seated and my coworker asked to be moved away from the door because it smelled like fish. So we were squeezed into a smaller table about five feet further back. Then they saw the menu and didn't see anything that they liked and were thinking about just getting a drink. I told them that we were taking up space at a very busy restaurant during prime hours and we would be lucky to not get thrown out if we just ordered drinks. So they ordered a fried appetizer to split between them and I got the pasta with mussels, shrimp and scallops.

When I had finished eating, they started talking about what direction they were going to go to find someplace to eat and I knew that my patience would be tried if I stuck with them so we bid each other goodnight and I struck off on my own. I didn't have anything particular in mind to see so I just slowly ambled on back the way we had come (at least the direction I had thought we had come) stopping here and there to check out the stores and the nightlife as I saw fit. It was getting close to eleven when I got back to the corner of 7th Avenue and 36th Street where I can first remember seeing a street sign and finally stumbled upon the stairs leading down to the train station.

Once down in the central part, I could see all the stairs leading down to various tracks but no signs showing me which train I need to get back home. After ten minutes of walking and looking, I finally ended back up towards the atrium where a lot of people were standing looking up at a screen. As I glanced up at the screen, a track number appeared after one of the names and around 100 people rushed towards the stairs to that track. I had my answer. I found my train listed and waited for fifteen minutes before a number flashed up on the screen. After that, it was just a matter of following the lemming herd as we rushed down the stairs and onto the train.

Soon I was standing on the street in Bayside where I had begun the journey. Glancing around, I noticed that there were a lot of signs in Korean and I assumed this must be a Korean part of the city. I walked around a bit looking for an open place to poke around but everything was closed up for the night except for a few fast food joints. So I made my way back to the motel and called it a night.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Times Square: Part One

We finished up our business on Long Island at lunch on Wednesday and had until 3:40 Thursday afternoon for exploring. So we loaded up the rental and drove to Bayside, NY, which is nearer to LaGuardia but far enough away to save on the expensive motel rates by the airport. None of us were real enthused about driving into downtown Manhattan for the evening with the high parking rates and copious amounts of traffic so I asked the motel clerk if there was a train station nearby. As luck would have it, we were ten blocks away from a stop on the Long Island Railroad.

We walked the ten blocks and bought roundtrip tickets for non-peak hours (we were going before rush hour and coming back after rush hour) that only set us back $10 a pop. You can't beat that. Soon we were aboard a train and being whisked towards Pennsylvania Central Station only twenty minutes away.

Once out on the sidewalks at street level, we were truly lost for the first time of the trip. I mean we knew we were on the corner of 7th Ave. and 36th Street but had no idea what relation everything was to where we were at and the GPS unit wasn't much use unless we had a specific building or address we wanted to see. So after a short conference underneath the entrance to Madison Square Gardens, we decided to head towards 5th Avenue, which we all had heard about. For some reason, we made it to 6th Avenue but never to 5th. I don't remember why anymore but we decided that we wanted to head towards Times Square.

Now I am smart enough to know that Times Square is actually a large area consisting of many blocks but I didn't have any clue as to which way it was. But for some reason, I had an inkling that it was in the 40+ block of street names and so we started off in the direction of increasing street numbers. After what seemed like a long walk, we got to 46th Street and whatever road we were on and decided that we were probably just going the wrong direction. So I found a donut shop nearby that was apparently not busy for some reason and asked what I thought was an English speaking person which way to Times Square. He told me in a very thick European accent that I was one block away. So minutes later we found ourselves at Times Square just as dusk was starting to descend upon the city.

The first order of business was to buy some souvenirs to take back home. I got a knock off Prada handbag for my wife and a hooded shirt for Little Abbey that said something like, "Someone who loves me very much went to New York and bought this for me." I even made it home with one of the famous I (heart) New York t-shirts which sell for 7/$10 in that area. We basically walked up one side of Times Square and down the other taking in the sites for a couple hours.

One of the things that I noticed during our walk was the lack of street bums. In fact, I only saw two or three the entire time and none of them said a word to me, even the one I offended. The one that I offended had a cardboard sign that said, "I need $ for drugs, booze and prostitutes." I was trying to get a picture for my blog but he kept turning away. Assuming he wanted some money, I went to give him the change in my pocket but remembered I had left it all back at the hotel and all I had was a quarter or a $20 bill. I tossed the quarter into his cup but he tapped my on the shoulder and dumped the quarter back out into my hand and turned back away. I guess a quarter was just too much of an insult.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Nuvi Newbie

All my life, business trips and rental cars always have me doing the same thing for preparations. I go to Map Quest and print out directions to my destination and then do some surfing for some interesting sites or things to do in the surrounding area in case I get some time off to explore. This is the first trip in which I didn't do the first part of printing out driving directions and after it is all over with, I'm glad. How anyone Iowan leaving from LaGuardia during rush hour could make it to the end of Long Island navigating with just a printed off piece of paper could make it in a reasonably amount of time, is beyond me.

As soon as we were out of the airport, the roads just kind of looped around and ramped from one to another on either side of the road, which was completely full of traffic going 80 mph. We had to make a half dozen road changes in the first mile alone and there was very little time for thinking or verifying. I would have had to stop several times to catch my breath and make sure I was heading the right way or figuring out how to get back to the turn I just missed. Fortunately I didn't have to experience this thanks to a handy little device called a Nuvi.

My coworker had just purchased a Garmin Nuvi 200 GPS unit and had brought it along on this trip to give it a workout. I have experience with GPS units and even own a Garmin handheld one but obviously things have come a long ways since. Once in our rental Mercury Grand Marquis and our laughter was dying down, he mounted the unit to the windshield with rubber suction cups, typed in the address where we were heading and within seconds, the computer was telling us which was to turn and giving us heads up as we were approaching turns. It was wonderful.

A few times we missed turns because we ended up on the wrong side of six lanes of traffic as the exit but the unit would instantly recalculate our route and within seconds be issuing new commands. All we had to do was sit back and occasionally look at the screen to see the name of the road we were looking for. Since the trip, I have learned that if you go up to the Nuvi 260 GPS, it will actually tell you the name of the road to turn on instead of just telling you to take exit or turn right.

If all that wasn't enough, there was still plenty more that surprised me. When we got hungry, we could access menus that would search for restaurants nearby or close to where we were heading. If we wanted to eat Korean food, we just searched for Korean restaurants nearby and after selecting one would get step-by-step directions on how to get there. Once with a couple hours to kill, we looked up bookstores and soon found ourselves at a huge bookstore. The GPS also held the names of popular landmarks like the U.S.S. Intrepid, which we headed out to see on our last partial day in New York. It took us across the middle of Manhattan right up to the empty dock and large sign that says the Intrepid will return this fall. One would of thought that after being in the same place for thirty years the odds would have been good for us to see it but we just weren't that lucky. So we just drove around Manhattan killing time until we had to return to the airport.

The Nuvi came in very handy one last time after we were stranded at Chicago O'Hare airport trying to find a rental car with no booths or agents stationed there. The Nuvi brought up a list of every rental car agency nearby along with their address and most importantly, phone number. No more looking for a phone booth that had a yellow pages hanging on a wire only to find out that the rental car and hotel listing had been ripped out.

I just loved the Nuvi 200 and would like to buy one before my next big road trip though I think I would upgrade to the 260 that actually speaks the road names. It certainly saved us lots of time and allowed us to relax and take in our surroundings rather than trying to read maps while steering through six lanes of traffic with your knees.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Ciao Baby

All day long, our distributor had been talking about taking us out to eat that night at a place called Chow Baby. I thought that was an interesting name for a restaurant and wondered what kind of cuisine it served. It wasn't until later when we pulled up to the restaurant that I realized what an error I had made when I saw the restaurant Ciao Baby went of course immediately told me that I was in store for some Italian food. Ciao Baby in Commack on Long Island is located in what I would call a strip mall and has a very unassuming storefront. Inside, it has a bar up front and a small seating area in the back all in red and a staff all dressed in dark suits. It was very Godfather or more recently Soprano like place.

Our group of eight squeezed around a table and was soon looking at the menus, which were quite short. They listed about a half dozen appetizers to choose from and another half dozen entrees and suddenly I was glad that I wasn't picking up the tab on this one. The waiter soon stopped by to explain to us Ciao Baby newbie’s that the menu was only a guide and that they would make whatever we wanted if they had the ingredients. Our host ordered several appetizers and we placed our orders for food. Since the host, his wife and two adult kids ordered off the menu directly, I did too ordering something with chicken, pasta and prosciutto.

The appetizers came on three huge platters and immediately I could see why they had such a high price tab. The baked clams were piled into a huge crock and absolutely melted in your mouth. Since quite a few people at the table didn't eat them, me a few others ate the lion's share. We also had fresh mozzarella spinach and tomato salad. It was topped with half-inch slabs of mozzarella and was absolutely breath taking even to a non-cheese eater like me. I like cheese melted and baked but very rarely eat it raw without sausage and a cracker. The third appetizer was a giant head sized fried ball called a rice bowl. Inside the crust was a meaty marinara sauce with a melted ricotta cheese center. It too was outstanding. Along with those three appetizers and the basket of fresh warm bread, I knew I was in trouble even before the meal arrived. But almost everyone except for the clam abstainers had eaten the same amounts as me.

The main course arrived and I almost went into shock. Served to me on a sixteen inch plate that looked more like a hubcap, was I'm guessing a pound or so of mashed potatoes with a ton of penne pasta on top, topped with four half chicken breasts topped with tons of marinara sauce and melted cheese served along side a mound of Prosciutto. In the center, the mount of food was a good three or four inches deep and the entire plate probably weighed around five pounds. Just looking at that much food, enough that would last my wife and I around four normal meals back home, made my stomach go ice cold. My only thought at that point was how much was I going to have to eat just to be polite to the host next to me who was picking up the tab.

Fortunately, the hosts two sons and his wife, ate probably a couple dozen bites between them before declaring they were done five minutes after the food arrived. I picked away eating slowly and ate about a fourth of my food and called it good knowing if I ate another bite, I might have to make a food deposit on the pavement somewhere between here and our hotel. We talked for a while enjoying the good wine and then our food was whisked away and returned in the form of standard size pie plates topped with plastic lids, all of which were loaded to the point of bursting. I was starting to feel like I was going to survive this ordeal after all when our host started insisting that we try some of the deserts.

The desert cart was brought out and again I thought I was going to die. The chocolate lava cake was a chocolate bowl the size of a football with a full quart of ice cream in the center and everything else seemed equally proportioned. Two of our group decided to split a desert, another begged off so I was quick to beg off too. Nonetheless, the host ordered some 'extra' for us to try. I ended up with a third of a desert called the 'icehouse' which was a brick sized layer cake comprised of about a dozen graham crackers sandwiched in layers between a thick chocolate pudding. It was outstanding and not very dense which I credit for the reason I was able to fit it inside my gut somehow.

Finally after a round of coffee drinks which I could just sip, our host seemed inclined to think he had fed us enough and paid the bill. I didn't see it but figuring in my head, I am guessing it came up to $500 or $600 for the eight of us. We staggered out into the parking lot, bid our host goodnight and rolled ourselves into the rental car. Even though we had a Mercury Grand Marquis, I think we still bottomed it out a few times on the drive back to the hotel. More on the car later.

Drive It Like You Stole It

On my first experience with a rental car some ten years ago when I was still very wet behind the ears, I sat in the passenger seat as my coworker signed the paperwork. The attendant told him to have a nice day, lifted the gate and my co-worker did a burnout as he exited the parking lot. I was shocked at such an audacious move but he reassured me that the attendant was getting cheap wages and didn't care. It wasn't his car thus he was free to drive it a lot harder than he would his own car. He summed it all up with his motto on rental cars, "drive it like you stole it."

I found myself repeating this story to my still wet behind the ears coworker as we approached LaGuardia airport looking forward to the next four days spent tooling around in the new Dodge Charger we had reserved. Later at the rental agency, I went to look at maps while my coworker did the paperwork for the car. When he was finished, we walked out to our car reserved in space 2A only to find not a Dodge Charger that was parked in 3C across the aisle, but a Mercury Grand Marquis, the kind of car my grandparents would drive. My coworker had gotten duped by the agent instead of sticking up for the car we had reserved. We thought briefly about going back inside to get our reserved car but decided that it wasn't worth the hassle it probably would be, especially since all the paperwork was signed and completed. We threw our bags in the trunk huge enough to hold a family of bodies and headed out.

My coworker drove since he had brought a GPS navigation system with him and although we didn't do a burnout in the rental car parking lot, he did drive it like he stole it. Over the course of the next few days, the tachometer might have been a little bit in the red just a few times and there might have been a pile of rubber dust left at the end of some very black and long tire track marks in the hotel parking lot one evening as a result of a massive burnout. Three times during the trip, we accidentally pulled too close to a curb and scraped the underside of the curb and one time when I wasn't there, my coworker forgot about a parking lot curb and drove completely over one. Driving a rental car has got to be one of the funniest things to do and we did lots of laughing.

The rental plates were from Wisconsin though we were from New York so many people correctly assumed that we were naïve tourists when it came to driving. Once while drive about 40 through a residential district zones at 25 mph, a car came up behind us and remained almost attached to our bumper. In fact, he was so close, I doubt that he even noticed that our license plates read Wisconsin because he couldn't see them. He stayed dangerously close to our bumper for about a half-mile before we came to a stop sign and he pulled along side us. It was a business suit kind of man in his early thirties, clean cut and looked like an upstanding citizen except that he rolled down his window and yelled at us, "What the fuck you doing" before peeling off around the corner. I never laughed harder in my life. We never did figure out what the fuck we were doing other than not speeding fast enough to suit that guy.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Little Abbey At 20 Months

I'm a few days short of Little Abbey turning 20 months, only four months from being aged by years instead of months, but it is better late than never. My wife and Little Abbey were out when I returned from my trip exhausted so I went to bed and woke up a few hours later with both of them squealing with delight. There is no finer way to be awakened in my opinion. One of my first thoughts after getting the thick cobwebs cleared out of my mind was that Little Abbey acted as if she were a year older and I had only been about five days. I guess when your life span is measured in months, one week is a long time.

Little Abbey is progressing in the speech department though she is behind some of her internet peers of the similar age. She understands almost everything I tell her but just doesn't speak as many words. She did pick up the word 'no' which is one she could have not learned for awhile in my opinion. She knows the word grandpa now much to grandma's displeasure. I'm guessing she can say two or three dozen words, most of them take quite the imagination to understand for those who don't here her say them everyday.

Everyday, I swear that she is a pound heavier than the day before but when she goes and stands on the bathroom scale, (she loves to see the readout blink), her weight is the same as the day before. The only remaining plausible theory is that I'm getting weaker or the scale is not calibrated for smaller weights. I hope it is the latter. She is growing bigger in size if not weight because none of her clothes seem to fit. Already she is wearing clothing for three year olds, mostly because the two-year-old stuff is too short. Her shoes are also for three year olds because one for 18 to 24 months and 2 to 3 year old sizes are just too small. I think she is definitely taking after me in the departments of tall height and oversized feet.

We have a small 3-rung ladder in our house that my vertically challenged wife uses to get in the upper shelves when I am not home. Little Abbey has learned to push it around where ever she goes and climbs all three rungs, thus allowing her to crawl right on top of the kitchen counter if she so desired. She hasn't yet out of fear that she couldn't get back down but I expect that to change any day now. This is handy when we are cooking because she will stand up along side us and watch in between stealing tastes of whatever is cooking. I also saw her a few days ago, carry her empty bowl that once held her afternoon snack back into the kitchen, up the ladder and placed it by the sink with other dirty dishes. Can't complain about that either. But now she can see and reach items that once were hidden out of sight and thus out of mind to her. The candy jar had to be placed on top of the refrigerator because of temper tantrums when we wouldn't give her one. Long story short, we are running out of places out of her reach to hide things.

Finally, gone are the days when it was a chore to change her diaper. Now when she needs changed we just tell her to get a diaper. She will disappear up to her room and return with a diaper. She then will get her wipes and lay down on her stuffed cushion on the floor. She even tries to pull her pants off though she hasn't been very successful at that. She will even hand us the diaper and lift her butt in the air as we slide the diaper underneath her. I tell you what, as far as diaper changing goes, this is as good as it gets until potty training if completed. Hopefully that comes later this spring or early summer.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Working Among the Parents of Stars

On my recent business trip, I spent the day with the father of a blast from the past. A big developer on the part of Long Island that I was on was none other than Ralph Macchio Sr. If his name doesn't ring a bell, then his son, Ralph Macchio Jr. should as he is a Hollywood actor who has been in over a dozen films and starred in at least three of them, Karate Kid I, II & III. Yes, I met the father of the Karate Kid. Wax on, wax off!

Out of etiquette, I did not bring up Ralph Sr.'s son in our conversations. I'm glad I didn't because later I would learn that the subject is a sensitive subject for him because he doesn't care for the implications that he got all his money from his son when the truth is his net worth of almost $1 billion was entirely earned by himself. Had I met him on the street, I would have never made the connection because Ralph Jr.'s face has been engraved upon my mind as the young Karate Kid as well as probably 99% of the nation. But after I got back and Googled a more recent picture of Jr., it is very obvious that his father is the man I dealt with for a day.

Ralph Jr. seems to still be around and has been in movies as recently as a couple years ago. As I found out here, he is still getting the 'wax on, wax off'' bit. I can understand why he has gone underground in Hollywood circles. He only came out for this interview to sell the box set of the Karate Kid series, which he did three of and one Hillary Swank did the fourth. I have seen the fourth movie and did not realize that had been Hillary.

In other Hollywood celeb news, something I disdain, I was also in an area frequented by one Paris Hilton while shopping but fortunately didn't see her. But I did step inside a store just to see that a clutch handbag, (as the salesperson so politely told me it was called) costs only about $3500. I made sure I gingerly put it back down before stepping back outside.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Back Home, Back Home, Thank God, I'm Back Home At Last!

Better later than never has always been a good motto to believe in especially when it comes to airplane travel but it was still hard to keep that in the front of my mine after spending two days in an airport. But before I get ahead of myself, let me start at the beginning.

My flight out from Iowa started off normally. I checked in using the kiosk, got through security in record time and soon found myself in the commuter jet at the end of the runway with the engine revving up. That was the last normal airplane event for the rest of my trip. Before the brakes were releases, the engines shut down and the captain informed us that the tower had halted us due to some weather event in Chicago. Since I had looked at the weather maps before leaving and had seen that everything was clear and sunny for the entire trip, I was baffled along with many of the other passengers. So we sat on the end of the runway for fifteen minutes until the pilot announced that our departure would be delayed by possibly an hour due to wind shear in Chicago and that he would taxi out of the way and shut down the engines to conserve fuel. I had just settled in for the next hour sitting in a plane that I had only been scheduled to be in for fifty minutes total when the engines started up once again. However, the pilot said that there was now a ground stop for all traffic coming to Chicago and we were heading back to the terminal.

We waited in the terminal for several hours before we finally were reboarded and took off for Chicago. Of course we missed our connecting flight to New York and had to get rebooked on a later flight. That flight left without much hassle and we actually made up an hour of flight time so by the time we landed in New York, we were only three hours later than what we had planned on. Just in time for evening rush hour traffic.

Although there was supposed to be light snow in the Midwest on the day of our return flights, I was hoping our delays of the outbound trip would mean that our inbound trip would be hassle free. I couldn't have been more wrong. We showed up to the airport on Thursday three hours early so that we could get through security and find a place to eat before boarding. Security confiscated my 4.5 oz tube of lotion for dry skin that I have taken through probably 20 or 30 security checkpoints since 9/11. At least I didn't get the rubber glove test I tried to tell myself.

We ate lunch and went to our gate to see that our flight was on time but that two previous flights to Chicago and one later flight has already been cancelled. It was not looking good and I was hoping that ours would be cancelled soon so that we could just get rebooked for the next day and head out for another evening in New York. Right at our boarding time, it was announced that our 3:40 flight would now be 4:30 and wheels up at 7:30. Needless to say I wasn't too pleased about spending almost three hours sitting in a plane going nowhere for a 1 hour and 50 minute flight. But we waited. Our flight was bumped to boarding at 6:30 with wheels up at 9:30, then 7:30 with wheels up at 10:30 and then 9:30 with wheels up at 11:05. By this time, I had been in the airport almost eight hours and all but our flight to Chicago had been cancelled across the board of airlines. My traveling companions were still hoping that we would get to Chicago but they were inexperienced and didn't know that it would be worse there. There would be thousands of stranded passengers there and everything would be shut down. At least if our flight was cancelled, we could rebook through St. Louis or someplace else other than Chicago and avoid it all together. But fate just wasn't with me. At 10:10, we boarded the flight and about 10 minutes to eleven, we took off for Chicago.

As I expected, Chicago was chaos. Thousands of people were sleeping on thousands of cots set up and all the ticket counters were shut down for the night. Not wanting to spend the night, we decided to go look for a rental car agency to rent us a car to drive one-way back to Iowa. We couldn't find one. After asking, we found out that the only way was to board a bus to the rental car agencies, one-by-one to see if we could find one. So we split up. My companions tried to locate a rental car while I tried to find a phone where I could get rebooked for a flight tomorrow. I found out that we had been booked on a flight at 9:45 the next morning and my traveling companions after an hour and a half of calling, finally found someone who would rent us a compact Kia Rio for the cost of one arm and two legs. Since it was then 2 a.m. and we were looking at arriving with crappy roads probably around 9 a.m., we decided to just stick it out at the airport on a cot and catch our flight.

There was just one problem to that, we had walked through security to look for a rental car agency representative and security was now closed down. All the cots were on the other side and we were essentially locked out of the airport. Great. We found a comfortable place on the floor of the ticket counters and tried to make the best of not much. At 4 a.m., the ticket counters opened and we got out confirmed tickets. We went through security but all three of us had four S's on our ticket, which to the uninformed traveler means we get the special treatment. Our bags were emptied and inspected with fine combs. My traveling companions were busted for a gallon sized plastic bag instead of quart sized for their sprays, gels and liquid carry-on. We all got frisked and wanded. Some forty minutes later, we were released and allowed to repack and redress. We found out gate and tried to sleep on the benches for the five hours we had left.

Three hours later, I awoke to a woman sitting by my head who kept rattling her cellophane bag that once contained cheetoes. After ten minutes of this I stirred, looked her in the eye and gave her the evil eye. I closed my eyes only to have her start at it again ten minutes later. The boarding area was still almost deserted and of thousands of seats, she had to sit two feet from my head across the aisle nervously making noise with her empty cheetoes bag. I sat up disgusted only to be shocked when she quickly shoved my bag to one side and sat right next to me. I was just about to give her a piece of my mind when out of the corner of my eye, I saw the screen showing that our flight had been cancelled.

I awoke my traveling companions and we made our way back to rebooking only to see the line stretched about half the length of the concourse, which if you have been to O’Hare, is quite long. We were realistically looking at four hours of waiting time only to be rebooked on another flight out this evening. To make matters worse, ours was the fifth flight to our destination that had been cancelled so even if our flight out went, we would be standby. Getting three seats on a packed flight was probably out of the question and all signs were pointing to another night in the airport. It was not going to happen.

We called up the rental car and they still had a Kia Rio available but the price had gone up $20. We booked it and hotfooted it over to the rental agency. With out disheveled looks and probably smelling pretty ripe, I was surprised that they continued to let us rent a car much less talk them into letting us take a Chevy Malibu instead. Along the way, at least a dozen people told us that what we were attempting was suicide, including a woman who lived twenty minutes away from the airport who said it took her two hours to get there and still arrived oddly enough, four hours early? We hopped in the car and set off into the unknown. For perhaps 20 miles, the roads were mostly slush and snowed covered, another 100 miles were just wet and the last 100 were completely dry. We made it to our destination airport in only four and a half hours. The 90-mile drive home went smoothly and after a hot shower and shave, I dropped into bed at 2 o'clock on Friday, never so happy to be home.