(note: I have done absolutely no editing on this post. I probably go into too much detail where it’s not important. See it more as a stream of consciousness)
I have travelled to the States before, but never farther than Chicago. I was really looking forward to seeing San Francisco but knew it would be a really long day to get there.
The night before my old high school had its yearly play. It has become a tradition for my friends and me to go see it. The play always runs long, and I wasn’t home again until midnight, and in bed at 1am. I had set my alarm for 6am so I could take a shower before catching the 7.27am train to the airport. During the night I tossed and turned and generally didn’t get much sleep. It is obvious then that I wasn’t very awake when I arrived at the airport. I hadn’t eaten breakfast either, it has become a tradition for me to stop by Starbucks before flying somewhere.
I had to be at the airport at 8am, 3 hours before my flight left. I picked up my e-ticket from the tour operator and headed to the United check-in line. This line was long! And because the flight to New York (or Newark, I could never tell) left an hour earlier those people were allowed to cut in line. We stood still for a long time, and I think it took over an hour to get checked in. The lady that checked me in was very happy that we had all received a card with the address of our hostel. She said that most of the time people have to go searching for the address where they will be staying, and having the card sped everything up a bit. Well done, Seauton! There was some trouble with my tickets. My boarding pass for the flight from Chicago to San Francisco wouldn’t print. The check-in lady told me that in Chicago I should just head to the gate and tell them that I hadn’t been able to print it.
Next I headed to Security. There was a line here as well, but nothing more than usual. All in all, I had about 30 minutes before boarding started to get my breakfast. I decided to just get a small (or tall) drink from Starbucks, and nothing to eat as the Starbucks at the airport is even more expensive.
On the plane I had the middle seat, really not my favorite. I like looking out the window when flying and that’s pretty impossible if you’re sitting in the middle. I had looked up in advance which movies would be playing during the flight. I really wanted to see The Muppets and The Artist. United didn’t really stick to their programming schedule though. The Muppets still played, but I never saw The Artist. They did play War Horse, The King’s Speech, Millennium, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and some others. Oh, and The Muppets! They kept that one. So I ended up watching The Muppets, and parts of Millennium and Mission Impossible. Millennium didn’t capture my attention. I have read the books and seen the Swedish movies. This one (with Daniel Craig) seemed slow and wooden. And the combination of English and Swedish, with some people speaking with accents bothered me. Mission Impossible also didn’t grab my attention. I can see how it’s a fun movie on the big screen, but on my tiny screen in the seat in front of me it just didn’t work. I also watched some TV they played: an episode of Raising Hope. I stopped watching Raising Hope a couple of episodes in but this episode was really funny! I may give it another shot. I also saw part of the Michael Jackson episode of Glee (one of the better episodes this season) and an episode of Party Down! How happy was I when that came on? Very!
I read some books on my Kindle: A Song of Ice and Fire (slow read) and Quiet (super-fascinating read). On an 8-hour flight you definitely have some time to kill.
On arrival in Chicago I had to go through Immigration and Customs (as everybody does).
Immigration always seems to have some trouble letting me into the country. This time it seemed to take a really long time for the Immigration lady to find me in the computer. She asked if I had switched seats (which I had, one seat to the right) but how could she know that, and why was it important? Had I travelled with a parent? A sister? Was I related to the cabin crew? No, no, no and what kind of strange questions are those? If I had travelled with family they would be standing with me, as families go through Immigration together. Anyway, they let me into the country. Yay!
I had no trouble this time with getting my bag through Customs (honestly, just check no on everything on the form and they just let you through), and re-checked my bag for San Francisco. The guy that checked my bag told me I had to be at gate B14 so I went off to find it. On the little train, to the last station and off again. I didn’t really know how I was going to handle the next step though. I had no boarding pass and had been told to get that at the gate. But to get to the gate I had to go through Security. I waited in line in Security, and when I came to the front of the line the lady said I couldn’t go through without a boarding pass. That makes sense, but couldn’t they have checked before I waited in line all that time? She sent me to the check-in desk where another lady checked my flight confirmation number in the computer. It wouldn’t print my ticket, and just said that further assistance was required. That lady then sent me to another queue to be helped further. I was starting to freak out a little, because I didn’t really have that much time before my flight and wanted to buy some food (airplane food isn’t all that great). It took about 15 minutes (with just 2 people in front of me) before it was my turn. The lady checked my confirmation number, and then told me I hadn’t been checked in to the flight to San Francisco. She didn’t really know what to do so she called upon a co-worker. Together they had thankfully solved the problem quickly and I had my boarding pass to San Francisco.
My flight was supposed to leave at 3pm, and start boarding at 2.10pm. It was 2pm and I still had to go through security. This really wasn’t very good for my nerves but there wasn’t much I could but get in line. When I got to the front of the line, I got picked out to get the full body scan. That was… an experience. I didn’t really mind so much but I don’t really get why it’s necessary. The one thing I really like about the security at O’Hare is that always get a compliment on my outfit. Last time I got a “cool hat”, and this time “cute t-shirt”. It makes you leave with a smile.
When I get through security it was 2.30pm so I rushed to my gate. When I arrived there it was clear they hadn’t started boarding yet. I also didn’t see anybody from my group. I had been one of the first to get through Immigration and Customs but with the whole mess I thought some would have caught up and be at the gate, especially as it was so close to the flight leaving. I triple checked my gate number with the number on my ticket and the destination on the screen and I was definitely in the right place. I sat myself down and struck up a conversation with the girl sitting next to me (yes, me! I struck up a conversation). She came from Philly and was flying to Hawaii through San Francisco. Her flight to Hawaii had already been delayed 3 hours, and she was worried that our flight would be delayed as well because they were working on the engine. A few minutes later to my huge relief I saw the first couple of guys from my group arrive at the gate.
The girl and I went to stand in line together as we were in the same group. While we were waiting to board suddenly we saw the people debark the plane again. Fixing the plane was taking a little longer than expected. They gave us very little information about when the plane would leave so we all just stood around waiting.
2 of the guys from my group were also on the standby list, and the United people were almost begging people to take a later flight. I was joking around that I would’ve taken the offer (later flight, 400$ voucher) if I wasn’t traveling with a group, before I knew that the seats they were looking for were for my group.
The plane ended up boarding about an hour after we were supposed to leave, and we left about an hour and a half after we were meant to.
I didn’t get a chance to buy food at O’Hare. I didn’t want to leave my gate because I didn’t know when we would leave or get more information. I was also expecting food on the flight from Chicago to San Francisco. Apparently that was a wrong expectation, but seriously, the flight is over 4 hours! I wanted to buy a snack but the guy didn’t have chips and was sold out of M&M’s.
We made up about half an hour during our flight and were only late an hour. We taxied to the gate and were waiting for the bridge/stairs thingie to get off. It all seemed to take a little longer than normal, when the captain came on the speakers and asked us all to sit down again. They had let the plane to the wrong line and we had to be pushed back again. When we finally were almost ready to get off the plane the steward came on again, and said we should all write letters about the appalling organization. You know something went wrong when they say that.
I love flying over the US, it’s a gorgeous country and I was very happy to have a window seat for the flight from Chicago to San Francisco.