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Getting In, Getting Out

Posted in Travel

Okay, maybe we did leave Galena a little later than we had meant to. What with tearful goodbyes, one more wistful look at the beautiful architecture, and deep reserves of a sluggish refusal to get going, we were about an hour-and-a-half behind schedule by the time we left the river behind us. But hey, this still left us over five hours to make the three-hour trip to Chicago. Gosh, I feel so naïve saying that, because as I now realize, large cities create a time/space anomaly that causes time to contract and miles to expand asymptotically as you approach the destination. So even as we pushed further and further over the speed limit, we seemed to get no closer, and we saw our reserve of time eroded away.
Checking for route alternatives was of no help; we saw the blue stripes indicating no-problem-you’ve-got-plenty-of-time gradually turning to the beige of uh-oh-there-might-be-a-problem-here, and then to the you-are-so-screwed bright red of an intractable clog on almost every road. After a while, it looked like someone had spilled ketchup on my phone.
But we persevered, jinking through cutoffs and detours, into the heart of the city, at which point I missed a crucial exit, and sent us into the vast underground maze that is Chicago’s unique contribution to malevolent freeway design. It goes on for miles, on up to three levels. Deeper and deeper we went, but our phone’s Map Lady Voice (MLV) thought we were still on surface streets, so she tried repeatedly to direct us to turns that did not exist. “In a quarter mile, turn right,” she said, then, “Make a U-turn,” then, “Turn left,” then, “Holy crap, where are we?”
Meanwhile we passed Dante and Virgil, who were on the side of the road, changing a tire on an old Fiat. We passed a street corner where a group of Morlocks were singing acapella. We finally headed down a dark tunnel. Gandalf was at the end of it, and as we approached he raised his staff and said, “You shall not pass! Try the exit onto Madison Street!” We followed his suggestion, and shortly came upon the Least Regulated Intersection in the World, still underground, but there was a glimmer of daylight on its far side. Christian managed to eel our way through a maelstrom of cars, trucks, and buses, and shot up a ramp to the surface. MLV was still a little stunned, and tried to get us onto a freight elevator in the Sears Tower, but she gradually regained her senses, and steered us towards the rental car return. The clock was still ticking down, but it looked like we would catch the train.
Unfortunately, the return was, for some reason, located on the third floor of a hotel parking garage. With shall we say minimal signage. At rush hour. Suffice it to say that by the time we fought our way out of the building it was nearly time for the train to depart. No problem, we just called Lyft, who sent The Only Driver in Chicago Who Doesn’t Know Where Union Station Is. While he pawed futilely at his phone map, we woke up our dear MLV, who was in no mood for slackness. In the sweet, soulless, carefully modulated voice that we all know and love, she said, “Get this miserable excuse for a cab over to Canal Street. Turn right here, or I swear I will control alt delete your sorry ass.” Or something like that.
We raced into the station, running down the same stairs that Kevin Costner had such a festive time on in the “Untouchables,” ran to the train, and collapsed into our seats just as it headed out. And so to bed.