In this technological age, is it possible to roam a completely new and alien city without access to the internet or phone, or with maps?
As I stood inside Grand Union Station, Chicago, watching my carefully laid plans crash and tumble all around me, I knew I was in trouble. I had carefully planned out routes from there to various spots around the city and had printed those maps out for myself. But a series of unfortunate circumstances led to all those plans becoming null and void.
Another problem: even with a smartphone and an iPad I was lost. I didn’t want to use roaming on my phone, and did not have access to a US number. In short, I was bereft of a phone and the internet. Even though I had some money on my phone to call Dubai, who was going to navigate me around Chicago?!
Even though my maps were useless, the addresses on it were correct. I couldn’t take any of the buses I’d so carefully written down because the departure and arrival points in the city had changed completely for me.
Watching the sights from the window was a lot of fun. I’m certain I looked like a wide-eyed tourist, so I tried to tone down my out-of-town look. I remember passing a café called Atwood Café and writing down what was written on the sign outside: “We refuse to grow old gracefully, please pardon our appearance while we get some ‘work’ done.” Love it!
Once I reached the correct bus stop, I hopped off and walked towards the John Hancock Center (this was easy – it’s a really tall building…can’t miss it ;)).
After that, I went to The Cheesecake Factory, conveniently located at the base of the building, where I went to cheesecake heaven. Cannot wait for it to open up in Dubai soon!
This is the part where I got a bit lost. I wanted to go to the Navy Pier and take an architectural boat tour but I had no idea how to get there from where I was. Remember, there was no internet, no phone, nothing. Just me and the big windy city. I asked the attendant at the John Hancock Center and she told me where I could go to get a bus to the Navy Pier. Okay. I managed to get lost nevertheless and after wandering around random streets off the Magnificent Mile for 10 minutes, I entered Hershey’s Chocolates (822 North Michigan Avenue) and said I needed some help.
Finally reached Navy Pier…and missed the architecture boat tour by 15 minutes. The next one was at 4:45pm and would be back only at 5:45pm. I didn’t know what traffic was like from Navy Pier back to the Union Station – my train to the airport was at 7pm and I was too afraid to take the chance that the boat might be back late, or there would be traffic. In addition, I had to pick up my luggage from the station locker first, and had no idea which platform the train would leave from so I wanted to get back for 6:30pm at least. Too many variables, too many ifs and buts. Instead, I walked down the Navy Pier till the end and it was absolutely gorgeous. You could see the skyline of Chicago from there. There were shops and rides for entertainment. Loads of boat tour companies. By the end of the pier, the wind hits you something fierce. Till then I hadn’t bothered wearing a jacket but when I got to the end, it became really cold and in-my-face.
IMAGES: A Borders store emptying out | Random street | Dunder Mifflin at NBC | Sticky Fingers Gourmet Popcorn
The ticket from the Union Station to the O’Hare airport was $4 one-way (North-Central service, Metra Rail) and once you get off at the airport station, there’s a shuttle bus to take you to another point where you take a metro train to the terminal. Once I finally got there after all the delays, I met this lovely guy at the metro train area who asked me where I was from. I said Dubai. He asked if they were all islands. I said no that’s just The World and the Palms. Then he was asking me about the weather and his eyes popped out when I said summer highs are near 50C, and winter it’s about 20ish usually.
At the end of it, I safely reached O’Hare airport and got online after over 12 hours of no real contact with anyone whatsoever.
And you know what? I survived.