The word ‘terminal’ has a lot of definitions, none of them necessarily positive. What we can really draw from all of the definitions is that the world ‘terminal’ is describing the penultimate; close to the end or resulting in the end. Whether it be an incurable illness or a date gone badly, an adjective to describe a person’s character or a so-called ‘destination’ on a magical airplane ride, we all know that terminal is incurable, inevitable, and generally sad.
This is how I would describe, in one word, my ‘big adventure’ to New York. I guess I don’t need to begin this story with ‘it all started when’, because we’ve already done that. I think that, in a more nerdy and suiting way, we should incorporate something closer to ‘but then everything changed when the fire nation attacked’.
Yes, this is one of those ‘learning experience’ adventure stories that teaches its lessons with everything going up in flames…figuratively, of course. Let me assure you before we begin that this is not the worst thing to have ever happened to me. Yes, disclaimer, I am prone to being over-dramatic and a bit sassy. So here we go. We last left our young protagonist (because I guess I’m not conceited enough to say ‘hero’ in an airport terminal in Chicago, Illinois. Spunky and with a lot of hope, our dear character had used her negative flight experiences insofar as positive reinforcement to her morals, goals, and spirit.
Here we rejoin our young hero (oops, did end up being that conceited), full of hope and excitement, pulling an all-nighter in the beautiful O’Hare Airport. After finally disconnecting from my overly expensive WIFI, I decided to wander around all night and have a solid time.
For those of you who haven’t been to the O’Hare Airport, I should inform you that there is a massive underground walking path with music and lights. Let me tell you right now that it is the wet dream of anyone on an Acid Trip because I have never been more comforted by moving floors and glorified elevator music than I was at that airport. Unwisely spending my money on a book and a terrible coffee, I did what any nineteen year old girl set loose in an airport overnight would do – I took a lot of Instagram videos. Eh, maybe one day I’ll grow out of being such a child. At least I have some memories.
Fast forward through Skype Calls, more coffee, some weird barrel rolls, alien hairstyles, laughter, bathroom panic, and finding my terminal – there’s that word again – an exhausted Telea could be found curled up on a seat near to a man reeking of whiskey who would not stop calling her ‘sugar’.
My flight was scheduled to leave just before 7 am so I took a short cat nap and then wearily climbed onto a plane in deceivingly sunny weather. An hour and change later, I was landing in the Cleveland, Ohio airport – a spacious and more industrial looking airport to the ones I had seen before. A man who had been on my previous flight walked up to me and informed me that he had overheard me discussing my destination with someone on the plane and that he could lead me to the right terminal.
Lucky he did because I would have NEVER gotten the directions right. We walked for what seemed like forever, down a flight of stairs and, as I was informed after a rather loud and disconcerting sound from just over my head, directly under the tarmac to arrive at the right gate. From there I had three hours to kill and a stomach to fill.
After buying some shitty breakfast pizza and a scratch-off ticket, I wandered over to the giant floor-to-ceiling windows, where a sunny 42 degree day greeted me like an old friend. Lounging in the warmth of the beating fire-globe, I stretched like a cat, ate my pizza, scratched off my ticket (won 30 dollars but couldn’t redeem it since I had to stay in the airport), and then took a sunbath nap. Two hours, three slices of pizza, and a mild sunburn later, I was boarding the final flight of my trip to Erie, Pennsylvania, which I imagined to be a somewhat desolate ‘stuck-in-the-70’s’ suburban horror movie bay town.
After the most turbulent 45 minutes of my life – and I mean this quite literally; the tiny jet plane was almost an engine that couldn’t as we were harshly ripped across the skies over Lake Erie – we landed in exactly the town I pictured when first plotting my course to New York. The man who had assisted me in Cleveland now sat by my side and we shared stories of our lives over the Doctor Pepper he bought me out of kindness. As the car containing Lex and her friend pulled up, we bid each other adieu and he handed me a business card should I ever need his help.
This was it. It was over. The moment of truth as I finally met Lex in person for the first time. With high nerves and two shitty carry-on bags, I climbed into the car, finally meeting the girl behind the blog.
I guess this is where the story takes a rough turn. Of course it would. I was meeting up with an emotionally unstable girl who was about to drop her whole life she had built and move back to Wisconsin. Who wouldn’t be edgy and scared and overwhelmed? Who wouldn’t be on the fritz and a bit sassy? The car ride was alright. Lex was cool, Lex’s friend was awful. As I got overly excited that Tim Horton’s was a real thing, she got overly edgy about having to drive. We stopped at a Walmart and then it was home sweet home – Jamestown, New York.
Located about a two hour drive from Niagara Falls and a six hour drive from the big apple, Jamestown, New York is a semi-suburban no-man’s land, mixing the novelty of Lucille Ball’s childhood there with a refusal to enter the 21st century in the worst possible way. Remodeled turn-of-last-century buildings line a street surprisingly free of pot-holes in a town also surprisingly free of pot-heads. Snow blanketed the ground as we spent our three days indoors packing, getting drunk, and, for me, listening to the sound of tears.
Located on the upper floor of a shitty duplex two miles from the nearest convenience store, Lex had become complacent in sitting indoors, and the bitter cold New York air didn’t help things. While I was still entranced with the idea of a big adventure – if only a couple of hours walking around in the sparkling snowdrift that was Jamestown – Lex was not in the mindset to even set foot outdoors. My big New York adventure had turned into a drunken disappointment.
Three days, twelve bottles of booze, and one fight later, we were loading into a car in the middle of the night to escape an evil ex and return to the Midwest. We stopped to eat and sleep in Erie and then, with few stops, traversed the the states in our way back home. Too much junk food, too many toll roads, horrible music, and not enough leg room made the trip almost excruciating as fourteen and a half hours after departing Erie, we were just pulling into Chicago. Oh the lights, the magic of Chicago that we saw from the freeway as we continued on our path, stopping at a gas station for water in a part of Chicago where it is customary to have bars on every window and door.
Finally, we arrived at our destination, pulling into the driveway of an apartment building/housing unit right outside of Eau Claire. We were sore, cramped, and tired, ready for hours of rest before taking me home to dear Minnesota. A mattress was blown up for me, showers were taken, and heads hit the pillow fast that night as I prepared to return to my life of couch-hopping and sorrow that I had put myself into.
Shortly after our trip, Lex and I had a falling out and everything seems rather silly to have done now. It’s sad to say that the best part of my terminal trip was spending 30 hours experiencing layovers in terminals, but that’s the damn ironic twist of fate biting us all just as we think we’ve accomplished something great. Though the trip went as sour as Calcium Citrate, I still have to admit that I learned a lot and grew up even more on my destined-for-failure venture. I learned how to talk to travel agents, be alone, be even more resourceful, and find joy in even the shittiest of New York weather.
I join the large percentage of people who have had terrible experiences during their first time traveling alone and I do not regret it one bit. It took me off the negative degree streets of Minneapolis for a few days, it allowed me to meet someone I had always been curious about, and it taught me how to fend for myself in this sometimes hostile world. And now, when people ask me if I’ve gone anywhere cool, I can say that I got a fully comped trip to New York one time just to revel at the low prices of milk, the high prices of cigarettes, and the high volumes of liquor I could fit in my body.
Humor aside, it is important to remember that not all stories have a happy ending but they do all have a lesson. Do not be down-trodden by bad experiences, rather, find some way to make them worth it for you. Despite the miserable circumstances and the sadness, despite the terminal effect that this trip had on my friendship and some of my finances, I do no regret the opportunity to have another story to tell. That’s all I am, in truth. A shitty traveling bard who wants to be remembered for her life, no matter what happens.
I think I’ve accomplished that to a degree already.