After 10 years of mastering the art of being a student, I was finally going to play the role of a responsible professional. This change brought along with it a move. New York to Chicago. New York had nurtured me into an individual filled with strength, confidence, character, maturity and yet let me keep the child within alive. It was Chicago that was to test the quality of the individual that New York had produced.
The first step in a move is to find a roof over your head. Internet being the best self help available, I looked up the various sites for suggestions on a good roof . I realized quickly that there were many facets to that- a good roof over a good spacious room, a kitchen that was if not anything else, minimally furnished, an in built A/C/ heater ( Chicago being famous for it's winters);if multistory- an elevator in the building; a laundromat preferably within the building, if not, nearby; good security; decent neighborhood; a supermarket or grocery shop within walking distance; close by to the train station that had the trains I needed to get to work running through it and off course the afford ability! When I finally found the one that seemed to have it all and be at a reasonable distance from my work place, it was still the picture on the internet I was seeing, sitting by the window in my NY apartment that I had to vacate in a month's time. So, Chicago-NY one day round trip was searched, a decent deal found and ticket booked. Picked up a bag with some extra clothes and essentials (just in case), some instant edibles, an umbrella, travel documents and papers I might need, if I decide to rent the place I was going to check out.
I took the early morning flight and landed safely into a bright morning in Chicago. I figured out the directions I needed to get to&fro between the place and airport, the latest I could leave from the place to still fly back in time and the route to &fro my workplace and the apartment.
As I reached the place and checked in at the rental office, the receptionist asked me coldly to come back in an hour for my 'tour'. I looked at my watch and refuted that I had an appointment and I was on time. She checked back at her monitor, gave me an exasperated look and said "your appointment is for 11am, it is 10 am now". I looked back at my watch and it read 11am. It then struck me that I had just entered into a different time zone. Living all my life in countries whose length and breadth were in one time zone, that adjustment of thought takes a while.I decided to utilize the time and check out the neighborhood. Not taking a chance by walking too far and getting lost, I looked around, but could register nothing. I just marveled at the buildings around me, not one of them looked similar and they all had stunning architecture.The other thought was that the streets were empty at 10 am on a weekday, which in NY is peak hour and for a city with Chicago's reputation should also be peak hour. But, the streets here did not have the rush hour that I have experienced before. It gave me 2 ideas- one that the city was not as vibrant as NY ( of course no city could be!) second- the neighborhood is not in a busy downtown area, which questions it's safety late evenings, the most likely time of my return from work.
I finally got back to the building, took my tour, liked what I saw, consulted with a trusted friend and ended up confused. Took a minute, rationalized my thought, randomly asked how safe it was at 9pm, got a satisfied answer, trusted the answer coz it was coming from another woman, put in a demand to move in at a certain date and no later and signed the necessary papers. I took a chance by not checking out any of the other buildings nearby and signing into the first one I set foot in. But, life is about taking calculated chances and facing the consequence of it all.
I did complete everything on my agenda that day and still had sometime to spare. After signing the papers, took my trip to the office and decided the travel was as feasible as feasible can get!Considering the options I had, I preferred to hang out at my center point and soak in the surroundings instead of getting to the airport and breathing artificial air. Soon, it was getting dark and cloudy and I decided that it must be closer to evening and my time to head back to the airport. As I made a turn to get to the train station that would take me to the airport, a gust of wind held me stationary. No matter how much force I moved with, I did not move an inch. Before I could realize, I was drenched wet- the same way as seen in most bollywood movies, you have the shower turned on at the director's signal and there is instant heavy downpour. With all my might, I ran as quickly as I could to the nearest building and stood against the glass watching anything that was not rooted to the ground flying and wet.The little trees that if, were to be compared to a stage of human growth, would best suit teenage, were bent in half and yet did not snap. It was as if they had taken yoga lessons.
As, I stood, engrossed in thought and wondering how to get to the airport, a stranger standing next to me, chatted me up. He made light conversation on the unpredictable weather, the apartment complex I was planning to stay in, what the best part of the neighborhood is, Chicago as a city etc. In fact,I gathered a lot of information, something only an insider of the city can tell you.He then asked me where I was headed to and offered to drop me. I hesitated and declined the offer. He was a stranger after all! I decided to wait for the storm to end, the skies to finish their outburst and then head home. He left with a 'bye' and a 'good luck' while I continued staring at the outside. A half hour later, a red 2 seater Lexus car pulls up in front of the building, the driver honks until I turn recognizing him to be the same stranger. He waves out for me to come out and offers to drop me. I looked around nervous, picked up my bag, said a silent prayer and ran into the car. He smiled, asked me not to worry and said he would get me to the airport in time. I looked at my phone, sent a text to my friend upraising her of my situation and instantly heard her frantic voice instructing me to note down the licence plate number, take a picture of the guy through my phone and send it back to her, in case I went missing.
All through the drive, I sat still, with every sense of mine at the height of awareness. He was still chatting up and all I could hear was my heart thumping loudly. My hands were on the call button of my phone with 911 pre-dialled. After an hour of wondering how my parents would react when they were told I had gone missing or worse, who would actually be able to contact them as I don't remember giving my friend their contact information, realizing that she could obtain that from the college records, I reached the airport.My worst fears had not come true. I was safe and sound. As the thumping of my heart came down to normal little beats, another bye and good luck and off he drove. I checked myself in and while I waited to board, tried to soak in, the events of the past 2 hours. Do I feel relieved that I was safe despite the risk I took, calm my nerves that were overworked or just marvel at the timing of the bad weather, my good luck with safety and my first ever ride in a 2 seater Lexus?! What an unbelievable day this had turned out to be. Adventure at it's best!!
We boarded, announcements made, seat belt fastened- nothing moved. There was a further announcement explaining air traffic situation and that we were waiting in line to take off. As we taxied towards the run way, I could see more flights in close vicinity which gave me the idea that the line was a long one. After 4 hours of taxiing and 25 flights taking off before us, we braced ourselves to head home. Suddenly the skies lit up- incessant lightening and thunder, but no rain. The pilots waited for clearance and there was silence. My instincts told me that we probably will taxi back to the gate and deplane. That tonight, O'Hare would just have to be home.My instincts are never wrong about anything happening against my wishes!
So, night at O'Hare it was. I spent those 6 hours crouched and folded in the most painfully awkward position possible, between 2 chairs, jacket to cover me, dozing on and off. Woke up early morning, stood in line in front of the airline counter,coffee in hand and fought for a seat in the first flight out to NY. Considering that most of my life, my Mom would wonder,what she could intravenously inject into me, so I would not run away from a situation that demanded me to fight for my right- I did a great job, pushing, nagging and arguing till I found myself sandwiched between two obese men in the last row of the flight, right next to the washroom!
As, I drove from La Guardia back home and saw the sky line of NY, I realized that I had lived a day of adventure- the kind you conjure up in one of those weird conversations one has with friends, lazily sipping on tea, under a plastic table with an umbrella for shade, taking a break between two classes, starting with the words - "Imagine if.."