chicago-ohare-airport-inside

In October of 2017, amateur college sad man and garbage peddler Jonah Nink embarked on a country wide adventure to participate in the All American High School Film Festival. This is especially depressing considering the fact that Jonah was a college freshman at the time, literally breaking the first rule of the festival right out of the gate. This multi-part series is a highly hyperbolic, poorly written, and nonsensical version of his story.  

Call me Ishmael.

Don’t actually do that. That is not my name.

Nothing is more depressing than having to wake up at 3 AM. Normally when one wakes up, they expect the soft rays of morning sunshine to float down from heaven’s bosom and land tenderly on their cheek bones with the grace and precision of a South Korean DOTA champion.

This is not what happens when you wake up at 3 AM.  

When you wake up that early, the only thing willing to touch your cheek is the cold, AXE-smelling musk of your freshman dorm room. I glanced over to my roommate, who was sleeping softer than George Lucas during the release of the Star Wars prequels.

“Just 15 more minutes”  said the sinister, Australian sounding version of my own voice.

It lived in the dark corners of my mind and constantly tried to convince me that double dipping was OK.

“You have plenty of time. Also, unrelated, double dipping is totally cool,” it hissed.

But I was a man on a mission.  So, in one mighty motion, I got up out of my bed; successfully completing a task that literally billions of people do everyday. I could hear the applause for miles.

After a quick wardrobe change and some morning pilates, I grabbed the bags that I had packed the night before and set out on my adventure. I was ready to take on the world, and with one mighty step, I immediately walked back into my room because I had forgotten my plane ticket.

As I made my way out of the dorms, I started to notice that a lot of people were just getting home from wherever their Thursday night adventures had taken them. While the people I passed were a weird mix of both sober and coherent and, well, the opposite, all of them looked at me as though I was making my escape from campus under the cover of night.

But my favorite reaction above all was that of the lady who was working the dorm’s front desk that night. When I walked past her, the look that she shot me was the same look that you would give to the guy who whips out a physical check when paying for things.

It had just finished raining by the time I walked out of the building. Since I had some extra time, I took a bit of a longer route to the Blue Line so that I could give myself a chance to take in some of the views. This is French for “I got lost.”

I stopped once I hit the corner of Halsted and Harrison so that I could tie my shoes, but I ended up hanging out for another few minutes just so I could take in the view, and for a brief moment, all was right in the world.

(I actually stopped to look at a meme my friend put in a group-chat, but what I wrote sounds much more profound.)

I was surprised at how full the Blue Line train was when I first stepped on. It was filled with all sorts of people, ranging from tired and sad looking people wearing suits to tired and sad looking people not wearing suits.

At first I was worried that I would end up standing, but I managed to find a spot next to an older woman holding a newspaper. Boy, was she delighted to see that the empty space next to her had been filled by a confused looking teenager with a lot of luggage. Thankfully she quickly forgot I existed and went back to what looked like one hell of a Sudoku puzzle.

After realizing I had been staring at an old woman for well over 15 seconds, I hastily popped in some headphones and fell back to sleep.

So if you’ve managed to make it this far into the reading, than you may have a few questions floating around in your brain right now like. “Where were you headed?,”  “Why did you need to wake up so early?,” and “Why doesn’t the UIC student center Dunkin’ Donuts take Flames Fare?”

I had spent most of my last semester in high school producing short films with the help of my friend Owen, whom I had met earlier that year. We met in our school’s video production class, and quickly developed a very good working relationship. He was a savant when it came to the technical side of video production, as he had a very good grasp of everything from camera handling to sound-mixing and video editing and even a bit of acting.

My contribution was that I did the movie words good.

Together we produced a number of shorts, ranging everywhere from short films to concert films. As the year came to a close, we decided that our last project was also going to be our biggest.

And so, the John Hughes meets Quentin Tarantino high school mystery thriller comedy drama The Wrong Day was born. Following the exploits of poorly written protagonist as he tries to navigate the worst day of his life, The Wrong Day is a Seinfeld episode long monstrosity that some say is both the cause and the cure for stomach cancer.

Jokes aside, there’s a lot going on in those 24 odd minutes. Rather than tell you about them, here is a brief dramatization of the phone call that happened after I watched the final cut for the first time.

Me: “Hey man, I just finished watching the finished cut that you sent me.”

Owen: “Yeah, it’s weird as hell.”

After it was finished, Owen submitted it to several film contests purely as a joke. It quickly turned into much more than a joke, and before I knew it, I had blown the rest of my net worth on a trip to New York City.  

I might describe how it came to be in greater detail, but that is a yarn for another time. If you’re that curious, than Google it.

I got to the airport at around 4:30ish. It was mostly empty, aside from the odd sad looking traveller. Normally I would have popped in some tunes, but I restrained myself because I was worried that I would use up too much of my phone battery. I understand that this does not make a lick of sense. My only explanation is that morning Jonah was at the wheel, and he is a bad driver.

And so I made my way through the underbelly of the airport in silence. I entertained myself by thinking of rapper names for Game of Thrones characters.

T-Money Lannister.

John Snizzle.

Petyr Dank-lish.

Hoedoor.

I was on a roll, so it was actually disappointing when I finally made it to TSA.

I have a funny relationship with the TSA. Regardless of what airport I’m in or how hard I try to be compliant, they always give a pat down. But here’s the thing; the only area they pat me down on is the space between the knee and ankle of my right leg. I can’t explain it. I have theories, but they all involve stupid Matrix references.   

But they always let me go right after, so I never pay it any mind.

That was hardly my biggest problem that day either. You see friends; my flight was scheduled to depart at 10:57 AM. By the time I finished with TSA, it was about 5 AM… so I had to hang out for a bit.

Having never flown by myself before, I kind of overestimated how much time everything would take by a pretty substantial margin. I have this weird thing where I have to be as early as humanly possible to everything. How early I get to something sort of depends on how i’m going to get there and if I’ve ever been there in the past, so you can kind of imagine how hard a trip like that would mess with me.

But at that point I was stuck there, so I had to make the most of it.

“This is my life now,” I thought.

At least I can say that now I’ve just about memorized O’Hare’s layout, because I spent most of my time just wandering around the airport like an idiot. If you’ve ever not been able to fully explore the O’Hare, then let me be the first to tell you that it’s not worth your time. It’s essentially just a giant doctor’s office filled with bookstores and sad people. By about 9 AM I had used all the bathrooms they had, which left me feeling very accomplished.

The whole situation was like the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks, except for the fact that I was in the same building as a few thousand other people, I had a definite means of escape, and there was not a single volleyball in sight. So upon reconsideration, the whole situation was actually nothing like the movie Castaway.

These are the kind of thoughts I was having as I drifted from one kiosk to another. But thankfully before I really went off of the deep end, Owen shot me a text saying that he was entering the airport.

Having not had human contact for so long, I was worried that I would be unrecognizable. However by some miracle he was able to point me out in the crowd, and without wasting even a second, we went right onto complaining how much the trip was costing us.

They eventually called our number, and we were on the plane faster than you could say “Why do airports serve alcohol?”

Once I sat my ass down on the plane, I took a nice long drag on that musky, airplane cabin air. Now we can finally get started.

End of Part 1…

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