2013 started with the bitterest winter I never knew I could survive (and did so only under protest), continued with the destruction of my job as I knew it and is ending with one of my personal circles of hell -- five airports in 20 hours, which is more than 10 times as many hours as I slept last night.
While I sit here in Chicago, let me tell you about this, the last day of the second worst year of my life. But don't worry, it's only depressing if you're sitting in the Chicago airport writing about the second worst year of your life. You should enjoy the trip.
12:01 a.m.: Halftime of the Holiday Bowl. I'm dreading what's coming, because Red Raider football has a grand tradition of not showing up for the second half.
2:03: Red Raiders win! Jennifer and I go to bed.
2:30: I finally fall asleep.
4: My alarm goes off. I wake up groggy, feeling like I just went to sleep.
4:01: I realize I did just go to sleep and get up.
5:07: I get flagged at security because I have a can of almond paste in my bag. I intend to use it to create a dessert. I guess this is a threat, considering the American obesity epidemic.
6:30: My plane does laps around the airport to warm up, as if we were in a car. Encouraging. I focus on my biggest worry: staying awake while driving home from the airport.
8:30: I get onto my flight, sit down and go straight to sleep. I'm woken up 15 minutes later to the announcement that we don't have a first officer and the pilot has no idea where.
9:45: We get a first officer. I give up hope on making my flight to Albuquerque while still secretly hoping that I make my flight to Albuquerque.
10:33: My flight to Albuquerque takes off.
10:45: My flight from Dulles lands in Chicago. I repeatedly tell myself that it is not United's fault; there's weather and mechanical problems and flights don't always run on time and it's still more convenient than driving. I am not convincing.
12:30: I get to the front of the customer service line, only to watch three agents finish with their customers and go on break. I eventually get tickets through Houston and will get to Albuquerque at 10:30 p.m., roughly six billion years after I was supposed to get there.
1:15: I get to the gate for a Houston flight on which I am standby. I'm No. 2 on the list. I feel like a jerk while I secretly hope that somebody else gets screwed by a late flight and I get a seat. I eat chocolate for lunch.
1:48: I get the very last seat. It's an aisle. There's room in the overhead bins for my bag. Things are looking up.
1:50: I get to my seat, which is occupied, along with every other seat on the plane. I get off the flight.
1:53: The gate agent asks what flight I'm on. I'm suddenly hopeful that for their mistake, they'll put me in first class.
1:55: I'm handed my new ticket. I have a worse seat and a worse boarding group. I'm angry all over again at United.
2: I get a Chicago-style pizza, excited to prove Jon Stewart wrong. This looks like a good pizza.
2:10: I discover Jon Stewart was right about Chicago-style pizza.
Right now: I'm sitting at my gate, wondering how the flight before mine can possibly have 77 people on the standby list. That's pretty much an entire flight.
I also just looked outside and realized it's snowing. I really hate Chicago right now. My old years resolution: not being in an airport at midnight.