I’m a Midwesterner, through and through. A transplanted Texan proud to call Kansas home. And I love the wide open spaces and the big unlimited skies of the central plains, but I don’t get to work out here. I have a day job in the city, which sometimes requires this country girl to leave the wide green fields of the prairie and dive into the smog-soaked, crowd-heavy streets of the big cities.
This past week I spend roaming Chicago in taxis, shuttles, trains, planes, and by foot, schmoozing with engineers from nearly every discipline on the merits of press plumbing systems. Yes, I have an interesting life. But as I was taking off last Sunday, I was wondering how many other country folks have to put on the jetsetter face for their day jobs, and in case you find yourself in that role, I thought I’d throw a helpful little list together.
Tip 1: Read the instructions
If you’ve never flown before, this is really important. In the seatback pocket of the chair in front of you, there should be a little information card that has all the stats you need to know about the plane you’re flying in. It’s good practice to know where the exits are and how the plane behaves during an emergency, because they’re all a little different.
If you’ve flown before? Well, honestly? You can ignore it. Because–let’s face it–if the plane goes down, there’s nothing on that little laminated card that’s going to help. Planes are pretty simple when you think about it. They have wings and engines, and if either of those two things fail, you’re probably screwed anyway. So try to get the last chapter of your novel in instead.
Tip 2: Find a driver who knows the city
You can usually get pretty good company ratings by doing some digging online, but a few general rules apply in actual practice. If you jump into a cab with a driver who starts asking you for directions, you can be pretty confident that you don’t want to be his passenger. A cabbie who doesn’t know the city he’s driving in will take a long time to get where you need to go, and that means instead of charging you a finger or a hand, he might need to take your whole arm and part of your leg too.
In Chicago, I discovered, the best way to find a cab driver who will know where he’s going and how to get there quickly is to sit quietly in your seat and wait for him to start screaming in Nigerian. Once you determine that he’s talking into his Bluetooth headset and not to you, you can rest assured that he knows where he’s going. And he’s so angry he won’t pay any attention to the red lights, the homeless people crossing in front of him, or the half dozen cops he blows by.
Tip 3: See the sights
If somebody wants to go to the random lounge on the 96th floor of the Hancock Building at 11:00 p.m., that takes a little longer.
If that same somebody wants to go to the 18th floor of a random hotel with the smallest elevators known to man to have a drink on an outdoor patio at midnight….. that takes longer still.
But the view is usually worth it.
Tip 4: But only stop to take photos of buildings when you’re sitting down
Chicago is a gorgeous city with lots of things to see. The thing that always strikes me about Chicago is its architecture. The buildings are all so vintage looking and austere, with the steel and stone bridges and the beautiful river that runs through the city.
But it’s not a good idea to take photos of Chicago’s beautiful architecture while you’re standing on the sidewalk. You will get run over. Not even joking.
So if you want to take photos of the pretty buildings, find an outdoor cafe or tavern and stop out of the flow of traffic so you can capture the moment without causing an accident.
Tip 5: And when you ask for ketchup, don’t be surprised if it comes in a cup
Even at a tavern.
Ketchup. In a stainless steel cup.
These people have no idea the amount of ketchup I can consume in a single setting.
Tip 6: Research your hotel location beforehand
Chicago is a big city, so there are a lot of fire alarms. And if your hotel is right across the street from a fire station, I guarantee you won’t sleep much in the night. Or in the morning. Or in the afternoon.
Living next to a fire station is one thing. You can get used to it. Like planes flying overhead, you learn to block out the noise. But having a hotel next to a fire station? Yeah, not a good idea.
But, on the bright side, if the hotel ever catches on fire, help’s right across the street.
Tip 7: Make the most of your layover time
Generally speaking, you’ll always have a layover. Even with a direct flight like mine was, I ended up getting to the Chicago airport way too early. So I had some time to kill. And after I’d answered all my day job emails, I still had some time left to work on writing my next novel, the romantic comedy (release date February 2015, Crosshair Press).
So make sure you take something to do with you to the airport. Always. Because you never know when they’re going to cancel your flight or delay your flight, and it’s better to be prepared than to be bored.
And there you have it, my top tips for traveling to the big city when you’re used to living in the country. There’s really nothing to it once you get the hang of it, and even though it’s a hassle most times, travel can be a fun opportunity to see parts of the country you’ve never seen before.
SPECIAL BONUS TIP: