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O’Hare Overnight Liveblog

American Airlines and a stalled warm front have conspired to have me sleeping overnight in the Chicago O’Hare airport to catch a flight home first thing in the morning. So what’s a guy to do? Live blog, why not? Here’s the offending weather picture.


A traditional Liveblog would add posts at the top, but I’m lazy and like to see things in chronological order, so I’ll update at the bottom.

8:30 pm
Eating dinner at the Chili’s in the atrium of the airport. It’s pretty busy for this time of night. The bar is full, undoubtedly with folks who know that they’re gonna be here a while. The gate agent told me they set up a bunch of cots over by gate K1 to handle scenarios just like this. I’ll be grabbing one of those before it gets too late. First to get my check and then go find a power outlet. This phone battery won’t last forever.

9:04 pm
Some serious lightning outside and rain coming down pretty good. The airport folks have probably 150 cots (complete with airplane pillows and blankets) set up already and have carts full of more cots ready to go.


That’s the stack still waiting to be set up.

Wandered down a ways and found a lonely cot right next to a functioning power outlet. Score!

9:16 pm
Time to watch a movie before sleeping. Fortunately I have a fully stocked iPad for just such an occasion. Tonight’s feature: Drinking Buddies. With Olivia Wilde and Ron Livingston it can’t be too awful, right?

9:50 pm
Sharing my power outlet for a while with a gal who has a thick southern accent and an iPhone 4 with a dead battery. The cots are filling up here by gate K1.

10:51 pm
Movie over. I liked it. Revolutionary idea that a guy and a girl could be friends and not immediately head to the sack. There’s no way though that Olivia Wilde’s character could drink that much beer every day and stay that skinny.

Cots full of people off in both ways down the concourse. And people still heading past us to make late-night west coast connections.


Made a quick trip to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, switched to glasses. Time to try to get some sleep.


There was a second cot down by my feet when I claimed this one; a few minutes later somebody grabbed it and moved it further down the concourse. 30 minutes later the airport folks set another one up in its place. And 2 minutes ago somebody took it, too, to some other location. Maybe I’m scary looking. Of course maybe nobody just wants to sleep next to my feet. I can’t blame them.

11:15 pm
I am 6-foot-4 inches long. This cot is decidedly not. Yawning a lot but there are lots of lights still on and it’s noisy. Wonder how long that’ll persist?

11:25 pm
All my yawns feel unfulfilling somehow. Still really bright. Breaking out my Cubs hat to lay over my face in hopes it’ll help me get to sleep and give me a little local cred.

The hat smells almost as bad as my feet.

11:38 pm
Not having much luck sleeping. It is quieting down some now, though. Created a Foursquare location. Hope other people will use it!


12:05 am
No luck sleeping so far. Can’t even seem to get that good yawn in. It has quieted down quite a bit in here after midnight; all the automated announcements are turned off, as are some of the overhead lights.

Some lucky folks are sleeping – the guy next to me is sawing logs – but many are laying restlessly awake on their cots just like I am. Starbucks will be doing brisk business in the morning.

12:52 am
Still no luck sleeping. Think I’d have better luck on the floor than on this cot – it’s just too small. I think I’ll go wander around. I wonder if I can find a piano…

1:08 am
Ok, once I got up and walked past all the cots I realized I severely underestimated how many there are. At least 350 now stretched out, all full. And flights still arriving and departing. (I feel sorry for the folks whose flight to Charlotte is now departing at 3:18.)

Lots of people up, wandering around, getting McDonald’s, sitting talking. Guess it never sleeps here.

2:38 am

Spent the last hour playing a piano I found in the concourse wine bar. Had security come by, identify an unattended bag, then stand around and chat for 15 minutes while waiting for the police to come pick it up.


The security guy told me that his 17-year-old son was shot 3 times last Friday in a drive-by shooting and is still in the hospital. Meanwhile, dad works the graveyard shift at O’Hare and worries about his son. Taking a minute to pray for the dad and the kid.

The terminal is getting quieter now. There were a few flights still coming in during the 1:00 hour, but now things have turned over and the new folks are coming in for the morning shift. The security guy chatted up a 50-something Polish baggage handler who has his folks living with him, walks with a limp, but has been doing the job day in and day out for 15 years. It’s a sobering reminder to me, miffed that I missed my flight home to the suburbs, that there are folks getting paid a lot less who do a lot harder jobs at worse hours. I have much to be thankful for.

3:21 am

I’m parked in the food court at a table next to a plugin. There are three 24-hour shops open: Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Dunkin Donuts. And they’re all staying fairly busy.

There are a dozen or so people sitting up here in the food court, most working on laptops, one writing longhand on a legal pad.

I’m mostly through my venti Americano and watching Leo DiCaprio playing J. Edgar Hoover. So far so good. By the time it finishes up the sun should be rising and my flight will be only a couple hours away.

4:21 am
The morning crowd is starting to show up and the food court is starting to smell good as the breakfast sandwiches start cooking. I suppose there are 5 am departures that people are showing up for, and they seem remarkably perky.

I’m in line to grab a Dunkin donuts breakfast and then to walk over to my gate. Three hours until departure.

I replied to some work email over the last hour, too, including a note telling my boss I wasn’t planning on coming in on Friday. I don’t think he’ll object.

4:43 am
At my gate. The status board still says those two blessed words: “On Time”. Put on my one remaining clean shirt just to make it feel like a new day.


Here goes nothin’!

5:44 am

Kudos to American Airlines for having gate agents out in force this morning. They knew they were gonna have lots of people to deal with and they appear at least reasonably equipped to handle it. Very glad I got a seat assigned and a boarding pass last night so I’m not standing in one of those lines, though.

Bought a real newspaper for the first time in years just to give me something light to read. The Chicago Tribune is up to $1.50 for the daily but feels thick enough that it might be worth it.

7:06 am

Boarding the plane. Thus endeth the Liveblog.


  1. You got the shirt? Nerd.

    I’d definitely have just stayed up.

    • Yeah, well, like everyone else, I ended up getting two. Teespring didn’t make any money on that one.

      I managed to sleep 90 minutes or so on the flight from O’Hare to Cedar Rapids, so that helped. I’ll be feeling it tonight, I’m sure.

  2. Bill B Bill B

    Adenosine Triphosphate?

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