Monday, 5 October 2015

A suprise date, hot sauce and a new skill.

Chicago
Thursday 17th September

Waking to the sound of a persistent alarm was not at all soothed by the sight of my fellow roommate's package.  I sincerely doubt that a view from a Hostel bunk bed will be getting a high score on Trip Advisor anytime soon. Despite the view, I was more than happy to be waking up in Chicago.

Once I had returned from the bathroom, the package guy had put on more clothes and we bonded over discussions on how to cure hangovers effectively. We agreed to meet for a drink later on so we could check out the local bars in the area. Given that I was proudly wearing my Gryffindor pyjamas and hadn't recently brushed my teeth, I didn't even consider the fact that he may have been asking me out on a date. I later found out that I definitely should've considered it, which I'm using as a huge ego boost.

I spent the day roaming around the city. I quickly discovered that whilst Chicago may be architecturally beautiful, it sincerely lacks in public toilets. Even when I finally gave in and purchased a ridiculously expensive coffee from Starbucks just so I could use their toilet, they gave me a gigantic key of shame to unlock the door with. Walking to the toilet with that gigantic key was worse than any traditional walk of shame that I've ever encountered (and that includes the walk of shame which crossed counties and incorporated various modes of transport, a pit stop at my friend's house and even a drive-by from my own dad).

After enjoying a lot of the food Chicago has to offer, I made my way back to the hostel and I met the package guy for a drink. Turns out that instead of heading out to the local bars, he had drinks for two planned on the hostel's rooftop terrace. That was the first sign that it may have been a date. The second sign was when he clearly began trying to block out the other guy that was attempting to talk to us. The third sign was when he confirmed how single I was. In hindsight, I probably should've made out that I have a boyfriend back home who I madly love instead of making it explicitly clear how single I really am.

Brutally, it was the most boring conversation that I've ever had in my life. I would ask him a simple question and it would result in at least a fifteen minute monologue. Unfortunately, I have a very short attention span so I literally had to cause myself mild physical pain, through the act of pinching, to stop myself from falling asleep. If I had been in a bar, I would've made a polite excuse and I would've left that bar very promptly. It's extremely difficult to bomb someone off when you're staying in the same hostel as them, especially when you're actually still at the hostel.

 Eventually, he agreed to make like a baby and head out so we could check out the local bars (like we had originally agreed to). We both agreed that we needed to change our shoes and visit the toilet, so we decided to meet downstairs in 10 minutes.  He left first and I simply never followed. I didn't intentionally stand him up, I just ended up having a great conversation with the other guys that were on the rooftop terrace. Looking back, it probably would've been kinder to have told the package guy that I simply wasn't interested. It also probably would've made it less awkward when I bumped into him downstairs a few hours later. Remembering his name might have also made the situation less awkward.

In fact, a friend recently told me off for my inability to reject people when I informed him of my usual method of rejection. Apparently, really going to town with the garlic mayo at the end of a night out isn't an explicit, or socially acceptable way, to tell a guy that I'm not interested. Instead, the only thing that it guarantees is that I'll gain a garlic related nickname amongst the guy and his friends. This night in Chicago definitely taught me that it's extremely important to be confident enough to inform someone that you're not keen in pursuing anything with them. It may be brutal but I guess sometimes, honesty really is the best policy.

Friday 18th September

Once again, I wandered out and explored the city. I stumbled across the French Quarter, which had an amazing selection of food. There were actually too many delicious options, so I ended up panic picking from a Thai stall. I panic picked incorrectly. All I gained was an intense after-taste and a noodle-spray stain on my t-shirt (not an innuendo). 

When I was on my way back to the hostel in the evening, a woman tried hustling me for money and my phone by claiming that she needed urgent medical assistance due to her being pregnant and bleeding heavily. Not only did this woman and her friends lack any convincing acting abilities, the woman hadn't even gone to the effort of making herself look pregnant. So instead of giving her any money, I ran away. OK, I didn't run but I did walk in a very brisk manner back in the direction I'd come from. 

Finally, I made it back the hostel and actually ended up checking out some of the local bars with some guys I'd met the previous night. We headed to the Emporium Bar, which was great because it's full of old school arcade games. I discovered that I'm actually genuinely incredible at playing Street Fighter, which I'm pretty sure now makes me 100% more employable. It was also a great bar because it seemed to have a strict dress-code requirement of double denim and moustaches, so I instantly fit in. There was also a genuinely great band playing, although nobody else seemed to dance as enthusiastically as I did. I did enjoy the fact that it was a woman's actual job to create the special effects using a projector from the 90's and various arts and crafts materials. Despite what the unemployment figures suggest, there really is a job out there for everyone.

After heading to a few more bars, we ended up in a Mexican Bar. Bizarrely and amazingly, this bar seemed to offer a free buffet at the end of the night. Naturally, I headed over to take full advantage. It turns out that the buffet was for employees only and my friend and I had to leave the bar pretty promptly. Thankfully, there was a street cart outside selling tacos and I took advantage of that instead. Although I probably shouldn't have taken advantage of the hot sauce. Ending my night by simultaneously crying and sweating was not a proud moment for me. There was probably enough liquid coming from my face to solve the drought problem in California.

Saturday 19th September

Originally, I had planned to check out the beaches in Chicago but the weather was still pretty bad so I decided to head to the zoo. On my way, I came across an arts and crafts street festival which emphasised how people will buy anything if you market it correctly, including guitars made out of old matchboxes.

Once I got to the zoo, I didn't really enjoy it. It could've been because I was hungover or it could've been because the enclosures seemed particularly small at the Chicago Zoo. Even though I normally love the punderful opportunities a zoo provides, I don't believe that animals should be kept in unsuitably small enclosures. This may seem hypocritical to some given that I'm more than happy to tuck into 'surprise meat' at the end of a night but, as the clearly profound Hannah Montana would sing, nobody's perfect.

When I was making my way back to the Hostel, I indulged in a bagel from the Chicago Bagel Authority. Not only is the menu incredible, but the guys that work there are ridiculously hot. Although this poses as a problem for me as I'm apparently unable to communicate effectively with people if I think they're hot. This meant that when the guy gave me my bagel as a take-out, instead of eat-in, I felt way too awkward to correct him and simply left with my bagel in a bag. I ended up sitting on a nearby bench, like a gremlin, trying to eat my bagel without spilling avocado everywhere. I failed.

Back at the Hostel, I packed up my bags and made my way to the subway. When I was leaving the subway, I was faced with the option of a lift or the stairs. Cockily, I took the stairs. That was an error. Instead of feeling like Rocky when I got to the top, I felt a lot like Simon Pegg's character in Run Fatboy Run. Slightly out of breath, I made it to the Greyhound Bus Station so I could begin my overnight bus journey to Nashville, Tennessee.  It was my first overnight bus journey since I went on a school Ski Trip. I quickly realised that whilst it may not have been as fun as travelling with my friends, people were less likely to hate me (mainly because I wasn't waking them up constantly by letting off a whoopee cushion in their face). Also, despite the fact that there was more of a risk of being mugged on a Greyhound journey, there was also more of a guarantee that I'd keep my trousers on and my dignity in tact. 

Even though I gained an extra few pounds and lost quite a few dollars, Chicago was a great city. When I next visit, I'll probably spend less time eating biscoff & banana doughnuts, and more time perfecting the art of Street Fighter.