Well, here I am, in Terminal 1 of Chicago’s O’Hare airport, waiting for my flight to Paris. I’m drenched in relief, which is only partly sweat (and thankfully not urine; that’s not the relief I’m talking about). But relief is always the imprint and exquisite scar of earlier distress, and I was certainly up to tits in stress and distress these past few days, weeks, months.
I should’ve kept a running blog of how crazy my life has been since the day, back in late January, when my teaching workload suddenly doubled for the rest of the year, setting off a constant accumulation of stressors that continued into my preparations for Berlin and Paris, culminating in the last week or so of sheer panic. I’m not a high-strung person, but I’ve certainly had a taste of it. In fact, my sister had recently told me of a medical survey that suggested that people of “Mediterranean” ethnicities (and its diaspora) under stress tend to score low on scales of anxiety (e.g., sleep loss, emotional labiality, panic attacks, and so on) but have a higher rate of somatization. In other words, “brown” folks tend to turn their stress into bodily ailments, rather than excessive affect. And, so, my Bell’s Palsy seems less random.
Anyway, things came to a peak yesterday, during the final 24 hours before the flight. As you might imagine, I was running around Chicago, having last-minute meetings, running final errands, and making my goodbyes. All of this was made more intense by the fact that I no longer had my car (left it in Canada), so I had to run these final errands while trying to make sense of Chicago’s dysfunctional public transit system. In fact, the public transit system nearly cost me a subletter.
[OK, now I’m on the plane and I’m in a fucking middle seat in the middle of the plane]
You see, I had been struggling for the last few weeks to find a subletter for my apartment while I was gone. I needed to cover the rent for at least 12 months, and almost every person who responded to my Craigslist or UchicagoMarketplace ads were asking for 2-4 month rentals. I’m not going to deal with 4 or 5 sequential subleases, thank you. Those who were willing to commit to somewhere near 12 months would either complain that they wanted something closer to downtown, or they would just flake out altogether.
[As it turns out, the aisle seat next to me is empty. Yay!]
So, when a young man responded to my ad late Saturday night and said he was interested in my place, I jumped at the opportunity to show the place to him. At the time, I was in Canada, dropping off my car with my parents, and then flying back to Chicago Sunday night. I was already planning to show my apartment to another set of potential subletters (who eventually flaked) on Sunday night, so I told him that we could meet either early Monday morning or late Monday evening. The morning didn’t work out, so we had to schedule for the evening; I had a meeting until 6pm and then a dinner-meeting with my dissertation advisor till 8pm, and so we planned to meet at my place around 9pm.
So, I was already tempting fate when I left Hyde Park around 8:30pm that night. I had to drop off a few final things with a friend before leaving Hyde Park, and then I needed to buy a few things from the local grocery store for gastronomic gifts for a friend in Paris. The bus to the grocery store took nearly 20 minutes to come, and the bus downtown from there took nearly 30 minutes to materialize. By the time I was on the bus toward downtown, it was almost 9:30 and the prospective subletter was calling me from in front of my building, saying that he had to leave so he could catch the last train back to his temporary abode. Fed up with the slow progress of the bus, I got off at the first stop downtown, hailed a cab, and told the subletter that I would give him money for a cab ride back to his place afterwards. It was an expensive pain in the ass, but I was desperate.
Thankfully, the subletter was a lovely guy who was patient, polite and a fan of house music (all good things in my books). He had just moved from Australia with nothing but a backpack and small luggage, so he was thrilled with the prospect of having an apartment that was already completely furnished. After sending a good deal of time discussiong the minutiae of the apartment, the building and the neighborhood, I sent him off with the desperate hope that he would take the place, and soon. I was only in town for another half-day.
So, the summary:
- Fuck the underfunded and underserviced mass transit of Chicago for nearly killing my sublet; and,
- He called me this morning to say that he wanted to take the apartment.
That was the beginning of a series of events today that brought on relief. Throughout the day—as I packed my bags, cleaned the apartment, did some last-minute laundry, organized the sublet paperwork, and dropped off my cable equipment—I felt the tightly-wound spring behind my eyes loosen a little. It wasn’t until the plane was cruising down the runway and taking off that I finally felt an overwhelming rush of relief, mixed with excited anticipation. There are still things to worry about, like how I’m going to find an apartment in Paris, but already I’ve survived a lot.
Oh, and by the way, none of the relief of today would’ve been possible without the help of my magnificent and currently favorite friend, Lauren. That girl drove all the way up to my place at noon, drove me around town as I ran some last-minute errands, and then dropped me off at the airport (with a detour at a diner). She took some pictures of us at the terminal drop-off area. Check 'em out! I totally have the "Bell's Palsy smile." Alright, time to drink some wine and try to get some sleep.