In February, I took the Amtrak train from Dearborn to Chicago to visit my daughter for a few days. The Midwest weather was surprisingly mild for this time of year. We took short walks, ate at a couple trendy restaurants and relaxed in her comfy, high-rise apartment on the edge of Chicago’s tony Gold Coast neighborhood.
All was well, and then I did something stupid. Instead of the train, I took a plane home to Detroit. I carefully planned how I would get back to my car at the train station in Dearborn. I had no qualms about the efficient process I had set up.
After I got off the plane, I hopped on the airport tram to get to baggage claim more quickly. But I failed to get off the tram in time and went about 40 gates too far. Hungry and tired and mad at myself for this stupid mistake, I walked (and used the moving sidewalks) to go 40 gates back to baggage claim to pick up my suitcase.
My plan was still intact. With luggage in hand, I went outside to ground transportation to find the dark green FAST bus that would seamlessly take me to my car at the train station.
Well, I was dreaming. Finding the FAST bus or anyone who had ever heard of it proved to be impossible. I knew it existed. I had read about it in the paper, and, in fact, carried a glossy FAST bus brochure, which I waved in front of a variety of people in my search for it. But no dice.
Why did I think it was a good idea taking the train to Chicago and the plane back. It cost me roughly $160, about the same if I had taken the plane round trip.
Standing outside in the cold, I knew right then I should have called an UBER or my son who was at a friend’s house that night watching the Super Bowl. But, by now, I was on a mission. I stood there watching one wrong bus after another stop in front of me and leave. Finally, I spotted a woman bus driver sitting in a Hertz-branded bus with the door open. I asked her about FAST. To my delight, she knew of it and got out to walk me over to another bus (not FAST), which took me and others swiftly to a bus station in the north terminal of the airport. I felt turned around and famished. I hadn’t eaten since lunch, and there was nothing edible in this part of the airport.
Exiting the bus, looking lost and waving the now-crinkled FAST brochure, a friendly airlines worker asked if I needed help. I told him my situation. He responded, “I’m an environmentalist, too. I understand you wanting to use the bus.” I’m not sure what environmentalism had to do with my situation at that point, but he pointed to a sign that said FAST. It even had its own glass, enclosed bus stop. One young man was waiting there. He told me his app showed the bus was due in about an hour. By now, the Super Bowl was over.
Despite the whole mess, I knew all I had to do now was wait. A couple other airport workers joined us and kept me updated on the arrival time. I almost started crying with relief when the shiny, clean FAST bus arrived. I walked up to the door feeling like a child who just got rescued after being lost in the woods. A smiling driver said she had a bathroom break and would be back in 15 minutes. I went back to the enclosed bus stop to wait another 20 minutes or so.
To its credit, the FAST bus charged just 50 cents (for seniors 65 and over). Once in motion, it made its way efficiently to several west side stops — Inkster, River Rouge, Dearborn Heights and, eventually, the train station. Not a soul was there, but my car was. I literally felt like hugging it. I got in the car, blasted the heat and gunned it out of the desolate parking lot to the freeway that would take me home.
Lesson learned: I will take the same form of transportation — both ways.