I was running through the halls at O'Hare International Airport, heading toward one of the far-flung K gates. I passed the bookshop, then the Dunkin' Donuts, one or two of the makeshift kiosks where someone tries to sell you yet another credit card. Breathing was getting hard (you try running in four-inch heels pulling a wheelie-bag), but I was determined to keep going. Why? Because there were people on my heels. People who, like me, were determined to get on the next flight into the New York area. People who, like me, had just received the news that their prior flight was canceled because of problems with the aircraft.
I should have known better. I wasn't originally scheduled to be on that now not-departing flight. I was scheduled to be on the one two later. But I was early, so I'd quickly swapped. And now, like all of these other poor schnooks, I was in for a long, depressing evening—the highlight of which was likely to be a soft pretzel rolled in cinnamon sugar accompanied by some bad Chardonnay from the nearest bar.
"Jean!" A voice pulled me out of my travel fog. "Jean—is that you?"
I looked around, trying to find the face. This happens to me a lot, as it would to you if you'd spent the past dozen years appearing pretty regularly on shows like Today and Oprah. People want to say hi. They want to tell you about their latest money problems, the fight they had with the insurance company, the $1,500 loan to a friend that looks like it will never be paid back and how they got a great rate on their credit card. They want to ask if Matt and Meredith are really as nice as they seem to be (and yes, they are). Usually, the conversations are brief. Not this time. Rhonda, a 52-year-old single mom, had something important to tell me as she caught up with me at the end of the line.