International Entertainment

I love the Chicago O'Hare airport.
If I needed a vacation, which I prefer to call a holiday, as vacation sounds too stressful with the packing, plans, travel arrangements, sightseeing activities, and money that it drains you of, not to mention the family, the potential fights or disagreements, and the numerous decisions that go into planning a vacation; I might go on a mindless, relaxing holiday to the Chicago O'Hare airport.

There are several reasons that this airport trumps all the rest. First, ladies, they have automatic seat covers on their toilets. Many years back when we were all afraid of catching AIDS from the toilet seats somebody decided they would protect us by offering a rather complicated, time consuming, toilet seat cover made of super thin tissue paper to protect us from evil germs. Have any of you actually figured out how to make these successfully work? I have not. They get stuck on things, I have to actually touch the toilet to put it down and get it in place, it's generally a hassle, and what does it matter if the liquid absorbs through the thin tissue barrier anyways? While I like the idea of protecting my body from the seat of that nasty public toilet, let's be honest, it's just easier to squat.

Anyways...this is all a mute point at O'Hare because they have plastic toilet seat covers that automatically change after each user. It is brilliant. You go in the stall, wave your hand in front of the sensor, and it changes out the seat cover right in front of your eyes. I could go to the bathroom all day long in there, or just stay in the stall and read a book and never worry once about what germs I might be contracting. What an amazing invention. When you go to wash up afterwards the seat cover actually competes with the sinks, there are sensors on everything, it is an electronic bathroom...a complete no-touch experience, it is amazing, and for germaphobes like me, it is a slice of coodie-free heaven. This is the first reason I like O'Hare.

Next, I might as well be in a mall. A nice mall, the kind you find in Beverly Hills and North Dallas. There are all kind of stores and bookstores. Clothes, make-up, wine, chocolates, books, nail salons, bathrobes, vintage bookstores, I-pods, day spas...this is a swanky mall that just also happens to have airplanes hanging around. You can shop for hours. Then, when you are hungry and tired, go eat at Macaroni Grill, Wolfgang Puck, Chili's, Harry Carey's. After that fall asleep, like I do, in one of the amazing couches or chairs by all the waterfalls in front of the Westin Hotel. Ride on a walking escalator. Check your email. Watch the indoor tram whiz by. Find dessert. Buy souvenirs. Disneyworld? Pretty close.

This airport also seems to be a hub for a truly unique blend of international travelers. Maybe the reason I like it the most. It is not really closer to Japan than say, LA, but I have never seen so many Japanese businessmen on vacation together than I do at O'Hare. Literally, every time I go to this airport there seems to be an international Japanese summit going on, some sort of field trip, I am not sure. And this is entertaining. Something about the traveling Japanese make me happy. They are always smiling. There are like 60 of them in a group on vacation taking pictures of everything. McDonald's...picture. An advertisement with the statue of liberty...picture. Chicago bears store...picture. Waterfall...picture. An ad for Oprah on the wall...60 Japanese men, Oprah, and a picture.

We were at Millennium Park a few weeks ago with the statues and the weird silver blob that you can see yourself in, and the waterfalls that cascade over a 200 foot tall screen showing people's faces...seriously, a million pictures. And there is no communication between us all, just nods, smiles, and the international look for, "can you please take a picture for us?" This city attracts international tourists. And they are fun to watch. I feel slightly bad saying this, as if internationals on vacation to America are entertainment, but if we are being honest, they are. It's like watching people from Arkansas or Mississippi, or the less traveled of our country, going to New York for the first time. Fanny packs. Guarding their wallets and eyeballing everyone as a potential criminal on the subway, not really knowing how to get a metro card so giving up and paying for a high priced taxi instead, and the dead giveaway, they are wearing the I love New York T-shirt, ball cap, or sweater, and they are helplessly looking for the statue of liberty on a city map afraid to ask anyone for help because, come on, New Yorkers are mean.

This too is a highly enjoyable form of entertainment. Like people watching, but more specific, tourist watching.

So back to O'Hare and the many tourists and internationals bustling through this airport, it is a beautiful sight... it's a lot like the city of Chicago, one of my favorite places. Bustling. Clean. Beautiful. Artistic. Multi-ethnic. Great shopping. Great food. Great places to relax and catch a nap. Full of life. Great accents. Great people. Great sports. Good for people watching. A perfect place to get away to... and the best airport terminals in the country.

So take a vacation to Chicago, but plan an extra day for the airport. Trust me, you will love it.