Chapter 5: Why did I get kidnapped in Chicago?
I don’t even know if you CAN get “kid” napped as an adult. I’ll get on with the story and we will see what you think.
I decided to work as a Consultant early in my IT career. I grew up from a very humble background, which means we were broke and didn’t get to travel much. I had dreams as a kid to see the world, so being a Consultant would allow me to do that on the company’s dime.
Right out of college I got the opportunity to work at one of the most prestigious consulting firms and was there for four years traveling all over the place. To slow down a bit, I decided to work at another prestigious accounting firm that still had plenty of travel days.
Periodically, the company had meetings and training that brought the entire employee base together in one city. This particular instance, it was Chicago. We were all given airfare and itineraries instructing us on where to go when we arrived and what times to be at the training.
I landed in Chicago in record time. I noticed I had plenty of time to get to the hotel where the training was being held. I wanted time to shower and change so I went to the area where the taxi were parked and got in line.
During those times, competition for taxi drivers was super high. There was no Uber or Lyft in those days. To keep things fair, taxi drivers were instructed to park in line at a designated place. As riders arrived, they were also put in a queue. Then, the airport employee handling taxi traffic, would assign a person to a taxi.
When I arrived there was no line so I was immediately placed in a taxi. I was unfamiliar with the taxi company, but since they were at the airport, I hopped in (it all seemed very official).
I gave the driver the address and the name of the hotel and off we went. I had driven between O’Hare and the city before and the hotel was on Whacker Avenue, so it should have been a relatively short ride. (Actually, I was on many projects in Chicago and almost took this drive with a taxi weekly.)
I admit I wasn’t paying attention to where we were going as I had work to do. After 20 minutes, I began to look around to determine what was going on. I should have arrived at the hotel or at least be close to it. But I didn’t see anything that even resembled downtown. In fact we were driving down a really remote two lane highway and there were trees as far as the eye could see.
It was beginning to get dark. This was the early 2000s, so there was no Google Maps app nor other technology to determine my location. (Go to the internet and search ‘hottest cell phones’ in 2006 to see what I mean).
“Excuse me, are we going in the right direction?” I asked the taxi driver.
“Yes, we should be there in 30 minutes” he said impatiently.
We should have already arrived, I thought. This driver is indicating an arrival of 30 minutes from now. I was beginning to worry because I wouldn’t be able to help him with directions since I had no idea where I was.
“I am confused” I said. “We have already been driving 20 minutes, why will it take an additional 30 minutes to get downtown?”
“Just be patient, we will get there” he stated. I didn’t recognize his accent, but it was clear to me that he understood what I was saying.
“But Sir, it only takes 20 minutes to get downtown from O’Hare Airport.” I said flatly. “Where are we?”
He seemed to grow impatient about my questions. He continued to assure me that he knew what he was doing and that I should be patient until we arrived at the hotel.
At this point, I felt it necessary to get another taxi. I just need him to pull over and let me out. I waited until I saw a gas station or something to pull over to. Once I saw one I asked him to pull over.
“There is a gas station up ahead, could you please pull over? I’d like to get out now” I asked firmly, cell phone in hand.
“What do you mean no?? Wait! We are passing the gas station. Pull over now.” I was firm in my instruction.
“No. I will get you to the hotel” he stated with a raised voice.
I noticed that we were about to go into more wooded areas and I became beyond concerned. We had been driving for so long and we seemed to be getting further into the wooded areas.
“Pull this car over right now, I want to get out!” I yelled.
“I am not letting you out until we arrive” he insisted.
I pulled out my phone and called the police. As soon as they answered, I explained my situation. I was trapped in a fast moving car and the taxi driver won’t let me out. The police dispatch continued to ask me where I was, I tried to describe my location but all that was there was road and trees. When the dispatch operator paused to get assistance, I asked the taxi driver to let me out. Again he refused.
The dispatch was unusually calm and eventually told me I needed to be transferred to the highway patrol since I was technically on the highway. She transferred me and my concern began to turn into fear.
What do I do if they can’t find me? I have to get out of this car.
The highway patrol was more helpful. He asked me to tell him everything I saw along the way to better pinpoint my location. As I saw highway marker signs, they began to understand my location. They were sending someone to track me down. This didn’t make me feel great as we were literally a moving target.
The driver continued to speed down the highway. I stayed on the line with the police as we passed what seemed like an unending line of trees. Periodically the police would ask me to ask the driver to pull over but the driver refused. I was on speaker phone the entire time so the police could hear the driver refusing.
One of the organizers from my job called. I should have arrived over an hour ago. I asked the police to hold on because I knew they were concerned. I promised to make it quick. When I spoke to a familiar voice, I blurted out what was happening.
“I’m in a taxi and the driver won’t let me out. I don’t know where I am and the police are on the other line. I have to go.” I am sure I was talking as fast as the damn taxi was driving but I preferred to be on the phone with the police. Plus who knows what happens with cell phone signals in the woods!
The organizer said they understood and told me to call them as soon as I got to safety. I agreed and quickly returned to the call with the police.
“Look around and tell me what you see, I believe my people are close to you.”
I looked around and saw a gas station up ahead. I told them this and the police told me to hold the phone to the taxi driver.
“This is Officer Smith speaking. I have two sets of officers coming up behind you now. Pull over at the gas station ahead or you will be arrested.”
Finally, the taxi driver complied. The taxi pulled over and I bolted out of the back seat with my phone and purse in hand. My luggage was in the trunk, but I didn’t care at this point. As Officer Smith said, two police cars quickly pulled up behind the taxi. Two officers came to speak to me, the other two went to speak to the taxi driver.
To my luck, the officers were already updated with most of the details around what happened. They took my account quickly and waited for the other two officers to complete their questioning of the taxi driver.
“Are you ok?” one of the officers inquired. I must have looked a mess. I looked down and found my hands were shaking. I was probably shaking too.
“I’m fine, I just want to get out of here.”
The other officers returned and immediately asked: “Ma’am, where did you get this taxi???”
“From O’Hare airport.”
“And you didn’t ask the driver to stop anywhere along the way?” He asked.
“No, we were supposed to go straight to the hotel downtown.” I wondered where the officer was going with this line of questioning.
The officers who spoke to the taxi driver turned to the officers who spoke to me. They began chatting and I couldn’t hear what they were saying. They laughed then two of the officers (who spoke to the taxi driver) left. The officers that remained recapped the story. It seems that the taxi driver is new to Chicago and got lost. He was upset he made such a mistake which was why he was so insistent on getting me to the hotel.
Insistent?!?! He was ignoring all my requests to pull over but ok.
The officer continued... The fare was over $150 which lined up with his story about getting lost. Now the taxi driver was concerned about getting paid for his time.
“The driver should receive some payment but $150 doesn’t seem fair” the officer said scratching his head.
“I don’t have a problem giving him money, just give me my stuff and I want to leave.” At this point, I am spent. I am tired, hungry and STILL not at my destination. In my opinion, this driver deserves zero dollars and zero cents for getting us lost and disobeying direct orders.
“Are you ok with giving him $50?”
“Whatever, may I have my luggage back please?”
This idiot is lucky I am too tired and impatient to file charges. And he wants to be paid? We aren’t going to discuss the fact the police didn’t even offer pressing charges as an option. At this point, I just want to go home (not even to the training).
I almost threw the cash at the poor officer and he went to retrieve my bags. I called a car service and let my office coordinator know I was on the way. By that time, two more hours had passed. Miraculously, I made it in time for the company dinner. I washed my face and pulled myself together to attend. I didn’t need everyone there knowing what just happened, and I was hungry.
I got to the ballroom where dinner was served and a small team of people ran up to me almost immediately. Apparently word got out to the whole training group (so the whole damn company knew) about what happened to me and they wanted the whole story with all the details…
We couldn’t keep this one on a ‘need to know’ basis huh?
Maybe the gossip was too juicy or maybe the training was too boring. I guess I should be happy someone got some entertainment from all this bullshit.
Back to my question: Why did I get kidnapped in Chicago? Maybe you can answer this one because I sure in the hell don’t know.