My dream New Year's Eve

We flew out Dec. 31 from O’Hare and the airport was completely empty. The weather was sunny, clear and 60 degrees. TSA waved us through, smiling and wishing us a wonderful flight. Then, they called us an airport transport and whisked us to our gate. The ground attendants upgraded us to first class and we boarded immediately. The captain came on the intercom and said we would arrive in New York City 40 minutes early due to the westerlies. Meanwhile, we drank champagne and ate caviar, lobster and chocolate cake.

When we arrived at La Guardia, it was as empty as O’Hare. Our bags were the first to come off and hand delivered to us by ground attendants. We got a taxi immediately and when we arrived at the Waldorf, the taxi driver refused to accept a tip. He said taking us was reward enough.

Our room at the Waldorf overlooked the East River and the United Nations. Champagne was waiting for us and more caviar. The weather was the best in a hundred years — sunny, warm and crystal clear. We sipped our champagne, watched the ships on the East River and marveled at the Statue of Liberty.

Then we showered and dressed in our best formal attire. Our limo picked us up at 10 p.m. and took us to Times Square, where the New York police had cleared a space just for us among the teeming crowds. Knowing it would be hard on our necks to watch the New Year’s Eve ball drift down to midnight, they had two recliners waiting for us, perfectly titled so we could watch the countdown in complete comfort.

At midnight, we celebrated and exchanged emails with all those friendly New Yorkers. Then the police cleared a path through the crowd and our limo pulled right up to our recliners. Before we knew it, we were at the Plaza for an exclusive, after-midnight gala. We drank more champagne and talked with the likes of Matt Damon and others, all of whom said we were just the wittiest people they had ever met.

And then ... and then I woke up.

And I remembered we had actually celebrated the London New Year’s Eve at 6 p.m. Chicago time, drank too much beer and ate too many Italian beef sandwiches before my wife and I plopped into bed at 8 p.m. Chicago time. Now it was 12:15 a.m. I nudged my wife and wished her a Happy New Year. She groaned and turned away. Oh, well, at least I got more bed space.

I turned onto my back and thought of – you guessed it – John Keats, who captured this moment so perfectly in “Ode To A Nightingale” — “Tender is the night; do I wake or sleep?”

Happy New Year.

— Bill Barre of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email him at [email protected].