DOWNTOWN — Quit rubbing it in, Hawaii!
Ads from the islands' tourism office have popped up in subway stations and on "L" platforms around Chicago, showing off sandy beaches, volcanoes brimming with lava and — of course — the warm weather.
And Chicago's commuters, usually seen peeking out from a tiny sliver of uncovered skin between scarf and fur-lined parka hood, are fleeing.
"People are tired at looking at those mounds of snow and fighting the traffic," said Karen Kimmey, owner and manager of OK Travel Agency in Clearing. "We've gotten calls from people on the road just saying, 'Can you get me somewhere?'"
Even if people can't get away immediately, they're booking trips for months down the line just for a little peace of mind, Kimmey said.
"People get depressed," she said. "They don’t care — [if their trip is in] April, May, June — it's something to look forward to."
With reports of the polar vortex freezing out even usually warm destinations in the southern U.S. like Florida, Chicagoans are heading farther south to Mexico, and, yes, Hawaii, Kimmey said.
A spokeswoman for Orbitz said Chicagoans are increasingly heading to Arizona, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean destinations. Chicago travelers booked flights to warm weather destinations for January and February at a rate of four times that of cold destinations.
"We hope Hawaii will be unavoidable this month" because of the ad campaign, said John Monahan, president and CEO of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, via email. He said that his bureau isn't targeting Chicago just because of this especially brutal winter; it's been advertising here since 2010.
"We will continue marketing to the Windy City ... polar vortex or not," he said.
So when trudging through Chicago's slush, are the flowery Hawaii ads a welcome distraction for CTA commuters, or just adding insult to injury?
"Some sadist put this here," one Red Line passenger said.
Watch the video to hear more.