I arrived in Chicago at concourse C.
Don’t think I hadn’t prepared for this. My flight to Montana was in an hour, so since I was in seat 36F, the last person on the flight and the last to get off, I checked the airport map in the inflight magazine. It showed United gates around what appeared to be a large island, labeled “C.”
It showed little blue dots I took to be a shuttle bus trail to other terminals, including one labeled “F.”
I found the departures board and found my connecting flight and its corresponding gate number “F1C.”
I pulled up a map on my iphone. I saw concourses label 1-5.
No solid clues.
But I had a feeling I should be following the blue dots to “F.”
I looked for signage and started following the F arrows expecting a bus or train station like the one I’d gone through to get to my flight earlier in the morning at Dulles International outside D.C.
But after a dark but creatively lit tunnel with walkways, and about seven miles of shiny floors and impenetrable lines into women’s restrooms, I sought help from a United gate attendant.
She pointed the direction I had been heading. “That’s concourse two,” she said, holding up two fingers.
What about my gate number indicated that?
I repeated: “F1C is on concourse two?”
Yes, she said pointing, go there and take a right.
I walked another half-mile.
Soon I saw signs to concourse 2 gates F1D-Fsomething else.
I started feeling really old. How did I have blisters on my feet already?
I stopped to study the sign.
At the bottom of Dreiser-length paragraph I spotted a clue:
F1C with an arrow to the left.
I was finally getting warm.
My flight was to Missoula, Montana.
When I saw a woman with a dark purple fleece jacket dripping from her backpack, her braid fuzzy, wearing socks with her sandals, I knew I had arrived.
And there was a woman wearing an L.L. Bean shirt with horizontal stripes, the man she was with wearing a barn coat.
I noticed another woman wearing carpenter jeans—you know the kind with the strap from back pocket to sideseam to carry your hammer—or icepick?
I spotted an electrical outlet, grabbed a seat and opened my laptop.
A young woman with her long hair roped into a clumsy ponytail – just like mine — sat down next to me at the computer table, tossed her tweed jacket on the counter and unabashedly pulled out a whole-wheat sandwich from a zip-lock bag.
Another woman seated nearby held a baby that was not crying.
And a sure sign I’d found my gate: a short woman with boot cut too-long jeans, with the bottoms of her cowboy boots sticking out the top of her backpack. She dropped her things against a window and watched the activity outside.
I am the only one using an electronic device.
And when I got to Missoula I knew I’d arrived: In the women’s restroom people were leaving their luggage all over the place, but certainly not taking it into the stalls with them.