My best friend since preschool got married last weekend in our hometown in Iowa. I have been living in Charleston, South Carolina for two years now, and decided to fly home after a full day of work on the Thursday before the wedding. I was booked on the last flight of the day into Dubuque, Iowa.
Now I must say that the Chicago O'Hare Airport is notorious for delayed flight schedules, and that particular Thursday was no different. Our flight was a bit delayed and upon landing in Chicago, airplanes were lined up outside the gates, impatiently waiting their turn to park and unload. Just my luck, I missed my flight into Dubuque.
Luckily I was able to get myself a seat on a later flight to Moline, Illinois, a city only an hour away from my hometown. Switching flights, however, required that I leave the secure airport area, check in with a new airline, and go back through the security line. I now had exactly one hour to navigate my way clear across the huge airport and wait in several lines or I'd be spending the night snoozing on the airport floor.
Now I consider myself to be quite skilled when it comes to dodging people in a crowded space. I guess this comes from the months I spent working in the Herald Square Business District in always-crowded New York City. And as a frequent flyer, I have no problem navigating my way through large airports. Airports do an excellent job of hanging custom plastic signs throughout the airport directing even a first-time flyer to their proper gate with ease. There are plastic signs everywhere! They point to restrooms, food courts, airline gates, cell phone charging stations, baggage claim...they point the way to everything except where I needed to go! (Because think about it...how often in an airport do people try to exit through the entrance?)
Because of the lack of signage, I found myself desperately searching for an airport employee that I could speak with without waiting in line first. When I finally found someone, they pointed the way out of security to where they claimed check in would be. With a quick thank you, I nearly propelled myself through the gate only to find that the check-in lines were nowhere to be found. I had been mis-led, and since I was already outside the security gates, I would have to go out of my way and navigate myself to where I needed to be outdoors at the airport.
There I was, sprinting through the humid heat and making my way around the outside of Chicago O'Hare. "What a joke" I thought to myself. "Had there been plastic signs, I surely wouldn't have been misled!" Plus, time was a'tickin'! My chances of catching my Zzz's in an airport terminal with a hard suitcase for a pillow was shaping up to become my reality.
But I finally made it to that American Airline check-in desk. And there I waited. And upon receiving my new boarding pass, I made my way to the security line. And waited. And with a quick dash to gate C4, I made it just in time for final boarding call.
While I am well aware that leaving through the entrance at an airport isn't the most traveled path, I am positive I am not the only one who has been in my shoes. I certainly could've been spared a whole lot of sweat and tears (literally!) with just a simple sign.
In my next life as an airport manager, I'll be sure to display a plethora of new, you can count on that!
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