By Robyn. Most people agree it is best to stay home and stay safe during this COVID 19 pandemic. But sometimes you have to travel. This happened to me when my daughter, quarantining with us over the past few months, accepted a job offer in New York starting in June. Her lease at her apartment in Los Angeles ended in May. She needed to be in her new apartment in New York by that date. And I knew she couldn’t do it alone.
I booked our flight on Delta for the last week in May, getting window seats as close to the front as possible to maximize social distancing. The airline had blocked off all the middle seats as well and advertised their strict protocol disinfecting everything on the plane between each flight. According to the airline, the cabin air was refreshed with outside fresh air during the flight every few minutes, more so than in the average office or store.
TSA was relatively quick since many fewer people were traveling. I wore a mask and gloves and carried hand sanitizer, just pulling down my mask for a second to show my face matched my ID. Everyone at the airport seemed extra friendly and nice. Perhaps they were trying to help nervous passengers feel more at ease.
Automatic hand sanitizers were set up at regular intervals to the gate area. The food areas were all closed, not even take out. The restrooms were spotless with the cleaning crew standing nearby.
The gate agent announced that masks were required, and that they would be boarding the airplane from back to front to allow social distancing. Most of the passengers were young people. On boarding the aircraft we were each given a hand sanitizer wipe and a bag of snacks including a bottle of water and more hand sanitizer. Everything seemed very clean. There was plenty of room in the overhead compartment. The plane was fairly full, given that the middle seats were blocked off. Clearly people were beginning to fly again.
My aisle seat mate was a nervous young man wearing an N95 mask who phoned a friend to tell him he was “sitting in a petri dish”, feeling he could get infected at any time. He practically got into a fist fight with his across the aisle neighbor whom he felt wasn’t wearing his mask properly over his nose. The flight attendant was summoned half a dozen times to make peace between these two. She was a master in diplomacy even offering to put the young man in a seat more to his liking. He refused. Although airlines can require passengers to wear masks to board, getting them to keep them on on a cross country flight is much more difficult.
Once we landed there was a big scramble to get off the plane as quickly as possible. Everyone had forgotten the orderly way they boarded the aircraft. On my return flight I asked the flight attendant if anything could be done to improve disembarking. She said she would make an announcement before we landed for each row to exit one at a time and to allow six feet between each row. Most people followed her directions, a big improvement.
In Los Angeles almost everyone seemed to be wearing a mask, even when running or bicycling on Santa Monica Beach. Mask wearing seemed strictly enforced. I saw three security guards blocking the way of a man who tried to enter a supermarket without a mask.
Our hotel had touchless check in where you print your own room key. We could use the swimming pool one room at a time. Housekeeping came every other day and took a very long time cleaning our room. Restaurants were closed except for take out, but the hotel did make evening cocktails for us in their pretty garden.
After my daughter’s U Haul box was packed and shipped, she flew to New York. She tested negative for COVID 19 two days later at an uncrowded free city run testing center around the corner. New Yorkers all seemed to be wearing masks and being careful, one reason they have gone from the worst state in the pandemic to one of the best.
We drove my daughter’s car to my mother’s house in Las Vegas. Gas stations along the way mostly had closed their restrooms due to the pandemic. Las Vegas was like the “Wild West” with very few people wearing masks. I saw an unmasked security guard in a supermarket arguing with a masked one that he was free to make his own choice. The casinos were reopening and tourists welcomed back. And that was the week the protests started too. Not surprisingly Las Vegas has recently seen a large increase in COVID 19 cases.
We are back in Ann Arbor with no ill effects from our travels. We might travel again this summer, maybe to a less crowded National Park. Again we would be careful, booking only airlines that block middle seats, staying at major chain hotels and using rental car companies that strictly sanitize everything and enforce touchless check in. It’s important also to let a seat mate or Uber driver know if you not comfortable if he pulls down his mask.
We are all figuring out how to best manage our lives during this pandemic, and have different comfort levels about when to return to “normal life”. I like Marcy’s idea of sharing something that brings us joy during these hard times. So I’d like share a picture of a peaceful, empty beach in California that I enjoyed with my children after a lovely drive up the Pacific Coast Highway.