What It’s Like to Fly Right Now
One of the benefits of staying at home is that I talk to my family members more often. My mother, father, and sister all live in Ohio. A few Saturday’s ago my father called me. Usually, we talk once every few months. Now, we keep each other informed about our health, our other family members, and most importantly the status of his wedding.
My father got engaged last Thanksgiving and planned to get married this June. When things began to close, they delayed the wedding to August. But the Saturday he called, the date had changed again.
“We’ve been thinking with everything going on, it was best to get things moving,” he said. I thought he was going to tell me that he and his fiance had already gotten married. But then, “We’re getting married next Saturday.”
At first, I was elated. I had been homesick and looking for an excuse to go see my family. I told him I would love to be there. But after a day of thinking, the reality hit me. First of all, there was my car. Back in March, I hit a heavy trashcan and my side mirror broke, making my car unsafe to drive. It still wasn’t fixed.
Then there was my husband. Travel restrictions were in place for government workers. Even if I traveled without him, would he have to quarantine when I got back? His job still requires him to go to the office; it is not the kind one can do from home. I didn’t want to put his work in jeopardy. There were too many questions.
On Mother’s Day, I was video-calling my mom and my sister Sarah telling them that I didn’t think the trip would be possible. Sarah said that she had already spoken to dad. He knew the trouble the trip might cause. I felt terrible. A few days later I took my car to the repair shop, hoping it would be a quick fix. They needed to order the parts. My dreams of driving were dashed. I convinced myself that the trip was off.
Until my husband came home that night. He said that traveling was fine according to his superior. In fact, his coworker was planning to go to Florida that weekend.
“Let me buy you a plane ticket. Flights have never been cheaper,” he said. But the idea of dealing with an airport scared me. It sounded like a stressful ordeal. Besides, who would pick me up? Wouldn’t that be inconvenient for everyone? I was looking for excuses not to travel now.
In the end, my husband called Sarah, and together they convinced me to go. They both knew I would be miserable if I missed this chance. We found a flight for the next evening.
I was scheduled to leave at 8:30 PM and land in Ohio by 9:50 PM. It was the one direct flight available. Earlier flights involved at least 2 connections. When I got to the airport I was nervous. I imagined chaos and panic. But when I walked in, it was a ghost town. Granted, it was late. But there was still an eerie emptiness to it.
There was one security gate. Stickers were on the floor spaced six feet apart, designating where we should stand. My boarding pass was on my phone. The TSA agent had me place it on the scanner myself so she didn’t have to touch it. When she checked my ID, I had to lower my mask so she could see that my face matched the picture.
When I got through security, there was one restaurant open. Looking inside, I saw the chairs stacked upside down on the tables. It was clear that it had been carry-out only for awhile. I found my gate and sat down. For the most part, everyone was wearing masks but didn’t seem worried about sitting closer together. We sat one or two chairs apart. Nothing extreme.
I sat near a woman who struck up a conversation with the desk attendant. She took her mask off before talking and leaned in close. She didn’t seem concerned about the distance between them. The attendant managed a few steps back and kept her mask on.
There were only 30 people on my flight. They boarded us ten at a time and asked that we did not sit in the back rows of the plane. I got an entire row to myself. The flight crew announced that we would not be getting snacks or drinks. Flight attendants still offered to collect trash if we had any. The hardest part was keeping my mask on. When we landed there wasn’t as much urgency to exit as usual. A gentleman helped me get my luggage down. It seems that I worried for nothing.
My flight home was earlier. It was scheduled to take off at 5:30 PM. The airport was a little busier, but still empty feeling. One carry-out restaurant was open, nothing else. Boarding was the same except in Ohio they do not require you to wear a mask. “However, if someone on the flight is uncomfortable we will ask you to put one on,” the announcer told us.
We boarded ten at a time and were told to avoid sitting in the back. Again, I sat by myself. There was a large group of young men on my flight. They couldn’t have been more than 20 years old at the most. Two sat together in the aisle across from me. One of them had never flown before. I could only imagine how bizarre the experience must have been for him. He crossed himself before take-off. I learned that they were all headed to a base in South Carolina.
“Take care of each other,” the flight attendant said when we landed. “Live a lot and laugh a lot.”
Was going to the airport worth it? Of course. My experience flying was odd, but nothing terrifying. I got to watch my father get married, surprise my mother, and see another location besides the inside of my house. But, I don’t think I will be traveling again anytime soon. Flying might have been easy, but I’ll wait until things are open and we’re allowed to go outside. Besides, I got my car fixed. I like driving better.