I got on a plane last week to fly to Kansas (you can read about that in a prior post). I was really nervous about it and wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing (safety-wise). I’ve basically been barricaded in my apartment for the most part since the virus outbreak (aside from a weekend at Disney – which is cleaner than the grocery store), seeing only a handful of people. It’s been like this since my office shut down back in early Spring and I started working from home.
Certainly, I’ve avoided small confined spaces with strangers like the plague (get it?) since this started, so getting onto this flying tube with a bunch of other random people did make me nervous. But… I wanted to go. I needed to see what would happen when I got there. I needed to know what it would FEEL like – this… thing… we’ve been flirting around with, off and on, for the last eighteen years. And when I get it in my head that I want to do something, I do it. This does not always work out in my favor, granted. But when I think something is important, I make it a priority – often putting myself at risk.
And anyway, in the middle of a pandemic when literally anything could happen, in a time that found us both unattached for, really, the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel like I had the time to waste… or to push it off. Or at least there wasn’t the certainty that the opportunity would still be there when things became right again.
Still, because I am a planner, a prepper, whatever the hell you want to call it, he and I did take precautions.
I flew on Southwest, because (at least through November 30), they are leaving the middle seats open. That doesn’t help a ton – because there’s certainly not six feet of distance between the two seats, but it helps some. And it lowers the volume of people who are on each flight.
At the time I chose direct flights – I thought if I were going to be exposed to people, it would be better to be exposed to the same group of people for that extended period of time instead of meandering through random airports on a layover while I waited for another flight. I am still not sure which is safer – it probably depends on where the layover is, how long it is, etc. They say that prolonged exposure is more dangerous than short exposure, but they also say that walking through aerosols and touching surfaces isn’t great either – and I’m much more likely to come into contact with both of those things if I’m wandering around several airports than if I’m sitting, facing forward, on a plane. And anyway, layovers are frustrating at the best of times.
I then decided to get an upgrade on masks. After doing some research, I went with some masks from Masqd (www.masqd.com) because the reviews talked about how comfortable they are, how well they fit your face, and because many of them accommodate removeable filters. I don’t know how well the filters work in comparison to masks without filters, but I wanted to make sure I had that option available if I went with it. So I ordered three of their masks, and a box of their filters. I’m happy to report that they really ARE as comfortable as they claim, that they really do fit my face (and I have a narrow face), and I could easily breathe through the filter – even if it did certainly increase the weight of the mask slightly.
I found a container of sanitizer wipes and also brought a bottle of hand sanitizer with me on the plane (TSA lets you carry those through now). The plan was to wipe down everything before I touched it with my bare hands (like the seatbelt).
The Professor and I talked about whether I should change and/or shower before I let him touch me after getting off the plane but ultimately we decided it wouldn’t be necessary so I didn’t pack a spare change of clothes in my pack (everything was in my checked bag).
Finally I was ready. I am happy to report that it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The airport was empty, for the most part, and there were hand sanitizing stations everywhere. Seats were blocked off to encourage distancing – and most people did stay the hell away from each other. One lady decided to sit next to me while I was waiting for my plane, took her mask off, and started speaking loudly… so I just got up and walked to another location (of which there were plenty, since it was so dead in there).
Southwest’s boarding procedures are better, too, as people don’t line up like they used to and they board in groups of ten. I am sure it helped that I paid for an A-spot upgrade. I got my pick of seats (a window seat to ensure that I was at least away from people on one side) and didn’t have to pass through crowds of people as I walked to it.
During the flight, Southwest still does snacks and gives out small cups of water to those that want them during the flight. I abstained because I didn’t want to remove my mask for any reason. A lot of people did (and I really felt, during that entire flight, that that was probably the most dangerous time) and afterward put their masks back on – mostly… a few people had to be reminded but no one got bent out of shape about it. Really, those was two of the more subdued flights I’ve ever been on – and that’s a good thing!
Like the boarding process, the deboarding process was also very organized. No one was shoving anyone, everyone let each aisle leave before they started to push forward. Southwest didn’t really orchestrate that like they did the boarding process, but at least on that flight it wasn’t needed.
All in all, under similar circumstances, I’d fly again if I had to. I mean I don’t do it every day, I don’t have to travel for work, but I felt pretty safe with the safety measures in place and was confident enough, when I landed, to feel that I was at least at the point of decontamination so that I didn’t have to wear a hazmat suit to say hello properly after I got my feet on the ground.
Like I said in an earlier post – I don’t know if (though I think it’s likely) or when I’ll go back up there. I don’t know if (though again, it’s “most likely” – per him) or when he will come here. I hope that either (or both) happen soon. But whenever they happen, or if they do, if the pandemic is still in full force (and I mean come on… with all of it exploding again, how could it not be), as long as there’s an airline that has at least some of their protective measures still in place, I won’t feel so iffy about the travel part of it.