Hello readers, recently I traveled to California so that I could see my partner for the first time since I had to leave campus in March. As I was on the airplane I thought about all of the Oberlin College students that will be flying into Cleveland soon and will be nervous that they may acquire the Coronavirus. Therefore, I decided to document my trip from Florida to California and back and give you a glimpse into what traveling during this pandemic is like. This is part one of My COVID Travel Story, I hope you enjoy.
The alarm woke me up at 5:30 AM. I knew this was a step closer to realization but it still felt more like a dream than real life. I turned the alarm off before it awoke my brother. I rolled out of bed, walked across the room, and covered my face in water. The warm water breathed life into my body and I began to wake up. I proceeded to do all of the usual things one does when they get ready for the day. I then grabbed my backpack and walked to the living room. My dad was sitting there waiting for me. "You ready to go?" he said to me in a tired voice. I replied with a head nod.
I always find early mornings in Florida interesting. The weather feels beautiful; the warmth feels like it's hugging your skin. The warmth hugged me all the way to the car. As we drove on the highway, rap music pumped out of the car's speakers. Drake released a new song the night before. The horns that played in the song trumpeted through our vehicle as if a king was arriving in a chariot. My dad and I nodded our heads to the beat as he drove the car.
We arrived at the airport and he dapped me up and told me he loved me. I had my mask on before our car stopped moving. When we were driving I would constantly check my pocket to make sure my mask was still there. At this point, masks are like a passport into any public area in the world. If you don't have a mask, you're not even allowed in buildings anymore. That is a good thing.
I got straight into the TSA line and made it to the part where they check your ID and boarding pass, when the TSA lady tells me they aren't scanning phone boarding passes. I was very confused but she pointed to a section and told me to go get my boarding pass printed over there. The explanation they gave me was they are trying to conserve energy. I don't know how that conserves energy, but I just went and got my boarding pass printed out and kept it moving.
When I arrived at my gate, I saw the seats were labeled so that no one sat directly to the left or right of the other person. I scanned the seating and found the seat that was furthest away from everyone. The first thing I did when I sat down was cover my hands and my phone in hand sanitizer. I've always heard that hand sanitizer kills the good and bad germs so it can be counterproductive. Personally, though, it makes me feel more comfortable in this pandemic, so I'm just going to have to lose some good germs. I sat there for about an hour pumping rap music out of my earbuds. I continued to observe the area around me and noticed that a man who was forced to swap out a bandana that covered his mouth with a mask was going to be on my flight. TSA didn't provide him with the medical-grade mask that he replaced it with, though. He produced it from his backpack, laughing as he stated that he's always prepared while he wrapped the elastic around his ears, securing the mask to his mouth. This interaction led me to think about how things have changed in the half-year of living in a pandemic. When the coronavirus first hit the U.S. people operated with fear. The Ft. Lauderdale airport was a ghost town when Corona first arrived; now I look around and the airport certainly isn't packed but it is populated. I hear laughter underneath masks, whereas before all I saw was nervous eyes. Life is different now; people are getting used to the unprecedented.
When I first got on the airplane they blew cold steam out of the air conditioning and requested everyone pull down their window covers. I assume this had something to do with ventilation to prevent the spread of Corona. The steam was so cold I had to put a hoodie on so if you are traveling soon I suggest you wear something warm on the plane. As I'm writing this, I am thousands of miles above the ground typing out on my cell phone. A mask covers my face as I'm on my way to California. The airplane is filled to capacity. I will continue to tell you more about my experience traveling during this pandemic.