Okay, I’m ready. I think to myself. And, I look insane.
I’ve got hiking socks rolled over my leggings and oversized medical gloves tucked into my long-sleeved shirt. Oh, and a velcro-ed on face shield attached to a visor that I’m wearing over my two masks (thank you, by the way, to my Google Home for (a) listening to my conversations while I talked about how scared I was to fly right now and (b) showing me Amazon prime ads for such an eclectic safety item for $25, shipping included).
Yeah, I might be a little overboard here. The ridiculousness of my entire get-up is not lost on me, but I know I won’t feel comfortable to fly without it.
I get to the airport an hour earlier than I usually do “in case there are corona delays,” but the Fort Lauderdale Airport is pretty empty for 10 a.m. on a Sunday. I use the extra time to wander around and see just how coronavirus and the ensuing fears have changed how we fly. The chairs are alternately decorated with stickers saying “Thank you for practicing social distancing,” encouraging visitors to stay the mandated 6-feet-away from each other. The food courts are dark, chairs on the tables, to prevent us from eating close to each other. Everyone has some variation of a face mask, buff or face shield on, and I silently thank the ones with the latter for helping me feel less … insane.
What a brave, new world we’re in.
“Wth. And aren’t you hot?” my cousin asks after I send her a selfie of me in all my absurdity, looking like the latest reject bee keeper or rag-tag ghostbuster who I wouldn’t trust to catch anything, other than an airborne virus everyone is trying to avoid.
“Better sweaty than corona,” I quip.
I chalk my “paranoia” up to the fact that I’ve got weak lungs, am pre-diabetic and personally know about a dozen people who have gotten coronavirus since it first broke out in February/March. One person in my extended family died from it, and my eldest aunt, who is still recovering in Orlando from her infection, calls it “the Devil’s virus.”
I’m flying home to California to help my guy move a bunch of my stuff into storage, to see my 96-year-old grandpa for his birthday and to meet my cousins’ two new babies. Both under two months old, they’ve never known a non-corona world, and their moms had to deliver with facemasks on. Imagine lamaze breathing through a face mask. No thanks.
If not for so many big things happening and the ability to stack my visit to quarantine long enough to get a test and know I am safe before visiting my grandpa, I probably would’ve opted to delay my trip. With cases still skyrocketing in Florida and California, it just didn’t seem wise to seal myself up in a flying air tube with complete strangers to get myself from one hot spot to the next.
I ultimately chose to go because who knows the next time I will feel 100% safe again ‒ maybe never? Like my colleague Sara Matthis said, in corona times, the most we can wish for is to “be lucky.” Life needs to find a way to go on, and I need to go home to be with my people.
Which brings me back to my OOTD – my outfit of the day for my air travels. It allowed me to feel safe enough to risk air travel. I also booked with JetBlue because they’re blocking off middle seats to encourage social distancing and chose a direct flight from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco, minimizing how many airports, airplanes and different groups of people I’d be exposed to.
In sum, all that was enough to give me the peace of mind to get on the plane. And, despite taking a melatonin to sleep through the entire flight to not imagine little spiky spheres floating around the cabin, I felt as safe as one can in pandemic times.
I felt self-conscious and silly at just about every juncture of the journey, but the overwhelming gratitude I felt being able to tell everyone I love that, “I’m back!” made it all worth it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to sit in my pandemic paranoia until two weeks have passed and a negative test is in hand, but at least I can do that from the comfort of my family’s house.
In these uncertain and really, really weird times, we all can give each other more grace when it comes to pandemic-inspired decisions. My coast-to-coast journey taught me that it’s just as important to give ourselves grace, too, and to do whatever makes us feel sane and safe, even if it makes us look as far away from that as possible.