Monday, 06 July 2020.
Well I guess I should start this post by explaining the "germaphobe" part of the title, because I'm not really sure that anyone who has met me over the last three years knows that side of me.
It's true! I used to be a germaphobe! Big time, too. Actually, just yesterday morning I OPENED A COFFEE SHOPPE DOOR and held it for My Other E, who was simultaneously so shocked and impressed that she took a moment and just stared. Hah usually, it's the other way around— I stop and stare until she opens the door for me. Sometimes she will even stare back at me, but I never give in. Overcoming my disgust for public spaces is something I've silently been working on over the last four years, having lived in multiple major cities, i.e. New York City, Paris and London.
Now, I know that everyone experiences germaphobia in their own ways. The ways that I used to experience it was:
& THE LIST GOES ON, however I will stop here for now. I am also highly OCD, which is something I have also silently been working on overcoming, so this naturally plays a part in some of the things above, as well. Hehehe, but don't get "OCD" confused with organized or scheduled, because I am neither of those things, and those who have either traveled with me or live with me surely know that. Let's just say, in terms of life, I prefer to always "play it by ear."
Now that that's sorted, let's get to the real reason you're reading this post— you want to know what it's like to fly internationally during a global pandemic.
So, and I say this so honestly... IT WAS AMAZING. I wish I could always fly through a pandemic (minus the pandemic). Since most borders are closed except to nationals, in addition to it currently not being advised to travel for leisure, most airports and airplanes are empty. Not literally, but almost.
On my international flight from London to Boston, there were approximately 23 people. And, from the international airport that day, there were only— in total— less than one page of departures. Since international flights right now can only fly into a limited number of cities in the US, more than half of those people on my flight were transferring at Boston. Never before have I exited a plane's terminal, found and hauled my luggages off of the conveyor belt, and made it through customs in under ten minutes. Alright, you got me. It took me about ten minutes to figure out how to maneuver three suitcases, a backpack and a tote bag all by myself (this was the 'big move' from abroad), but figuring out that maneuver probably took longer than the two layers of customs combined.
Let's backtrack now, and talk 'flight': The flight was the best part. One of the biggest effects that germaphobia had on my life, pre-conservatoire training, was that I didn't enjoy being within a close proximity to a bunch people. I was never a great hugger (but now love them), backed up when people talked too close to me, and dreaded sitting next to humans I didn't already know on a flight for many hours. It just made me so uncomfortable. I am definitely not claustrophobic with small spaces, but I am when it's people that are surrounding me. So, this flight with less than 30 people on it, completely spread out through the plane, was SO IDEAL.
With a sparse amount of passengers comes oh so great service, may I just add. Let's put this into a little perspective: there were so few of us, that instead of trying to push a cart full of food and drinks up and down the scrunched aisles of an aircraft, the flight attendants casually walked up and down, back and forth, with trays topped with glasses of wine and orange juice (multiple times) for all of the passengers. You better bet I helped myself.
Yes, now I'm going to answer the question you haven't yet asked, but really desperately want to know, whether or not I wore my mask the entire flight. Yes, I did (with the only exception of drinking those glasses of wine and orange juice). To be honest, I am not so sure if my fellow fliers wore their masks throughout the duration of flight, but that's not because I didn't check— it's because the next closest seated- passengers were ROWS both in front and behind me. Also, I don't know bout you, but I for sure have been hyper- aware throughout this quarantine of having to cough or sneeze in public, and every time desperately fight the urge and hold it in. So, another perk— no sneezing, coughing, hacking or crying neighbors (that's me, guilty, I'm that that person who sobs all-flight-long because, thousands of feet in the air, everything little thing makes me emotional okayyy).
Upon boarding, every passenger was given a 'personal safety kit' that came with sanitizers, wipes, etc. Really, anything you could need at anytime during those seven hours on board.
Before boarding, there were multiple tables filled along the hallways where people sat handing out extra masks and personal safety kits, you know, just incase somebody somehow made it by the previous mask-check at check-in, again at security, and at all of the other stations along the way without one. #safteyfirst
Like I said, this journey back has been the safest I have ever felt flying. Honestly, it was my ideal flight. Wearing a mask in the bathroom protected me against the fecal bacteria via toilet plumes, there was room to spread out across the row / didn't have to worry about reclining into somebody's sleepy head behind me, unlimited wine and orange juice served to me on a tray, disinfected everything everywhere, no hacking humans on a plane... I cannot iterate IDEAL CONDITIONS enough (again, minus the whole pandemic thing). Also, it was the first time I have
truly ever felt cleaner walking off of a plane than walking on...
Lastly, the airport. Despite no food stores being open to eat while waiting to board, I had the airport almost all to myself, which meant that I was free to get up and dance, to stretch, and to do the thing Elyssa does best-- handstand! I mean, don't get me wrong, I usually do these things anyways while waiting to board (when I'm not phoning in a friend to calm my ridiculously sobbing self—uhh, did I mention that I never sleep the night before flying? No? Well, that's why my emotions are always extra high by the time I finally reach the plane's gate), however this time I didn't have to worry about onlookers. I could cry, dance and handstand all for myself.
Author's footnote: I am not a medical professional, and this entry is in no way me advising anyone to travel internationally during this time. For specific reasons pertaining to graduation, student housing and a VISA, I chose to move out during this time. Please stay aware of COVID-19 updates, and be respectful. (Wear that mask and wash those hands). Thank you
All of my stories are non-fiction, as well as the people in them. However, I have given each and every one a stage name with careful thought and detail, because all of the people in my stories are just that fabulous.