I thought going on a date was the most stressful activity I could engage in during Covid time. I was wrong. I found something equally anxiety ridden, stressful and scary. I decided to get on an airplane! Remember flying after 911 and how nerve wracking it felt with shoe removal, security checks, long lines and wondering if any of your fellow passengers was a terrorist? No problema compared to what I went through to get on an airplane during a pandemic. I needed a round trip ticket so it was two planes! Suddenly my lifelong fear of flying had nothing to do with the plane crashing.
Operation Air Covid
It was a mentally taxing yet strategically based operation as I tried to plan every step. I had to get to San Francisco from Chicago with as little human contact as possible. I never book online because I take my dog Tulip with me on the plane which requires talking to a special agent. To be entirely honest, however, it always really confuses and strains my brain and I can never for the life of me figure which flight goes where and when. I always end up calling the airline and being on hold. Fortunately, I only had to wait on the line for 15 minutes for “Operation Air Covid” to get underway. First and foremost I needed as empty a plane as possible. I wasn’t under any pressure to leave a certain day so I asked the agent to check every single flight the week of Oct 19 and pinpoint which was the least booked. She patiently went through all of them and told me how many seats were empty vs how many seats were on the plane. I would have hung up on me. Next step was where to safely position myself. My doctor told me to make sure I had a window seat as a way to avoid people when they walked to the bathroom. I successfully booked one at the far back of the plane in an area where no one was yet sitting. My strategy was on track!
The Bathroom Issue
The bathroom issue was a huge obstacle to overcome. My doctor also advised me to drink nothing for hours before or during the flight in order to avoid having to pee. I have peed at least once on every flight I have ever taken. First of all, I always, no matter the hour, go to the bar and have a drink(s) to settle my flying nerves. Otherwise, you never want to sit next to me for my clinging to your arm when the plane takes off, lands, or is in the air. I admit I did sneak vodka in a regulation size plastic bottle and put it in my purse for calming my nerves or an emergency water landing. Ironically, I would be afraid to drink it for having to use the bathroom! I was determined no matter the urge, not to get up. One of my friends suggested Depends. Has it come to that!?
I tried desperately to stay away from anything with two legs
Operation Air Covid was in full swing. There were still endless decisions that were mind numbing. I had ordered KN95 masks for the trip; a sister substitute for the N95. I would don one for the cab ride and not remove it until I was at my son’s house in SF. Spoiler alert: they are suffocating and the elastic straps kill your ears. I took a cab to the airport counting on a plastic divider between me and the driver. Wrong. I stuck my head out the window for the entire ride; freezing, but safe. I was hoping for an empty O’Hare except no such luck. Humans were everywhere but thankfully masked. I weaved, dodged, and zig zagged my way to security and tried desperately to stay six feet away from anything with two legs. I was grateful and relieved to notice that people were trying to employ social distancing as well; were they as afraid of me as I was of them? Fear was on my side.
We were boarded row by row and I joyously found myself alone in mine. Admittedly, I was finding it difficult to maintain full sanity so I was convinced the person in the seat in front of me had Covid. Or maybe I did? I have never sat so still for so long. I resisted all urge to pee and was struggling to breathe in my KN95 but it was a small price to pay for a successful Operation Air Covid. My little dog Tulip had her own seat so she was happy and resisted any urge to pee also. It was a very long 4 ½ hours on my organs as well as nerves. The vodka was right there for the drinking but I soldiered on, sober.
I was the last to disembark and stayed far far away from the penultimate passenger. I was certain I was toxic for having to pee and had high altitude pulmonary edema from the mask. I needed a bathroom and air and didn’t know in which order.
I made it and felt “reasonably” sure my safety strategy had worked, yet knowing I would check myself hourly for a fever.
I now feel the need to go on a date to unwind.