COVID Travel

We took a commercial airline flight a few days ago, and the pandemic continues to change the way we travel. Here are a few things I noticed:

* In the three airports we used on our trip, many of the stores, including food and snack options, were closed, and the ones that were open had very long lines. In Phoenix, for example, the line for a Wendy’s had about 30 people in it, which means you’ve got a pretty long wait for your Frosty. Next time we travel by air we’ll pack a lunch or a snack.

* The months of social conditioning about social distancing have had an impact. If you get to your gate early, people are spaced far apart, but as departure time nears the gaps fill in and people get noticeably antsy when people sit in the adjoining seat—and that’s even with everyone masked up.

* Here’s a positive: masked travelers make fewer annoying and intrusive phone calls. The gate areas are a lot quieter.

* The airline magazine on our flight, shown above, has supposedly been treated with some process to make it safe to handle. Nevertheless, it looked like it hadn’t been touched, and I didn’t flip through it, either. I bet readership is way down, and wonder whether this is the death knell for such magazines. For now, though, travelers can expect pristine in-flight magazines and untouched crossword puzzles., even if they are flying mid-month.

* The pre-flight lecture has gotten longer, with a COVID-19 specific section at the end. We were told that federal law now mandates a two-layer mask, and scarves, gaiters, and bandannas do not make the cut. And, keeping with the airline tendency to say even the most obvious stuff—like how to work the seat belt—we’re now being told that if the oxygen masks drop, it’s okay to remove your COVID masks before donning your oxygen mask.

Travel Magazines

When you’ve been on the road and your poor planning means that you don’t have any recreational reading to peruse during that dinner for one, you’re probably going to end up looking at what might be called, generically, “travel magazines.”  That loose category includes the in-flight magazines on airplanes, the city magazines found in hotel rooms, and all other magazines that regularly feature multiple articles on traveling.

If you read such magazines, be prepared to be charged with enthusiasm about, well, just about everything and everywhere.  Because no one, anywhere, is more enthusiastic about anything than travel writers are about their subject.  Next to these guys, Mary Kay consultants, recent converts to the Church of Scientology, and the paid actors raving about the latest piece of exercise and weight-loss equipment on a TV commercial seem glum and disinterested.

IMG_6238You can’t have too many exclamation points in these travel magazine articles. Every city, no matter how backward, dirty, or decrepit, receives the most glamorous photo montage that can be prepared without engaged in outright Potemkin Village falsehood.  Every restaurant is one of the finest in the region.  Every city is growing and experiencing an explosion of diversity and development.  And pay no attention to the stories that you might have read about political and liberty issues in, say, mainland China.  Hey, these guys are wearing sunglasses and western clothing.  How cool is that!

Another thing about these magazines, too:  they’re incredibly bossy, presumptuous, and somewhat unnerving.  You see articles with headlines like “Twelve Things You Must Do in Akron!” or “The Ultimate Guide to Mung Bean Tourism!” or “Three Absolutely Perfect Days in The Bronx!” telling you that you have to do this or you’d be insane not to do that.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure that I’ve ever had one “absolutely perfect” day, much less three in a row.

If you read enough travel magazines, you might come to the conclusion that that you may as well plan to travel everywhere and anywhere, because it’s all great.  Or, if you’re like me, you think of the old saying “believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.”