Calls For Action, Musings

Just Don’t Fly, The Petrie Dish Of Travel

November 17, 2020

CRAMMED!! And Miserable.

That is what we were. Our Volaris Leon to Tijuana flight was almost full, mine returning to Leon from Oakland; not an empty seat anywhere.

We weren’t flying to California for pleasure. It was something Glenn had to do.

There was no social distancing, although we tried to create some space around us. They say flights should be safe. The filters used, I guess. But being at an airport or on a plane is just not what we should do right now.

In our minds, we believed we would be ok with flying. We were nervous, but circumstances required us to come to California. The reality was not something we prepared for. We had the masks and the face visor, the sanitizing gel, and the alcohol spray. Who cared if we looked ridiculous. When COVID started a friend of ours flew in a hazmat suit. Looking back, that isn’t a bad idea.

A private BajioGo to Leon from San Miguel dropped us off, and the small Leon airport was relatively smooth sailing logistically. A larger airport would have terrorized us. Attempting to social distance in the check-in line, we were far from successful. Perhaps hoop skirts should make a comeback. We had booked seats in the second row, the first group on. That was wise to do, even though the line of boarding passengers had to go right by, but we would be among the first off. We were lucky we had an extra seat on our row. But face it, there are people right in front of you and right in back and you have no control.

NO food, drink, etc. passed our lips the entire flight. But I always have to pee and try as I might, I succumbed to hitting the loo. Mega gel after that.

Taxi up to the terminal, everyone was ready to hightail it off the plane. There was an announcement that the attendants would make it down the aisle and tell each row when they could get up. We thought, “well that is good” and believed each row would depart one at a time. But the attendants speed-walked down the aisle and everyone stood up crowding each other as always.

We were shocked to find buses waiting for us upon deplaning in Tijuana. There were little circles throughout to give the illusion of 6 feet apart, but no one heeded them, and they crammed us in like sardines. I am claustrophobic anyway and with COVID on the loose, I kept giving everyone around me dirty looks if they got too close, which they did. Eventually, my face muscles got tired, and I resigned myself to whatever might happen.

Baggage claim was a plane full of people trying to get around each other to grab belongings and sad to say, we were getting used to being overcrowded.

We had bought the border tunnel tickets when we booked our flights and thought there would be a separate line for us at the airport. But there wasn’t and so another jam-packed line of those with and needing to buy tickets was tackled. Once in the tunnel, people could spread out. And luckily there are car rental agencies in the United States side after immigration, and we were soon on our way.

Off to quarantine for two weeks before I returned to Mexico and Glenn stayed for the unforeseeable future.

When in Southern California we found it easy to get free COVID tests at the CVS pharmacies. You can book online a day or two in advance, but be flexible because appointment times fill up and you may have to choose alternate locations. We took ours five days after the flight and two days later, both were negative. Glenn is having more trouble getting access to one in the Bay Area before he sees his mother.

Airbnb’s in California are ridiculously expensive, with additional charges and higher fees due to COVID precautions. We had no choice but to use them for our quarantine, but if doing so yourself, prepare for sticker shock. The equivalent of several months rent in San Miguel was spent for just those two weeks (Encinitas, Ventura, Walnut Creek) and a car rental. The cost of our stay in California put another damper on things.

We recognized early that we could never afford to live in the United States again and have the lifestyle we are now used to. We pretty much knew that already, and love living in Mexico for its lovely weather, culture, and warm people. But it is nice to have the move reinforced.

When I entered Oakland airport for my flight back to Leon, I thought I would be early enough for a quick check-in. But there was a mass of people, one in the back of the other, waiting. All that quarantine time seemed for nothing. Half the travelers had many of the large expandable pieces of luggage that come practically up to my shoulder. This caused havoc once we arrived in Leon as there were so many suitcases on such a small conveyor belt it kept getting clogged up and had to be stopped and reorganized. Once again, people crammed together, some as much as eight deep.

I had received an emailed questionnaire from Volaris before my flight regarding any risk factors for COVID. If traveling on Volaris, make sure you fill this out as it will save time once you are in the terminal. Because of this, I was the first person through immigration. But it didn’t count for much as my bag was in the last cart off the plane. By then, the line for customs deeply circled around the area and I was toward the end. I tried to maintain distance by keeping six feet in back of the person in front of me while stretching out my arm and my suitcase as far behind me as much as possible to maintain space. Annoyed by the man behind me with the sniffles who kept pushing my suitcase towards me I kept having to say “linea amarillo” and “distancia” and shoot him dirty looks too.

Karma got me however as I pressed the button and got the red signal while he breezed through on a green. Waiting in that crowded line for another twenty minutes I was finally able to put my luggage on the table and disgust the customs man as I had nothing to declare and was allowed to leave after a cursory check; almost two hours after landing on the only flight at the time.

Now, I am in quarantine for another two weeks. All because I thought I would be a loving wife and accompany my husband through his necessary quarantine before he sees his family. Although I always love being with him, who wouldn’t, I was naive to think using small airports would be ok, and everyone would respect social distancing. And looking back now I realize it was foolish for me to go along.

Lesson learned, do not fly! Anywhere! If you have to, make sure it is for essential travel and you have no other option.

Airports are hungry Petrie dishes and the risk is too great.

Make use of Facetime, Zoom, and Skype. Before I moved in with my husband years ago, when we lived in different cities, we would start Sunday mornings with cups of coffee as he brought his computer into the kitchen and made breakfast. Then we talked and even watched Netflix movies together for hours as we moved on to bottles of wine.

There are ways to share with friends and family members without having to be in the same room. Use them until there is a vaccine and we can resume hugging each other and sharing spaces.

Stay safe, wear a mask, and don’t ruin everything by flying.

As soon as it is safe again and the vaccine is available, of course, we will be running to the airport to start our travels again.

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  • Reply Patric Ellsworth November 20, 2020 at 5:42 am

    Thanks for the info, Ria. We’re trying to figure out when to return to SMA. It won’t be earlier than mid-Jan. We flew to San Jose on Volaris is mid-Aug, and the plane was only 1/4 full. Easy flight. Now, Volaris has suspended the SJ flights, so you have to go through Oakland, which may account for the fuller planes. Hard to figure out when it will safe to return. Hoping for a vaccine SOON.

    • Reply ourprimeoflife November 20, 2020 at 7:04 am

      We were originally hoping to come back from San Jose, perhaps you are right about why the flights are full. That would make sense. I also think it is because of the holidays. There were so many huge bags! No more flying, especially International, till COVID done.

  • Reply Joseph Toone November 18, 2020 at 9:02 am

    Sorry you had such a bad experience. Mine this month was just the opposite and was I grateful to be flying. It helped to spend a small fortune for first class so one got off and on easily and have a solo seat with an aisle between. I was far more concerned how much more lax US airports (well, everything) were than here in Mexico. That was a surprise but the greater rise in cases there was not.

    • Reply ourprimeoflife November 18, 2020 at 10:33 am

      I wish we had the option of a separate area like business. Glad to hear your experience was better than ours. I still maintain that flying shouldn’t be used for non-essential travel during COVID. In general, we found it isn’t the plane as much as the times surrounding the flights. Those are a free for all.

  • Reply Jessica Moyal November 18, 2020 at 7:43 am

    We’ve been very impressed with the Delta flights we took from Mexico City to Detroit and back. All middle seats have been blocked and boarding and deplaning is three rows at a time.

    • Reply ourprimeoflife November 18, 2020 at 7:50 am

      WOW!! That is fantastic. Glad to hear someone is considering their passengers.

  • Reply Christel Chase November 17, 2020 at 3:46 pm

    Thx, Ria. Weird that they put you on a bus instead of jetway upon arriving in TJ. Thx for sharing with details.
    Hope you are happy being home…even if you’ll miss Glenn. Hope he’s hanging tough too.

    • Reply ourprimeoflife November 17, 2020 at 7:23 pm

      Thrilled to be home and hoping there is a vaccine available soon so we can start traveling again. Just definitely not now. It is hard being without Glenn but I told him after all this rigmarole of quarantine etc., to stay till he gets everything done.

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