In recent years, I’ve seen on television, people traveling through airports wearing medical masks, but I hadn’t actually encountered anyone doing so, much less a person such as me!
Well, after thoroughly ruining Christmas and New Years for myself, my sister and her husband by getting sick only a couple days after arriving from Florida to the Adirondacks for said holidays, I then needed nursing back to some semblance of strength so I could return home. My poor sister was the designated “nurse.” Scratch that! The word is Saint!
She provided all the ingredients a dying person needs, warm blankets, plenty of fluids, nourishment in the form of soup, grilled cheese mini-sandwiches, eggs, (as much as a weak patient could handle) and later slightly more hefty meals. For two weeks, she helped me stay with the living.
The clinic treating me provided medical masks for my trip home. I was over my contagion stage by then, but I didn’t want to relapse by re-catching anything or being exposed to something new.
Upon arrival at the airport, I hooked the elastic from either side of the mask to my ears, fluffed my hair a bit and dragged my luggage up to the ticket counter. The agent behind the counter checked me in and then said the conveyor belt wasn’t working and I’d have to lug my checked-in bag down the corridor to another conveyor belt that did work.
It wasn’t a long distance, but in my weakened state, even a few feet was a long way for me. Trying to breathe through the mask felt like trying to suck a blanket through my lungs. By the time I delivered my bag to the working conveyor, I was exhausted and had to step out of the way to rest before making my way to security.
Trying to organize my coat, shoes, inhaler, medicine bottles, purse, and a carry-on bag into the plastic trays at security felt like trying to handle an octopus since it all overflowed the containers. And, of course, I neglected to spot and transfer the one more than 3 oz. container of mouth wash from my carry-on to my checked bag, so it had to be discarded. I didn’t care. I just wanted to get home, take off the mask and breathe again.
Finally I made it to my gate where I sat for one hour and a half past my original departing time which meant a total time of a little more than 3 hours. Passengers were encouraged not to leave the gate area in case updates to our delayed flight came in. We were also assured connecting flights would be waiting for us after the next leg of the trip.
During this waiting time, people walked by, found a place to sit and generally created little islands of anonymity as they settled down with their Smartphones. Some actually made calls. Others, did whatever Smartphone users do. I have a dumbphone, so I wouldn’t know this.
Anyway, my countenance never created even a glance from anyone as I sat trying to concentrate on a book I’d brought along. But when our flight was called and it was time to line up for boarding, the dynamics changed.
This airline had open seating, so within a certain number of seats, passengers could pick their seats. I was near the back of the group so by the time I walked into the cabin, only middle seats were available.
It was interesting to note the expressions on people’s faces when they spotted the bemasked me. Some people looked away, very obviously uncomfortable as they imagined what the mask was for. Others didn’t seem to notice. I weighed my choices and settled on sitting between two men.
The middle-aged man next to the window, turned his face away from me and remained there for the whole flight. The other man was young and had a hint of Goth about him. He smiled and very kindly helped me with my carry -on. I found out he was a freshman with very good grades at a college near the town in which I live. My mask didn’t seem to phase him at all.
At the start of this journey, I was curious about how wearing a mask would effect my flying experience and that of others. Although there was some reaction from other people, I was surprised there was not more. As for me, now that I’m home, thank goodness I can breathe again without something in front of my face!