I flew out of town for just the second time since the pandemic began to subside this past week, boarding a Southwest Airlines flight out of Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to Indianapolis to visit CNHI’s newspaper in Anderson, Indiana, about an hour away.
The first time I’d gotten back on a plane had been a Harrisburg flight to Atlanta back in late March, also on business. That was on Delta Airlines and at that point, center seats were still not being sold and certain other seats were blocked off to allow for some modicum of social distancing.
That’s no longer the case. My Southwest flight was packed, and for another bit of normalcy, delayed.
One mitigation element remains, though. Airports and airplanes are, for the moment, among the last places where wearing a mask is not optional, whether or not you have been vaccinated. I was required to wear a mask from the moment I entered the airport till the moment I left the one in Indianapolis. Considering the close proximity to everyone at airports and on planes, I think this is still a good idea.
I realized wearing a mask suddenly felt strange again, and how quickly I had gotten used to not wearing one since the requirement has been substantially lifted for the fully vaccinated.
Those of us who have been vaccinated — and by the way, that number needs to continue to grow — have not been required to wear a mask at The Daily Item office since late last month. Out of consideration for those who haven’t, I still tend to wear one when walking around the building.
I still also wear one at the grocery store, but that’s my choice. State wine and spirit stores still want you to, as do some restaurants until you are served. Most on wait staffs still wear them.
I wondered what it was going to be like flying on Southwest, one of the few airlines on which seats are not assigned. If you have never flown Southwest, they have this A-B-C system, in which people with A boarding pass line up first, B second and C third. I had an A pass, but was near the back of the line.
Would people be staying six feet apart, I wondered? Nope.
Would they board the plane from back to front to avoid people bumping into each other in the narrow airplane aisle as had been the case on my March flight?
Outside of the required mask, boarding and traveling on this plane was no different than it had been before anyone ever heard the word COVID.
I’m not sure how I feel about that.
I think some of the changes brought on by the pandemic might be worth long-term consideration, including the idea of boarding the plane starting with the rear seats. Getting on early might seem a positive if you have a front of the plane seat, but getting consistently hit with passenger carry-ons as they walk by to the rear is no fun.
Of course, nobody likes middle airplane seats, but I get that it would be economically unfeasible not to sell them.
I kind of like the spacing between people in lines, whether at the grocery store or the airport.
Some of the meetings we used to hold in person at The Daily Item are now held daily by phone. More people attend more consistently and I’m pretty sure I’ll never go back to the old way.
We learn things from every experience if we are smart. Even something as terrible as this pandemic, I think, has some lessons worth remembering.
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