I unfortunately had to board a plane during the season of COVID-19 and fly home for a funeral. Now normally, I’m strutting down the aisle. Smiling and giving other passengers the “we ‘bout to do this” nod. But not this time.
This time, we were all anxious. We all had our reasons for being on this 1 hour flight from Chicago to Detroit, and whatever that reason was, none of us looked excited about it. Everyone had their masks on (which were required), and a few (like me) were also wearing gloves. But everyone was certainly nervous and giving approaching passengers the “please don’t sit next to me” eye.
And I was no different. My anxiety was on 100 and I had doubled-up on my masks. I was wearing layers of clothing so that upon landing , I could head straight to a bathroom and easily perform “decontamination” by washing my hands and stripping off the outer layer. Yes - I had a plan.
As I approached my seat, I heard someone say, well yell, “I like that shirt sis”. I looked up and gave her a silent THANKS. I sat down and tried to relax (deep breath in, hold it, slowly exhale). I looked over at my traveling companion - my nephew - and he had literally wrapped a shirt around his head and neck. All I could see was his glasses. I started to laugh, prompting our new traveling companion to chime in with “I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t want to be disrespectful. But since you laughing, I’m laughing too!”
And from that moment, the conversation didn’t stop. From two seats behind me, I learned, among other things, that she was on the second flight of her entire life. That she had went down to Miami to visit a friend and was there when her job shut down, so she decided to just stay. That one week turned into three weeks. That her kids were all adults and she lived alone. That as much as she loves her friend she couldn’t WAIT to get home where the first thing she would do would be to take a hot bubble bath while drinking a glass of wine. And that she would walk around naked, just cause she could!
At first, I was a bit irritated with what I assumed was “nervous chatter” since most of the conversation was one sided. Except for an occasional “ok” or “wow” from me, she was talking to herself. But mid-flight, I realized that because of her casual conversation, I was no longer focused on the “what if’s” of this short flight. I was actually smiling at the in between conversation commentary.
You see, in between telling me she had recently sold her big house because she no longer needed all that space and so she moved into an apartment; there was “Jesus! We got up in the air quick.”
And in between telling me how much she missed her own bed because her guest bedroom wasn't that comfortable; there was "Whoo-hoo! This is so much fun. I wonder how fast we are going?!"
In between telling me how much she loved sitting on South Beach but she didn’t know how her friend could afford to live there; there was “OMG! Look! We are above the clouds!”
And I did look. And it brought me so much joy. And excitement. And peace. And for a moment, I forgot all the sadness of COVID-19. For a short period of time, I seemed to travel back in time. Back to a time when getting on a plane was the start (or the end) of a new journey. Back to a time of what seemed to be so normal for me, but not realizing that it wasn't so normal for everyone. Back to my love of all things travel, and wanting to share that love with everyone. And I thanked her. Verbally.
As we socially distanced while deplaning by rows, she exclaimed “I love flying!. I don’t know what took me so long to do this! I can’t WAIT to do this again!”
I looked back and exclaimed "Me either my new friend. Me either....."
2 Girls & a Bikini