Tuesday, May 18, 2021

This Just In: Post-Pandemic Travel

 Archived from Chapelboro.com  https://chapelboro.com/town-square/this-just-in-post-pandemic-travel

The first flight I took after the 9/11 attacks was October of that year. There were armed National Guardsmen at RDU. It felt far away from normal and caused many of us to wonder if flying could be made to feel normal again.

It took a long time, but we were pretty well there (“normal”) 19 years later, then along came COVID-19. As we all know, flying anywhere for non-emergency purpose virtually disappeared.

Even as we’re inching back to our expected freedom of movement, our society has made a great big shift in how we work, how we play and what kinds of risk we’re willing to tolerate.

I’m so very grateful that I’ve been fully vaccinated for more than a month. This has allowed me to hop a flight to Florida to visit with my father and help my step-mother to manage his closing chapters of life. I’ve been able to do this without feeling like I was putting my own life (or my dad’s) in danger just by being in the same room with him or kissing him on the forehead when I arrive and depart.

What a thing to be concerned about.

Just like post-9/11, airport security is among the most conspicuous changes. I have to give the highest marks to the TSA folks at RDU. Check-in was, as usual, quick and very easy. At Orlando airport? Well — not as quick, not as easy.

Standing in a long line is an annoyance, but just as with nearby Disney, they keep the line moving. Then I step up to the hand-over-your-stuff part of the process. Yes, I have to remove my flip-flops, because rules.

I have to laugh, because this is exactly the kid of thing that would get my father wound up and probably arrested. He would certainly refuse, citing the fact that it’s a ridiculous requirement. TSA would insist, so would he and he’d be brought to a little room for a lecture about national security.

This is why he stopped flying long ago (to avoid such an issue) but I give him credit for knowing himself well enough that he would not be able to roll over for a silly exercise (flip-flop x-rays) in the name of security. I was with him once at in a Radio Shack when he was buying a package of AA batteries. He held out a $20 bill. The clerk asked him for his ZIP code and some version of this ensued:

Dad: You don’t need my ZIP code, I’m paying cash.
Clerk: We’d like to know your ZIP code so we know where are customers are from.
Dad: I’m not giving you my ZIP code. It’s none of your business.
Clerk: I have to put something in this field so I can open the register.
Dad: That sounds like a personal problem.
Clerk: Ma’am, (me) may I have your ZIP code?
Dad: (before I can answer) No, you may not have her ZIP code. She’s not the customer here, and I won’t be either if you don’t take this cash in the next 10 seconds.

The clerk then opens the register (after putting five numbers in), bags the batteries, gives him his receipt and cheerfully invites him to return.

That was in the mid-1990s, before Facebook and Amazon became such an integral part of our lives. Now, if I buy something that needs batteries, I expect my phone to tell me to add that to the order.

We need curmudgeons like my father to think about our privacy, our actual security and what we should and should not put at risk for the benefit of our safety. That said, don’t get me started about the checkout line discussions between him and the nice folks at Best Buy trying to sell him a warranty on his new toaster.


No comments: