As if the face masks, goggles, gloves and such weren’t enough of an ID that we had arrived from China, the unbleached lanyard was then around my neck. We just followed the “From China” signs.
It led us right along and next to the people who were arriving on other flights, not from China. The only thing separating us was a retractable queue rope set on two posts to organize the lines.
We just plodded along in the line walking up to the counter where they took our temperature again. They took the forms, asked where I was going and said, “ok.”
I didn’t have my boarding pass as Air China could not issue American Airlines boarding passes so I had to go to the counter to retrieve that first.
I was excited when they told me I had the whole row to myself! Yea! No one to cough on me, I can lay down and get some rest!
After my brief moment of excitement, I just walked along with the rest of the population scurrying from gate to gate or just sitting and eating dinner waiting on their flights.
There were some people in the airport with masks and some without. I was surprised to see the ones without. I went to the bathroom to scrub my hands, which are so dry now from my continued use of bleach wipes.
I just sat by myself, as I didn’t want to be by anyone who might cough or sneeze and I didn’t want anyone to be by me, just in case! I sat down next to Auntie Anne’s Pretzels to wait for my flight. I wasn’t going to be last call this time!
The smell of Auntie Anne’s is so fresh and delicious that I just couldn’t sit there. I decided to have a lemonade and a pretzel. I went back to my seat. I book off a piece of my pretzel to take a bite. Well, it hit the outside of my mask. I forgot to take my mask off!
I threw that piece in the trash. I didn’t know what kind of germ might be on the outside of that mask. I started to take a drink instead. ARRGGH! You guessed it, I didn’t take my mask off again.
I threw the straw in the bin, (that’s my new word) I learned it from the New Zealander’s I work with in China. Finally, I lifted the mask, took a bite and put the mask back down. I never touched the pretzel with my hand. Finished both the pretzel and the drink and headed to the gate. The line was long. It seemed like it was going to be a full flight. I was concerned about my empty row.
Envying the people i first class as I walked by with my 75 pound carry on and 15 pound personal item in the tight and narrow aisle, only hitting a few people along the way with my bags, I made it to 26A. The window seat. Ho Hum. The two seats beside me were taken. It was ok, the guy redeemed himself when he asked if I needed help with my carry on. He lifted to the overhead compartment. It just so happened the Kansas family from the previous flight were right behind me on the flight. The Kansas husband saw my seat mate take my bag and said, “So you found another person to help you with your bag!” “Yes,” I replied, if I walk around with a sad and pathetic look on my face someone will usually help me!” Though, I guess it was difficult to tell if I was sad and pathetic with my mask covering my face.
Truly, he was just a nice guy offering to help!
He was a young guy traveling with his girlfriend who also had just left Beijing. We had been on the same Air China flight previously. He was from New York but living in Columbia. She was from Columbia. Their stories were much for dramatic than mine. They lost their income due to the virus and couldn’t afford their housing anymore. Their city was in total lockdown only allowing one person in the family to leave the apartment at a time to go to the store.
It was a long flight from Seoul to Dallas, one of the designated airports to allow US citizens entry who had been in China. Bu the conversation was good, yet unbelievable at times.
Upon landing at DFW, the nice New Yorker lifted my bag down from the overhead and even continued to carry it down the aisle. SO HAPPY I WAS! He commented on what must be in the bag as it was so heavy. “How do you carry this?” A girl’s gotta’ do what a girls gotta’ do! I had packed like I wasn’t returning to China! Though, I know I will return as school has to open eventually, I would imagine, and I have to finish my contract. But even if it doesn’t open, I would still have to get final paperwork sorted and such so I could get paid.
Eh. Who knows at this point? No need to speculate. We will all find out in due time.
The New Yorker turned out to be quite the kind soul and gentleman. He carried my bag all the way to immigration where he and his girlfriend were stopped. I guess because she was from Columbia. I thanked him profusely and carried the bag thru the line.
We stop at kiosks now to complete our entry information rather than filling out a card on the flight. GO GREEN! I knew once I entered my information and it spit my “receipt” out, I was in trouble. I had a BIG BLACK X on my receipt.
I guess this was a better way to ID China travelers over the used lanyard in Seoul. I proceeded thru the line, waved to the Kansan’s and continued on. It was my turn at the counter. I took my passport and receipt out of my bag and handed it to the kind man behind the counter. I asked him why he was not wearing a mask. He started off with some story about a vacation and then got sidetracked. I guess he realized the BIG BLACK X meant something more. I had to lower my mask for the photo op. Also, by the way, the mask had to come off at each security check point as well. The “Body handlers” had to inspect the mask. They didn’t touch it, just had to look inside the mask.
The nice agent told me to follow him. I was his first BIG BLACK X. He took me to room and told me to sit down. I waited. He came back out and said come on back. A lady jumped up quickly and said, “NO! She can not come in here.”
Ok! I decided to stay where I was until they hashed it out. He took me back out and around the corner to another counter. He told me to wait until they called me . The man next to the counter waved me over. I am not really sure of his job, other than to wave me over. The guy behind the counter took my temperature and I filled out another form. I didn’t have my passport or my receipt with the BIG BLACK X anymore. I wasn’t too worried since I was in the USA. I didn’t need a passport to travel any longer.
I was beginning to sweat. So I pulled my mask away from my face a couple of times to get some airflow to my face. The guy behind the counter, who works for the CDC apologized and said he would be finished soon. He was. I went and sat and waited to be called again.
Next, a nice young lady called my name. She even pronounced it correctly. Most people do not. I walked to her counter. I dropped my big heavy bag on the floor. I just couldn’t carry it one minute longer. She had my passport.
She asked me some questions. She already knew my emergency contact persons name. I must have written on one of the previous forms, I didn’t remember, or they are THAT good!. She asked and verified my address, asked where I had been and why? Had I traveled to WuHan? and all those questions. She was very friendly! She asked if I had any questions: My first one was, “Why are you not wearing a mask?” She said as long as I had one, she was ok. Hmmm. Ok.
I asked, “What will the next step be?” We will contact your daughter since she is your emergency contact to relay any information that is important regarding your status.
“Like what?” If anyone is contagious on this flight we will notify you immediately.
“How immediately?” Oh it will be really quick. Within a day or so.
“So, if I hear from anybody it won’t be good news?” Well, not necessarily, it just means you were on a flight with someone who was contagious.
“That doesn’t sound like good news to me.” I thanked her, took my passport grabbed that dang bag and headed to security, again.
Unpack, bin everything, repack. Move on. Each airport is different as far as screening goes. I carefully packed all electronics and such in my 15 pound bag. But this time something was of concern in the 75 pound bag. Unpack. They didn’t find anything. Repack. Drop the bag to the floor and just drag it behind me. There were no wheels on this bag, and the handle was just long enough that I didn’t have to bend over too far to drag it along. Remember!!! I DO NOT PUT THINGS ON THE FLOOR! Disgusting!
I didn’t care anymore. I dragged that bag all over looking for the sign that would show me my gate. I walked forever looking for it. Where was the sign? No clue. Finally I found an open counter and they looked up Flight 2400 to Tulsa. It was in terminal B, gate 12. I walked to the sky train, dragging that bag along behind me, mask on face, sweat pouring down my forehead, armpits beginning to smell a bit, but kept plugging along.
I got a few stares, but this time there was no Kansan or New Yorker to help me. I found my way up the escalator and onto the train headed to B terminal.
Oh dang it, what number was it? 24? Yes, I thought it was 24. So I got off the sky train at gates 21-30. I walked down to try and find another board with the gate number. I’m not sure why they are so difficult to find at DFW, but again. No board in sight. No counters open. I walked left then turned and walked right. Closed counter. No board. Closed counter.
Oh my word! Did I really need what was in that bag? I stopped and had a rest. When I was ready, I traded arms with the bags, and carried both of them again. I finally found an open counter. I asked if she could look up FLIGHT 2400 to Tulsa. She said, (well you, the reader already know which gate as I mentioned it above) “B12.” I was at 22. “It’s just right down there,” she said.
Oh no, it wasn’t just right down there.
I dropped the bag and continued to drag it through the airport. Finally I saw B12. I couldn’t get there fast enough. I found a seat and sat down where I wouldn’t be next to anyone. I was so thirsty because I hadn’t had anything to drink on the flight. I didn’t want to use the plane’s toilet, just in case. Crazy, but that’s me. I don’t like germs. I don’t even use the exposed part of the toilet paper that hands from the dispenser. I tear it off and pull down a clean hidden piece.
I debated going to get something to drink but that meant I would have to drag that dang bag with me especially considering they had just announced “Do not leave bags unattended…..”
Should I get a drink? Should I not get a drink? Do I take my bag? Do I leave my bag and take my chances? The counter to the burger place was so close. I could still SEE the bag if I left it. But at this point, they can have the bag!
The battle was going on in my head again. Just make a decision. I got up and walked to the counter leaving the bag behind. I got my expensive drink and returned to my seat. Thank goodness. No problems.
I sat there alone with my cold drink and messaged my friend to tell her I had just dragged my bag all the way across the DFW airport. She was surprised I would do something like that. I would always get onto her when she would put something on the dirty floor or ground.
Uh oh! A man just sat beside me. What do I do? I have a mask. He does not have a mask. He probably hasn’t been in China. I have been in China. I think I should tell him.
I would want to know if I were the man.
I took a deep breath and said, “Excuse me sir, I have just returned from China and am wearing this mask for both of our protection, I just wanted you to know that. Feel free to get up and move if you would like. I won’t be offended.”
He looked at me.
In The Journey Home, Part 3 you will see what his response was to me.