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, leaned forward with his arms on top of his thighs and said, “Nah, it’s ok. I will just stay here and talk to you, it’s ok”
“Ok, I just wanted you to be aware. I’m really surprised nobody is wearing a mask in here but me!”
By now the lady on the other side of him has become interested in the conversation but never says anything. I can tell she is listening as we make eye contact several times. She smiles.
At that moment, I had so many thoughts and feelings.
What a very kind man!
(I might have moved to another seat!)
Maybe this virus isn’t as bad as it was starting to sound! Neither of these people seem concerned about me sitting here.
Should I have stayed in China after all?
Isn’t anyone concerned about the virus, where are the masked faces?
People don’t mind if I sit amongst them, even with my mask covering my face and my visibly obvious bag of bleach wipes, disposable gloves and shoe covers?
What the heck? So then $$$ signs flashed through my head. If you remember, I had chosen to stay in China to save money over the holiday. Shoot! I guess I should have stayed there!
Then quickly shifting to “No, I needed to leave for my sanity.”
Then “How much is a one way ticket back to China going to cost?”
“It doesn’t matter. I’m almost home”
I’ve had some pretty good discussions with myself over the past 5 weeks as I have sat in self-imposed and now mandated quarantine.
Well, back to the man who surprised me by staying and offering to talk with me. He lives in Dallas but grew up in Enid. He was going to see his wife in Tulsa who is taking care of her father while he is in the hospital. We had a great conversation until it was time to board. Other than the customs and immigration officers and the CDC workers, he was the first person to actually speak to me once I was “home.” I will always remember that act of kindness.
The next piece of good news was the American Airlines announcement, “Passengers, we have a very full flight, so if you would like to check your carry on, please come to the counter now and we will check it for free.”
I just about ran to the counter to get rid of that bag. I was so happy! The guy behind the counter placed the tag on the bag and bent to pick it up. He said, “Ohh…” and walked a little lopsidedly to put it with the others.
It was a full flight to Tulsa. I always choose to sit near the window. I feel it is “safer” in regards to catching fewer bugs on a flight. Fewer people can make contact as they pass by in the aisle. I know I bump into almost everybody when I board a plane as I am usually carrying a huge bag or two.
I wiped down my seat, arm rests, seatbelt and tray with my few remaining bleach wipes and buckled up.
trying to read this book on my inhales, as my glasses fogged over on the exhale
As it is not a long flight, I thought I would read a few more chapters of my book before I made it to Tulsa. This didn’t last long though. I could only read the pages on my “inhales,” as my glasses would fog over with every exhale, due to the mask on my face. But it would clear when I inhaled. It didn’t matter how I adjusted my mask, I couldn’t clear my glasses, except for my inhale. Do you know how many pages you can read on an inhale? Not many, it is more like a paragraph and if I got to a really good part on the page, I held my breath so I could finish the paragraph before I exhaled again. I thought I might choke and then have a coughing fit and have all kinds of attention that I didn’t want.
I finally gave up on the book and just listened to the many people sneezing and coughing on this flight. I just cringed and tightened my mask every time they coughed. I didn’t come all this way to get sick now! Besides, I MUST stay healthy!
I wondered at that time, “If the flu kills more people in a year than the Coronavirus (up to now) why don’t people take more precautions? Where were their masks?” I just hunkered down in my seat and hoped the tall guy next to me didn’t start coughing or sneezing. He didn’t talk to me. I’m sure I was a sight. It had already been a 24 hour journey from China door to Tulsa, I traveled with my mask, goggles and gloves, and my hair was sticking up and out every which way, around my mask, over the straps that hold the mask in place, hair was everywhere. Mascara running down my face, eyeliner smudged.
While descending, I looked out the window thinking, “I’m glad to be home.” I wondered why it took me so long to decide. But of course these are just thoughts that go back and forth in my head all the time. I quickly remembered it took a long time to make the decision to go home because I didn’t know if traveling on a plane was safer than staying on self imposed quarantine. I didn’t know what the reception would be like once I arrived. Plus, I was helping Heather with the baby.
Walking up the jet way seemed so free-ing. Mainly because I wasn’t dragging that dang bag behind me, but I was home. Fresh air. Water from the tap. Friends and family. Of course, I didn’t really know what would await once my luggage was in the car and I was home.
So who was brave enough to pick me up from the airport? Don’t worry! I didn’t ask anyone to pick me up. I wasn’t going to UBER or taxi and potentially expose anyone to what I knew I didn’t have, but I guess couldn’t be 100% certain. I was and continue to be very cautious and aware of people around me.
Remember my friend Shack who offered the words of encouragement during the snowstorm and my luggage fiasco? We had pre-arranged my transportation. He and his wife, Annie went to my house to pick up my car and drove it to the airport. My flight landed at 7:35 pm. They were gong to have my car at the curb about 7:45/8:00p.m.
The luggage took a little bit of time but I saw my car outside and went and tossed my 15 pound bag inside. I had to go back inside and retrieve the rest of the bags. Shack waited in the car, and Annie in their truck behind my car.
My 75 pound bag that I hauled all over the place was first to come out. The zipper had ripped open! There was a flip flop and a card from John 3:16 mission placed on top of my bag. It made me laugh for just a second. I can understand how someone might think the flip flop would have been mine since my bag was open, but just the way the flip flop was placed on top of my partially opened bag with the card placed on top of that, was funny to me.
At what point did it get placed on top of my bag? How did the flip flop and the card remain on top of my bag when it came flying out of the baggage claim chute and down the little ramp?
Anyway, I waited for the next two bags, hoping they made it in one piece on the long flight, too. They did. I gathered them up and started pushing them toward the revolving door. One of the wheels on one of the suitcases had come loose by now and it was hard to maneuver. I left the flip flop on the floor for its rightful owner to claim it.
A nice couple saw me kicking my 75 pound, ripped bag, and yelled at me,”Hey you lost something,” while holding the flip flop in his hand. I told him thanks but it wasn’t mine. He dropped it.
I rolled the good bag and dragged the broken one behind me, while kicking the other one to the revolving door. Again, I must have been a sight to see. I waited until the revolving door was void of people trying to exit then pushed, pulled, and kicked my way into the revolving door. I had to keep the bags moving with me. I got to the other side and the one with the loose wheel fell over. I quickly had to get the other two bags out of the revolving door and that one upright. I did it!
The nice couple said, “Bless your heart! Why don’t you ask one of the workers for help? I am sure they will help you.”
My bag that I dragged, pulled, and kicked thru two airports has seen its last airport, it has a hole in the bottom now
“Thanks, it’s ok.” I’m almost home now. I continued to push, pull and kick my way to the curb. It was nice to not have that 4th bag. At that point Shack yelled instructions from a distance about my key fob not working, he had left a Valentine’s gift at my house and yelled, “Welcome home!” He ran toward his truck! I don’t blame him a bit. I was so thankful that they took their Valentine’s evening to rescue me at the airport.
I hoisted the suitcases into the car. Climbed into the driver’s seat and rested my forehead on the steering wheel. It was over. I was home and Blake Shelton’s song, “God’s Country” was playing on my CD in the car. I didn’t remember what I left in the CD player two years ago. It truly is God’s Country. I then flipped it back to K95.5 Tulsa’s New Country Leader Radio station, which is what it was on when I got in the car. Cash and Bradley, the radio hosts gave me a shout out while I was in China.
I drove toward home and for a brief moment thought, “It’s over.”
By the time I reached my street, reality set back in and I thought back to what the CDC officer told me. Someone will be in touch if there is any problem.
By Sunday, I had contact with the local Health Department.