My wife and I did something last week we hadn’t done for 17 months — got on an airplane.
We flew to Florida for a couple of days, which surprised some friends from other parts of the country. They were shocked we’d go to Florida amidst reports of rising COVID cases, so I reminded them that we live in Missouri, which isn’t much better. We had talked it over with our physician, who said he wasn’t worried about the flights, and as long as we didn’t spend time in crowded places, we should be okay. Since avoiding anywhere there are lots of other people is a major part of our life plan, we went ahead with our itinerary.
Though we’ve gone to Florida often in the winter, this was our first summer venture. Our thinking has always been if we wanted an overload of heat and humidity, we could simply stay home in St. Louis. But, as I’ve written before, taking a dip in the Atlantic Ocean with an offshore breeze counteracts the warmth and stickiness nicely. Even when we hung around our hotel pool or went for a walk in a nearby state park, we were fine, despite temperatures above ninety degrees.
We ate most of our meals indoors at nearby restaurants, but never in cramped places, so we weren’t in close proximity to other humans. Even at the beach, we had no problem finding a spot in the sand a decent distance away from other sun worshippers. Fortunately, we didn’t encounter anyplace with a staffing shortage severe enough to impact our experience, either.
The Southwest flights there and back were only about 80% full, and the crew made it a point during the safety instructions to remind passengers to not only keep masks on, but to be sure they covered both mouth and nose — a concept I’m still amazed so many people can’t grasp. Fortunately, there was widespread compliance, so I knew we weren’t going to show up on social media in the background of a video showing a fracas with some idiot refusing to follow the rules and ending up duct-taped to their seat.
Whenever I see one of those, I wonder what happened to all those air marshals we were told would be on most US flights after 9/11. Even before the pandemic, I can’t remember hearing a single report of a marshal taking action against a problem passenger. Certainly, the Department of Homeland Security would have publicized any such event in the hopes of deterring others. If armed federal law enforcement officers are still on board, why has it been left to flight attendants to deal with such occurrences — which have involved not foreign terrorists, but domestic ones?
Were those claims a lie — mere security theater — or did I miss something?
One other observation from our trip. I was surprised to see there’s still a shoe shine stand at Lambert Airport. In all the years I’ve walked by, I’ve never seen a customer in any of the half-dozen chairs. The guy who operates it is always sitting there alone, reading a newspaper, looking at his phone, or talking with another airport employee. I made it a point to see how many of my fellow fliers were wearing shoes that would need a shine, but didn’t see a single one. That must have been a tough way to make a living before the pandemic, but now, with so little business travel, who are his potential patrons?
Definitely not sky marshals!