1st Flights Post-COVID? Inconsistent. But So Is Everything.

After rescheduling a trip to see my daughter three times since COVID hit, I finally traveled the first week of July. I was on four separate flights, all with American Airlines. As a result of only using one airline, obviously my testimony here is limited. Many people were surprised to learn I was willing to fly, especially on the very day (July 1st) that the airline would no longer require space between passengers. My flights were changed twice within two weeks prior to take off and I learned much of the change was due to combining flights to carry more passengers with fewer aircraft in the air. Like their competitors, American Airlines was bleeding money for several months and needed to make more revenue.

The route was: NY to Philadelphia, Philly to FL, FL to Charlotte, NC, Charlotte back to NY. Prior to flying, there was much discussion among the family and we pondered weird questions such as, “should we double-mask?” “Should we wear two pairs of plastic gloves so we can pull off the top pair after security?” We have been blessed throughout these months with good health but still take the pandemic seriously-particularly at the thought of intermixing with hundreds of others at airports.

I was quickly deceived when blocks of seats in my home airport were taped off in bright yellow, assuring ample distance between passengers waiting to board. I took off the gloves, as it was far easier to constantly sanitize my hands vs. deal with the crunching up gloves. The yellow tape and masked airline staff gave me security. I relaxed.

Until I boarded.

The young man next to me pulled his mask down immediately upon buckling his seat belt. It was July 1st, so perhaps there was a new rule about not needing it once you were settled in your seat. He sniffed hard. Then wiped his nose with his hand. I shifted deeply into the window, my hair pressed firmly against the glass. My mind questioned whether I got the rules wrong. I didn’t. An announcement came over the speaker threatening that anyone not wearing their face covering over their mouth and nose might possibly be removed from the flight.

I again relaxed. It would just be a matter of minutes before the flight attendant asked my neighbor to properly mask himself. Wrong again. She glanced at him, kept walking and half way up the aisle, she too pulled her mask down, exposing her nose but covering her mouth.

A man 2 rows behind me coughed every 7 minutes during the flight to Philadelphia. This is not an exaggeration. It was excessive and the poor souls around him were in visible anguish each time I turned to peek. During his coughing intermissions, he blew his nose. Over and over. The 70-something woman to my right two rows ahead who I had a clear view of sanitized her hands every time that man started up again. Fear was on her face. Even through her tightly secured mask. 

He could have had allergies. Or, a cold. Or, COVID. Who knows? The flight attendants made no fuss over the cougher.

Different states have different rules. We New Yorkers tend to be more uptight than most and maybe these were Pennsylvania flight attendants with Pennsylvania rules.

The flight from PA to FL was the exact opposite. The flight attendants were serious. They repeatedly warned specific people to pull their masks completely over their noses. They moved a few of us to different seats (myself included) to create some additional space in-between passengers. These women were no-nonsense and I appreciated their awareness.

The return flight from FL to NC was PACKED. We passengers were stuffed into the hot flight like sardines. There wasn’t an inch to move and the flight attendants had to pull carry-on’s off the flight because the overhead compartments were full. Similar to flight #1, the 30-something next to me pulled his mask down. Just as I was about to request that he cover his face, he pulled it back up. Then down. I just took a deep breath, hoping our shared air was COVID-free. 

The NC to NY flight was more spacious but at that point, if I was going to contract COVID, I would have definitely picked it up during the previous three flights. I was over it. “It” being any form of worry. I had been exposed to more germs, sweat, coughing, sneezing and people in hours than I had been in months. Flying is an uncontrolled germy environment, regardless of how attentive the airline staff may be. 

During my subsequent 2-week mandatory self-quarantine, I started thinking about the flight behavior inconsistencies. Then, I realized – those inconsistencies can be added to all the rest we experience daily.

Depending on the size of the person, there might be six inches of space between my face and the person next to me on a flight. But we need six feet of space between humans everywhere else. Target and Walmart managers are clicking counters as customers walk in to be sure they don’t go over 91 employees in the GIANT super stores.

-We get our temperature taken at work every single day. No temperatures were taken in the four cities I traveled in at the airports. I could have boarded with an elevated temperature.

-When flying, we literally share the same air as the person next to us but we must be separated at restaurants with outdoor seating.

-A shopper can sneeze, wipe their nose and then touch all the clothes on every rack at TJMaxx, but if the clothes are tried on, they must be put aside for 72 hours before they are placed back on the rack. 

-As I stood in a long Kohls line with my son and several other rule-abiding mask-wearing customers ready to check out, a family of four (Mom, Dad, toddler daughter and maybe 8-year old son) remained mask-less. Mom and Dad joked, laughed heartily, moved around constantly and continuously took up space near senior citizens in line who desperately tried to avoid them. Kohls staff walked by unphased by the obvious display of rebellion. 

These are just a few of my personal inconsistent experiences. No doubt, you have several of your own. My family and I follow protocols. It’s part of our work lives and we willingly practice COVID safety in our personal lives. While many COVID-related research studies contradict themselves, one thing appears consistent: wearing a mask helps prevent contraction of viruses. 

The bottom line is that inconsistencies will remain. Not just because there are rule-breakers everywhere. But because those who are supposed to uphold the rules are worn out by the violators and society can’t idiot-proof every potential threat, though America is currently trying. Although it’s not entirely as simple as this – taking personal responsibility and respecting others would go a long way. 

5 Days. 4 Nights. No Phone.

See the source image

To summarize a week without my phone…

For the first time ever, I decided to use a random passcode for my phone. Let me first say that I’ve only recently even started to use a passcode. I often leave my phone on my desk at work and colleagues have begun wandering in while I’m not in my office due to some company changes. I wasn’t a complete idiot. I did text the code to myself as my texts always show up on my locked screen. I was however foolish as I inexplicably decided to do this when I was nearly asleep and left the text page open. Those who know iPhones, know where I fell stupidly short. 

The next morning when I explained the dilemma to my three 20-something kids, two laughed and said, “You know the code Mom. There is no chance YOU would do something like this.” There was a compliment in that statement. 

Another commented, “You don’t do ANYTHING random. What is the code Mom?”See the source image

See the source imageI was embarrassed but not too prideful to beg for their assistance. They know iPhones and watching their inability to get into my phone, I started squinting my eyes and cringing every time I recalled something of significant value that I was officially locked out of. Recordings of work activities. Texts that would be helpful for a litigation situation at work. Oh, and my notes…ughhhhh…WordPress posts in my notes not yet published…special comments made by my family that I tend to write down and eventually, put into the big family books…I tend to occasionally journal in the “notes” section of my iPhone (insert grimacing face here)…

Fortunately, I had backed up my photos to my laptop in February. Unfortunately, this was just prior to my daughter moving down south for her first big-girl job, post-college graduation, in her first apartment. We had moved her down and this Mama takes photos people. I had the whole (future) photo album planned out with every shot. Sure, she and Dad had some too, but not like I take. Then, the videos of her and Dad moving the furniture in…(crying emoji here).

The photos I also took during COVID quarantine were locked in my phone, as we all were back together under the same roof cooking, baking, eating and working together. My daughter who just moved out, moved back in after a month of being alone in her new apartment! A global pandemic. It’s been an unprecedented year in this crazy world, but we enjoyed some good, sweet times in the nest. I took a bunch of photos of our food, our work, our card games… now, they were gone.See the source imageI was also working at the office and at home. I had to log into the laptop constantly since I work off of my phone and can much more easily respond to emails via the phone than being tied to the computer. Colleagues in the building were texting me. I wasn’t responding. 

As the desperation rose and I had exhausted all options via research, I ventured out to the Apple store. I avoid this place at all costs on normal days. Of course, they could not help me other than to complete a factory reset. I pressed anyway. After giving me the company line about how “even the government can’t get Apple to break an iPhone passcode” (yes, I’m familiar with the news story), it was confirmed that there are in fact copies of my texts, photos, notes, etc., somewhere, but, I cannot have them. 

We walked through the standard questions that Apple people are trained to ask such as “did you try all the usual birthdays, possible combinations, etc.?” My favorite: “did you check your iCloud?” This made me nuts because yes, I have the iCloud turned on and we accessed it. Strangely, nothing was backed up. We double checked with Apple. Yes, it’s ‘on’ and the iCloud ‘backup’ is on. Now, I will turn them off. Someone reading this might say ‘user error’…which I fully admit is very possible, considering I’m now that person who locked themselves out. That’s why I had Apple check. They too were perplexed. But, COVID is still taken very serious here in NYS and the Apple store was operating outdoors as a drive-up service in a parking garage (this is not a joke), so who the heck knows what was really ‘checked’. On the flip side of my eye rolling judgement of this peculiar location for folks to bring their highly expensive Apple products to pass back and forth through the car window (concrete below), I’m thankful that they were open at all. 

So, the phone was reset by Apple, returned to me through my car window with nothing but bare, empty space. While I lost all photos, texts, apps and notes, one thing that has been more frustrating than the rest is the lost contacts. Work. Personal. For the last week (which I’ve been on vacation), I’ve had to respond, “who is this?” People are emailing me, complaining that I have not answered their texts. 

Lessons learned:

This was 100% my fault. Completely avoidable. Never to happen again. 

I should not be so dependent upon my phone. I was a late bloomer to the phone world…one of those who retained her flip phone until my husband literally brought home a fancy one for me several years ago. I was defiant. Like real books, I believed in land line phones. Now, we have lots of cell phones in the house, no land line, but still read paper books.

I should back up my photos (maybe every week?) – to my computer. And, backup my notes (insert grimacing face here)-to my computer and WordPress.

I will never again go rogue with my passcode choices. It’s not my style and it was a bizarre, midnight, laying-in-bed, inexplicable decision to which I still have no answer for my idiocy. I thought about family codes and birthdays and all the other usual things people use as I laid there that night. And, I thought, ‘no’! I’ll try something new. Next time, I’ll try a new paint color. Not a passcode (insert final grimace face emoji).

There are worse things in the world for sure. I’ve tried not to complain (too much) lately.

The positive: it literally shut down my online life. It revealed my non-stop tendency to reach for the phone. Not because I’m needing Instagram, but because I use it for work, shopping, grocery lists, birthday lists, connection to others (especially more so during this still-shutdown-COVID situation), yoga videos, and on and on. I do not use the computer nearly as much as I did prior to becoming addicted to my phone. I reached for that rectangular piece of metal more than I care to admit while it was utterly unavailable to me. 

The negative: it literally shut down my online life and I lost a few important things that cannot be retrieved. 

I’ve tried to spin it by saying it was God’s way of giving me a fresh start and an eye-opening awareness of my online behaviors. A new beginning. Out with the old and only adding back apps of some value or significance. I still ended up re-downloading things less valuable like my Macy’s app, along with my very valuable Bible app (wink). 

Happy Wednesday!

 

 

Empty and Barren. Full and Bountiful.

During a recent walk at the park, I stopped to stare at these trees, contemplating how the two different trees reflect people’s lives. Or, at least resemble differing seasons in their lives.

One person can be the empty, impoverished, stark tree – yet, they work, travel, parent and operate in the world alongside other trees whose lives are abounding in growth, bursting with color and fullness. Sometimes we are the depleted, defeated one…other times, we are full, complete, abundantly blessed.

Why do some lives flourish more than others? 

Similar to the photo below, I also considered how siblings on the same original “branch” veer off as twigs in different directions – one blossoming and succeeding, the other empty and dry.

While God is Sovereign and guides our lives, He gives us enough free will to create or destroy-grow or become stagnant-give up or persevere. Yet, there are those who devote just as much positive effort as the next person but hit concrete walls at every turn. Their circumstances are real and it’s discouraging.

I was standing at my kitchen island last week, across from a beloved person in my life. Our relationship is a curious one as he is the husband of my oldest step-sister. I refer to him as my brother-in-law, because he feels more like family than my blood relatives. He and my husband have become deep friends over the years, bonding over muscle cars (which someday I’ll have to post on this site). He loves to talk, is very relational and covers a variety of topics, including politics. We all love him.

He is battling serious cancer and yet, refuses to bemoan his circumstances. He’s not in denial but he is unlike anyone I’ve ever seen walk through this. He chooses to redirect his thoughts away from the non-stop challenges including his limp, pain, inability to taste or even eat much. I can’t adequately convey the heart-wrenching injustice of this homicidal disease. It rips the person’s dignity away when they are the most vulnerable… they want to be seen as whole when all people see are the physical signs of their illness.

As we caught up on each other’s week, my three 20-something kids gathered around the kitchen island with us. They began bantering with me, pulling food out, asking him questions, and then began a series of everyday, regular chit chat with each other. I looked over at my brother-in-law and saw his eyes following the kids. His eyes spoke before his words emerged, he again reminding me how blessed I am to have these three. Reminding me that our parenting challenges over the years were really nothing. Years ago, I might have thought catching one of them in a lie was Armageddon (strong indicator of how I am as a Mom), but looking back, my parenting-teen troubles were indeed little ones.

His only son has been battling addiction since he was a young teenager. He’s 30. Legal fees drained their savings more times than I can recall. My brother-in-law speaks more openly now than ever before, and I have glimpsed their parental sufferings in new ways. They too set out to be strong parents, worked hard to give their child a positive life and my heart is broken for their plagued family history. Through this barren land they have walked, they have built treasures in heaven. Despite their own parenting difficulties, they took in three different adolescent children over the years when the biological parents had issues. There was sacrifice involved that made my husband and I admire them. They gave up their own comfort to bless others – even those who may never appreciate the level of sacrifice to their daily life, marriage and finances. 

We used to flip pages of magazines once a month and wonder why the glossy good fortune, perfect genetics and posh vacations laid before us couldn’t be ours. We had 30 days in between deliveries to get over ourselves. Now, we scroll. Hourly for some. Every 2 minutes for most. Social media makes it easy to assume that others’ trees are flourishing while ours are not. People tend to indulge in the ‘what if’s’ or ‘if only’s’ as they scroll. For those of us at mid-life and beyond, we are better at laughing now than coveting. We’ve been through some life and know the reality vs. the fantasy. Most importantly, we trust that the depleting times are usually followed by new abundance. Perhaps not in the same ways we were previously accustomed to abundance, but blessed nonetheless.

If we are going through an empty, stark, unproductive or sad season, let us persevere as best we can in our weakened state-allowing God to be our strength. If we are presently experiencing ease, comfort and few worries, let’s count ourselves deeply blessed to possess a free, uncluttered mind for as long as it may last.