Image by Yaroslav Danylchenko / Pexels

Tripidation a state of worried anticipation about air travel during COVIDchoosing which mask to wear, maintaining a safe distance from other passengers, avoiding high touch surface areas, etc.

We planned our long-awaited trip to visit grandchildren in Tennessee for mid-October hoping to avoid the crush of summer and holiday travel. Wanting to steer clear of larger crowds at major airports, we decided to use smaller regional facilities at both ends of the trip. This meant two stops each way. A cross-country trip that would normally take less than six hours took an entire day. Airline staff and other travelers were generally very courteous but there are always those few rebels who defiantly wear their masks improperly or not at all. I suspect they’re not vaccinated either.

The auto-flushing toilets that usually annoy me (typically flushing 2 to 3 times during one visit, to what? Snatch the seat cover before you sit down? Conserve water?) were appreciated this time. One less surface to touch.

Other than masking reminders everywhere and liberal placement of hand sanitizer dispensers, there were no temperature checks or health questionnaires at in-person check-in.

You know how you leave the TSA security screening area completely discombobulated even in the best of times? A sign at the small Tennessee airport pointed to two benches identified as the “recomposure” area. If only.

It turns out we arrived there just ahead of the burst of fall color. A few leaves (enough to rake) had already fallen. Lush green lawns nourished by summer rains were abundant and the air was fresh and clear. With Waffle Houses and Cracker Barrel restaurants, billboards advertising orange creamsicle milk, covered bridges and drive-in theaters, it felt as though we’d stepped into an episode of Mayberry RFD. Everywhere, smooth southern accents melted words like honey butter on a warm biscuit. Adults there are still referred to as “sir” and “ma’am.”

The worst aspect of our trip was during one four-hour leg of our flight home – a farting dog stuffed under a seat in the row in front of us. Our N95 masks offered no protection from that.

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