You’re in a confined space. You can’t move left or right. There is a restraint around your waist, fixing you to the chair you’re on. You try to gulp for more air, but your mouth and nose are covered. All you can manage are slow, laboured, and shallow breathes. The cover not only limits your air supply, but it traps your hot exhale. This trapped hot air dissipates down your throat and makes you feel patched. You feel a bead of sweat moving from between your breasts, then down to your belly, and then getting soaked into your clothes. You close your eyes in despair, and then you hear footsteps. They are trampings of a heavy person. You know this without seeing because you feel the vibrations with each step they take. When the figure eventually comes to within your line of sight, you swing your head left, clear your throat to grab their attention and ask, “can I have some water?”
“No, I’m sorry. We’re not allowed to serve any food items and beverages on the flight.” The air attendant responds in a pleasant tone.
Did I deceive you? Did you imagine for a second that I was re-imagining a scene from Taken or Don’t Breathe? No, my friends; this is a scene of a flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg during the COVID lockdown. I flew down because, after eight months of mostly isolation, I needed ocean vibes. My stay was fantastic. I hiked, swam, read, and ate good food. But getting to and fro was less appealing. If you plan on travelling here are a few things to keep in mind.
All that throttling
Air travel has always been notoriously frustrating about how early one needs to be for their flight. In these COVID days, the traffic might have lessened and thereby removing some of the waiting time; but, the regulatory requirements have added more time than is saved. For example, all traffic has one entry and exit. If you’re driving yourself to the airport and you know your favourite parkade, it has undoubtedly moved. Check before you get there about the appropriate parking. Drop off zone has also been moved, creating a choke on entry and exit.
Get there early.
In addition to the traffic, you also need to fill out a health declaration form and get a temperature reading. The form is quick enough to fill, but at peak times you will spend a good amount of time queuing to submit it and get your temperature measured.
No more farewells and welcomes.
So leave your loved ones at home. They will not be allowed to set foot inside the terminals without a ticket. No one without a ticket or some serious high-level clearance gets from the parking to the terminals. The same applies upon exit. All the transportation is relegated to one floor of a parkade; from e-hailing cabs to metered taxi. But what someone from Airports SA needs to tell me is if they are on a power-saving campaign. That’s because the one allocated exit with transport providers is a dark tunnel filled with taxi drivers paddling in this concentrated space for riders. Eliminating any possibility of social distancing and inducing a possible anxiety attack.
Welcome to the hands-free world
Do you know that feeling when you’re at a supermarket? The cashier scans your items. An attendant bags them. You fish out your card or cash from your wallet and give it to the cashier. They process the payment and take your card or cash with the slip, and put it on the counter when your hand is right there-extended, opened, and waiting to receive back what you placed in their hands. Sigh! Now imagine everyone is like that. The no touching is infuriating. You scan your own boarding pass. They ask for ID, and you have you hold it out for their persuing while with the other hand you lower your mask for confirmation that you are indeed the person on the ID. The flight attendant won’t touch your bag. So if you need help hauling it up the overhead compartment, you’ll heave and struggle on your own.
You can bring your own refreshments, but they do not serve any. This, to me, makes zero sense. It’s not like we shared food on the flight. This I assume is also part of the no-touching principle. But gloves exist mos. This and wearing your mask the entirety of the flight (except when experiencing distress), are the top changes that make flying under lockdown so uncomfortable.
The silly rules
So here we are in an economy flight. Seated shoulder to shoulder. The guy to my right keeps kicking me because he was to slot his other leg into space beneath the seat in front of me. I guess he doesn’t think his space is enough. Meanwhile, the girl on my right is shedding the faux fur of her white cape onto my jacket. Then comes an announcement that I need to keep a 1.5-metre distance when I stand on the aisle queuing for the toilet.
All the lost chances
A very handsome gentleman tried to chat me up on the flight. We were both a little late and ended up being rescued from the snail-paced medical clearance queue. He bolted to the check-in but we eventually found ourselves seated on the same row; albeit on the opposite side of the aisle. He tried to chat me up about the irony of meeting again there, but with only my ears to hear, I appreciated the other senses that I use to communicate. I guess more of the limbic resonance I talked about on my last post. The attempt fell short, I think he half-thought I was not interested, and half exhausted by the efforts. Breathing and speaking through a mask is an effort. I wish a COVID-free world to follow soon, I miss the sweet conversation with good looking gentlemen as my in-flight entertainment.