My dilemma: Should I remain alone in Mazatlan where, in addition to enjoying beautiful weather and a wonderful golf course, we’re building a house, or, should I return to Saskatoon to be with our family?
Our situation was further complicated by the fact our house is nearing completion in Mazatlan and there are a number of details to be ironed out, for which we felt I needed to be there.
When Lynn left on March 24, I expected, in my naiveté, that our house would be nearing completion by mid to late April, that my WJ flight for April 26 would be operating, and that Mexico’s graph re Covid-19 cases, would be following along with Canada and the USA.
The reality was that none of the above occurred. Our house still has another month to go, at least. WJ suspended all flights in and out of Mazatlan until mid May, and Mexico is lagging Canada and the USA numbers by at least two, if not three weeks.
The best case scenario now was that I would be there another 5 weeks before the house would be completed and I could get a WH flight home on May 16. The worst case was, that not only could I be there longer than 5 weeks, but the options available for me to get home were possibly going to diminish weekly. If American Airlines decided to reduce, suspend or cancel their daily flight out of Maz to Phoenix(like Alaska Airlines had just done to LA) I would be screwed.
I’m not sure I could have handled it emotionally. No way off this island! I was in a pretty good space, emotionally and physically. I had experienced a few rough nights, as had Lynn. But, overriding all of this, was a nasty ‘what if’ scenario — what if I got the virus? I couldn’t leave and Lynn couldn’t come there to help me. Neither of those options were very appealing, and in fact were down right scary to us.
Then, after reading the story about the Ottawa lady and her husband who had beaten COVID-19, I got very concerned (see CBC News online). What if I got sick like she did? Who would be there to look after me? i have wonderful friends down there but i wouldn’t expect them to risk their life to help me. This could have happened and certainly would have presented us with some difficult decisions to be made.
So, my decision became, do I leave now, or in 7-10 days from now, or stay until May 16? I couldn’t see Lynn or myself lasting another 5 more weeks apart. It was difficult, in and of itself, but made even made more difficult because of all the other uncertainties hanging over us.
What I preferred was to stay another 7-10 days and finish up most of the key decision re the house. But, based on the escalating numbers coming in from Mexico, I feared leaving might get more complicated and the options would get fewer and more cumbersome to navigate. Normally a trip home involves about 8-10 hours and 3 airports. At present, my best option was I could make it home in 36 hours through 5 airports. What would it be in 7–10 days? I didn’t know for sure but the numbers weren’t expected to be any better. The airports are not risk free for Covid-19. Adding more of them to my flight itinerary was not very comforting or ideal, in my mind.
So, I booked a flight to come home as follows: Mazatlan to Phoenix – Thur April 9: 2:10 to 3:23(gain an hour), then on Friday at 7:30 a.m. I leave for Vancouver, arriving at 12:00 after a brief stop in Seattle. At 8:50 Friday night I leave on a direct flight from Vancouver to Saskatoon, arriving at 11:44pm— approx 36 hours after arriving at the Maz airport to go home.
Now, I am home. It is Saturday, April 11 and I’m now self-isolating in the basement of our house in Saskatoon. While it is so nice to be home, two things are painfully clear—Firstly, I’m not sure the trip home was worth it (more later), and secondly, the reality of COVID-19 impacting life at home hit pretty quickly when I met Lynn at the airport and we said hi from a distance. We drove home in separate vehicles, and I went straight to the basement of our home, from whence we visited for an hour— she at the top of the stairs and me at the bottom, before we each retired to our beds to sleep! I thought distance was supposed to make the heart grow fonder??? What’s with being shunted off in exile to the basement for 2 weeks after being apart for 17 days? Welcome home Frank!! This is the new norm, Frank.
Maybe I should have stayed at EDM. Nope, I’m happy to be home. But it was so nice there, and so quiet. Nope, I’m happy to be home. But… , no, I’m happy to be home!!
I was well aware this would happen. Lynn and I had discussed this. My one over riding thought though, “how does that _________ virus survive in this ridiculously cold weather?”
The flight home was a test, a big test. A friend from Calgary and EDM, Rob Wright, drove me to the airport. I felt so disrespectful and cold, getting into the backseat of his Honda CRV wearing my mask. But, I wanted to protect him and keep him clean. So, for me there was no choice but to wear the mask and keep the distance. As well as I had tried to prepare myself for the trip, I don’t know if I would do it again, or if I would recommend it to anyone if s/he was in the same position as I was— 5 airports and 36 hours long was not easy by myself. Trust me, I had made this type of trip many times previously in my career, often alone but this was different. The fear of touching, breathing, seeing, or being touched by anything to do with COVID-19 just about paralyzed me. It was so weird looking at everyone like s/he is a carrier.
Some people had no grasp of the situation and did not care about social distancing whilst others looked at me like I was the Virus!! The range of behaviours and appearances of people was mind boggling. I hope I never have to experience this again. Because there were so many fewer people flying, we boarded quicker. Fewer planes meant no waiting on the Tarmac, or in line to depart, and generally an earlier departure. So, all 4 of my flights were empty and early. Here are the approximate numbers aboard: Maz —Phoenix, 11; Phoenix – Seattle 30, Seattle – Vancouver 17; Vancouver-Saskatoon 25. How long can the airlines afford to send their planes with those kind of numbers?
The culture and atmosphere in each airport was surprisingly unique to each city, some overlap, but also a lot of variance. Keep in mind, I was flying at differing times to each city. It did make for interesting observations. Allow me to expand
Mazatlan was very quiet, very clean, and very caring, very cognizant of what was going on. Everyone was taking precaution. A very impressive display was made by the airport workers on the grounds of the terminal. We could see it from the departure lounge. Out of their equipment they made a large sign, when translated said, “Stay safe at home.” What a touching farewell to all the tourists who were leaving the city they loved, that day— what a great display by the very people who might lose their jobs due to our leaving. They wanted us to take care!! That’s Mazatlan and the reason we love it so much. That extra effort by 3-4 workers said so much to me!! It will forever be embedded in me. It brings tears to my eyes as I write this!!
Phoenix was quite similar to Mazatlan but, because of the size of the airport, there seemed to be slightly more variance in behaviour. There were definitely more people who were in defiance of COVID-19 but they were a small minority. The airport was very clean but incredibly empty, eerily empty. I doubt it was operating at 5% capacity!! I believe all restaurants were closed. At least I could not find one that was open. I did find a Souvenir shop that sold drinks etc. But, the airport was incredibly empty. I went through Security into my Terminal. There were at least 5 cameras. In an area where there would normally be 250-500 people at any given time of the day, I WAS THE ONLY PERSON going through security!!! I found my gate at about 5:00 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. My flight was scheduled for 7:30 Friday morning!! That’s 14 hours away! Should I take a hotel? Yes, I should have taken a hotel, but, I was paranoid about COVID— the shuttle, the driver, the hotel, the shuttle, the driver…. So I decided to stay at the airport. Like every other airport in the world, their airport seats are not conducive for sleeping. Arm rests do not make for good mattresses!! Eventually, I found a flat bench so I combined it with another chair for my bed for the night. I could officially relate to the workers at our house who would take a siesta on the concrete floor with a block of Styrofoam as their pillow. The only difference was they slept!! I had 2 – one minute kitty naps and 2 – 30 minute cat naps. How do I know the two short sleeps were approx 1 minute long? As embarrassing as it is to say so, but the only singer that was able to put me to sleep that night via iTunes was Anne Murray. Well, my first two attempts at falling asleep I fell asleep during one of her songs and woke up before the song was finished!! I tried different types of music but none of it worked for me, so Anne Murray it was. Sorry, Maxine, your recommendation of soothing songs reminded me of funerals and that didn’t help me to sleep at that moment!! Sometimes we just see the negative in things that are meant to be helpful and wonderful.
I recall a lot of my thoughts that night, but I will mention only a few of them. One of them was that I knew that fear does not come from God. Trust in Him, Frank. Secondly, why am I, as Andy Stanley put it so well in a brief video Lynn sent me, putting my faith in this virus? Why not put my faith in God instead? My 3rd thought I recalled, as trivial as it now seems, occurred at ~4:00 a.m. when I sort of congratulated myself for making it through most of the night. I then quickly realized I still wasn’t even 1/2 way through my 36 hour ordeal!! Don’t get too excited just yet, Frank. I was tired, very tired, but couldn’t sleep.
Eventually Friday morning at 7:30 arrived and we departed Phoenix for Seattle on plane with 20-25 other passengers, each sitting a row or two apart from the other.
Seattle — I arrived at ~10:15, well ahead of schedule. It will be a challenge for me to say anything positive about Seattle from this day. As I walked off the ramp from the plane I entered what appeared to be a very old terminal with low ceilings, narrow hallways, and dated decor. It took me about two minutes to find my gate for the next flight. Lo and behold, right beside our gate was a McDonald’s. Do I or don’t I? I decided not to indulge in a McDonald’s meal for a strange reason. I went to the bathroom first. As I entered the toilet, I almost couldn’t turn around because my feet stuck to the floor due to the stickiness of the floor! Who has sticky floors in a toilet at 10:30 in the morning? Haven’t the cleaners been working all night to make this place spotless for the day? They certainly were in Phoenix, where it seemed as if every 10 minutes a cleaning crew was coming through cleaning one part or another of the wing in which I was resting. But, not so in Seattle, I guess. I decided not to eat at McDonald’s.
I, along with all passengers, got called to the ticket counter in order to validate our ticket and seat selection. As I approached the counter I held up my Passport and Boarding Pass to make it obvious I had it and I would hold it. Not so! The ticketing Agent grabbed it out of my hand before I could even realize what he was doing. In Phoenix the ticket agent had allowed, insisted in fact, that we scan the ticket ourselves. This guy would have none of that. He would take care of it. So, when I returned to board 20 minutes later, after wiping clean my Passport and Boarding Pass, I said to him ‘do you mind if just I hold it?’ He replied ‘works for me’. Why is common sense not always so common? Who had trained him re: COVID-19? In general, in Seattle it did not feel like the public was respecting what was happening globally re: this pandemic. Masks and social distancing were not that common. Is that why their numbers are so high?
Vancouver – We landed in Vancouver about 15 minutes early. It felt good to be on home soil, to be back in Canada again, although I must admit, I didn’t feel a lot of relief. I think I was too tired and still too concerned about being safe with everything I did. Customs was straightforward. Then the grilling began. These Border Patrol agents were trained to grill me hard on COVID- 19. They seemed determined to find out if I was being truthful. It all went well.
Vancouver airport seemed like the most organized and most structured airport I had seen on this trip. Essentially everyone was following protocol. Most people were wearing masks and virtually everyone was practising social distancing Did you read what I just said? Most people (in the airport) were wearing masks!! That is now considered normal protocol already in Canada!! Crazy! Everything seemed to be orderly and under control. But, the airport was the busiest of all the airports. As is often the case in Vancouver, there seemed to be a lot of Asian visitors— just another thing to make one nervous, knowing full well where the COVID-19 started…..
By 1:00 I had already found my gate for my 8:50 flight. I had noticed a food court nearby, and, since I was still hungry, I decided to meander over there. There was a Tim Horton’s, a Booster Juice, and an A&W open. After great consternation, and a helpful reminder from our son, that ‘food has so far not been determined to be a transmitter of the virus; it is a respiratory disease’ I decided to indulge in a Mozza Burger. For the first time in over a month, I ate out!! It tasted very good.
Okay, so it’s 1:30, now what do I do for the next 7 hours? Well, a friend from Saskatoon, Don Neufeld, suggested, in one of his texts to me, to get a room at the Fairmont, a hotel in the Vancouver Airport, for a 6 hour rental. I checked it out and within minutes I was asleep!! What follows is my text to Don around 5:00 after I woke up about 2 1/2 hours later from my nap.
[Well I’m back at my gate awaiting my flight at 8:50 local time. I figure that hotel cost me about 3 cents Cdn$ / breath for my 2 1/2 hour sleep!! But, it was the best 3 cents/breath I ever spent. I woke up totally out of it– totally bewildered as to where I was. Seriously, it took me at least 5 minutes to figure out where I was, why I was there, how did I get there, what was I doing there, what did I need to do next etc. I think I was tired!! Duhhhhh!! Thanks for the suggestion. I sure hope our builder finishes our house first!! I won’t have soda crackers for supper every day the rest of the year!!!
The last part was in reference to a standing bet we have as to whose builder will finish our respective houses first as we both started at similar times last year.]
Awakening from that sleep was a nightmare!!! I did not know where I was. I looked out over part of the Vancouver airport from the 11th floor of the Fairmont. I recalled being in Mazatlan but this wasn’t the Mazatlan airport. I recalled COVID-19 being a big issue. Had I escaped it or was I in the midst of it? Where was I? I gradually came to my senses. What an experience!!
After returning to the airport I decided to munch on a few of the crackers I had brought with me. So, my first supper in Canada in more than four months consisted of Soda Crackers, and a Coke. I managed to convince myself that it was safe to buy at a nearby Bookstore. It hit the spot. The bookstore was selling the Cokes on sale. My 500ml Coke cost me $.75 —Mexico prices— am I still dreaming? They had switched their supplier to Pepsi from Coke. Big mistake!!
An hour or so later I returned to buy some more Cokes-why not at that price? Sorry— all sold out!! You snooze you lose!!
I then went back to my gate to catch my flight home We boarded early and left at 8:40, again about 10 minutes early. I had booked Business Class on this one and so was one of the first to board. As I’m sitting there waiting, the rest of the passengers on the flight started boarding. They all had to walk by me. In this new world, shouldn’t the Business Class board last? I think so. The other interesting par of this was that because I had purchased Business Class for the flight, I also had access to the Airport Lounge prior to my flight. Oh, but the Lounge was closed due to COVID-19. No word from AC on this.
We had barely reached our flying altitude when the pilot announced we were well on our way for the one hour and 26 minute flight to S’toon. What, 86 minutes from Vancouver to S’toon? That’s a record. How sweet! What a great time for a short flight! I couldn’t have been more relieved and thankful.
I texted Lynn when we landed. We had arranged she would get a vehicle to the airport (with the help of Chris and Sue). I saw her exiting the terminal just as I was walking through it. I followed her to our vehicles. She got in one and I in the other and we drove side by side all the way home…….. and then I went downstairs and she remained upstairs from whence we visited for the next 90 minutes or so. How nice, but how strange, it felt.
Now I get to text with the rest of my family from my basement in Saskatoon, instead of from Mazatlan. Doesn’t that feel better? Yes, I guess it does but I’m still trying to figure out how does that ____________ virus survive in this _________ cold weather?
Thanks for reading and allowing me to share these thoughts and experiences from the past few days.