Clad in my Golden Girls mask, I make my way to the security checkpoint at Portland International Airport (PDX) awaiting my Alaska Airlines flight to Las Vegas, NV.
This was a surprise trip to celebrate my mother’s birthday. She and my older sister Sonya were flying to Vegas from Washington state and Jean (Auntie Jean), my mother’s best friend and longtime family friend, was flying in from Florida. Sonya encouraged me to make the trip. I hadn’t seen my mother or sister in-person since last year. It has been at least 16 years since we’ve seen Jean.
I stick earbuds in my ears to provide a musical distraction from the voices of boredom in my head while I wait for my flight. It’s been over a year since I was last at PDX. Last August, Eric and I traveled to Vancouver, BC for our yearly trek to the Celebration of Light International fireworks competition. We were excited to get away and posted the photo of our feet on the PDX carpet to the social webs (It’s really a thing here.) This time, no photo. I just sit here at my departure gate looking around at the sparseness and abundance of all the closed spaces of this normally vibrant and busselling place. The mood is now somber and quiet; almost depressing; a real reflection of the current times. You don’t hear any laughter or even feel that sense of adventure that comes with traveling.
I was feeling a little anxious and concerned about air travel in a time of COVID and flying solo always makes me nervous too. This is a trip without significant others. The thoughts of my safety and well-being prompted me to think about the most random of questions: What precautions are in place to ensure my (our) safety? Will I be forced to bitch-slap someone for not wearing a mask in the plane (kidding)? Or, will I have to wrestle an intoxicated passenger for attempting to open the cabin door? Ok, the last one is a tad dramatic, but you never know!
In the waiting area I noticed that most of everyone is adhering to the mask policy, except for this one dude. He actually had a mask on, but it wasn’t covering his nose. His buddy was wearing his mask properly but the dude didn’t seem to care despite the signage throughout the airport and the airport service notices.This appears to be the biggest problem with folks. I’ll be curious if the flight clerk will say something to this guy when we begin boarding. It’s that time and an announcement is made about the expanded sanitizing of the aircraft and overall mask protocols.
As we began boarding, I noticed staggered seating to create some form of social distancing. The flight crew was friendly and while presenting the safety presentation, I noticed the “dude” was seated two rows back still exposing his nose like a protruding hard-on popping out of a pair of underwear. I glanced around the plane looking for my closest emergency exit and that’s when my eyes locked with the dude. I gave this guy the look of “shade” and he quickly yanked up his mask. When the flight crew were passing through the cabin to ensure all seatbelts were fastened and tray tables were in place for take off, I heard the attendant ask the woman behind me to cover her nose. She must have been reluctant to comply because the attendant went on to explain the airline’s “3 Ask Policy”. Meaning after being asked three times to properly wear a mask, you are reported. The passenger (I think her name was Karen?) begrudgingly complied and snapped at the attendant, okay, okay, just go away. Shortly after that, we taxied to our holding position for an on-time departure.
Landing at (LAS) McCarran Airport, I was greeted by a similar sight of closed restaurants and other businesses. Prior to checking in at the front desk, I was stopped in the hotel lobby by a staff member and asked if they could check my temperature to ensure I wasn’t a carrier or transmitter for the Coronavirus. After getting the all clear, I was allowed to proceed to check in and was then issued my room keys. I quickly headed to my room on the 27th floor at the world famous Bellagio Hotel and Casino. The room was great and overlooked the pools and distance mountains. I was lucky to find a reasonable rate that also included a $30 a day F&B credit to spend at the hotel restaurants (tips and other taxes not included). I sent a text to my sister to let her know that I had arrived and was heading up to my room.
Jean was spoiling our mom by arranging a multi-room suite for herself, my mother, and sister to share. Since I don’t gamble, this trip was solely about spending time with my family and Jean. Besides, I feel fortunate to still be employed and risking the loss of any amount of money wasn’t worth it. This is the first time my mother, sister, and I have been in Las Vegas at the same time since living here back in the late 70s.
I changed clothes and put on a wig to disguise my appearance to really make an impact, and I was also wearing a mask. Anyone who knows my mother is aware of how excited she can get when she’s excited. I sent a text to Sonya suggesting she notify anyone around them of potential screams and that no one is being killed or harmed in any way. My sister let me know that the ladies were hungry and were heading to one of the many hotel eateries in the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. They had decided on eating at an appropriately named food spot, the “Snack” for some midafternoon sustenance.
When I made my way downstairs, I passed through the gaming area with its sensory numbing flashing lights, ringing bells, and the occasional screams of excitement. I was also pleased and surprised to see sanitizing stations and free masks signage posted throughout the casino. Sonya first spotted me and then Jean. Jean told my mother not to turn around because there was a guy standing over her shoulder and that he may be drunk. Sonya chimed in suggesting that maybe I wanted money. My mother continued eating her lunch but you could see the rigidity of her body language, she was preparing to snap at this guy (me) hovering close by. “You don’t know me”, she politely said. I responded, “Are you sure? When I removed my mask, my mother screamed in excitement when she realized it was me. All I could do was laugh as she hugged me. We had officially executed the best birthday surprise ever!
We were only in town for two nights (sorry my Vegas friends this was a quick trip), and with most events shut down because of the Coronavirus, we spent our time reflecting on memories, and enjoying our time together.
I really needed this trip. Although organized to celebrate my mother, these past seven months of dealing with a pandemic, an election year, and social unrest, have really made me lose sight of the goodness and happiness life still has to offer!
#wearyourmaskcorrectly #covidsucksass #Ilovemybigsister #blacklivesmatter