Airplanes, the TSA, and PIE
I hadn’t been on an airplane for nine months. For most, that doesn’t seem unusual, but checking my calendar for 2019, I was averaging two to three plane flights a month. The pandemic had put me on the ground.
I was reacting to news stories and empty parking lots at LAX. It seemed there was a paradigm shift going on in air travel. Everyone was talking about how it would never be the same.
I had to fly to Chicago in November. And let’s face it, I began the trip with some trepidation. Would I be checked for CV by TSA? Would there be temperature checks? How would flight attendants treat the passengers? Would I step off the plane having been infected with a deadly disease?
Well, guess what? None of that happened. With the exception that everyone was wearing masks, there was absolutely no difference flying in November than flying in March. Well, except for the fact that the TSA, airport employees, and flight attendants seemed actually happy to see you.
At the security checkpoint in Chicago, the officer was joking with the passengers in line. He played with my passport, his eyes smiling behind his mask. It was a laugh when he asked me to lower my mask so he could make sure it was “me”. I had no clue what he was asking so he lowered his to show me.
The plane was nearly full. There was one difference. There was no inflight service. You were given a baggy upon entering that contained a small bottle of water, a package of cookies, and a hand wipe. After the plane took off, I didn’t see a flight attendant again until we were on final descent at O’Hare. Frankly, I didn’t miss them.
All the flights seemed to be full or nearly so, but the airport wasn’t full at all. In Chicago, the restaurants and shops were open, but those in LA not so much.
The flight was a pleasant experience. I recommend air travel to you. It’s time to get back out there, folks. Go for it. I see that Thanksgiving travel is going strong, but not back to normal. I think that’s great. People are loosening up a bit. This is not a bad thing. We are beginning to overcome fear. And if we are to survive as a people, we must.
Hotels are a different story. It’s spooky to stay in a hotel with only about 10 percent of the rooms taken. Someone said it reminded her of “The Shining.”
I went to Schaumburg, Illinois to work on final plans for PIE 2021. I came away excited about hosting the first in person event in the industry in well over a year. It will be fantastic to see old friends and make new ones. We have some ideas that will fit in with the obvious restrictions, and you will love them.
We will reveal them to you over the next few months.
All you scolds, back off. I’m not downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic, but I do understand the social toll it has taken. We live lives interacting with other people and we must do that. We need to be careful. Those of us of a “certain age” and those with preexisting conditions should take care, but the vast majority of us need to interact, we need to meet and greet, we need to see people and smile again.
I have mentioned before that restricting face to face meetings is anathema to one’s creative juices. This little two-day trip made a huge difference in my outlook. The meetings at the hotel were face to face, across a table without masks. We could see the excitement in the facial expressions of our partners in PIE 2021. They told us stories about life in the pandemic and how they were coming out of it.
The folks behind the registration desks were friendly and chatty. We went to dinner, inside a restaurant, and were regaled by the restaurant owner with stories about having an open restaurant. The place was packed. But social distancing was maintained. Masks were in place except when eating. We talked about our families, school opening and closing, the trials in working from home and the excitement on returning to the office.
Yes, people want to return to the office. Don’t believe the stories about a permanent ‘Zoom’ theory on the workplace. The people I met, some very high in the organization, were actually giddy about reopening the office. The vaccine was on everyone’s lips.
We need to put politics aside and thank those who began “project warp speed” and got the vaccine moving. What normally would take years, took months. Were there mistakes? Sure. Someone equated it to building a plane while you were flying it.
I am writing this column the week before Thanksgiving. You will be reading it in January. Let’s pray that the beginning of 2021 will bring new hope to a troubled world.