COVID-19 AND DISAPPOINTMENT

Harry Levis was not a happy man, in fact he was an unhappy, terrified man. He had been summoned to return from his get way place in Florida to his home in Toronto.

Things wouldn’t have been so bad if Covid-19 hadn’t presented a horrible problem. Harry had been able to avoid contact with people and was happy to be in home isolation. He went for walks and when he needed groceries he masked and gloved up and drove to the local supermarket. He had his list and ran in and almost played Supermarket Sweepstakes throwing items into his cart.

As soon as he got home, Harry washed every package and was very grateful for having the time to be thorough. He felt reassured that he was taking every measure possible to prevent Covid-19 from entering his world.

He spent most of his days writing and working on consulting projects from his office. He operated a Media/PR firm and was providing advice and strategic plans for different businesses on how to hit the ground running when Covid-19 was no longer a major threat.

The Canadian Government had summoned all Canadians home as they were planning to stop commercial planes from entering from the United States because of the pandemic. The other issue was Harry’s health insurance. The provincial government (Ontario) had made it very clear, that if a Canadian stayed outside of the country longer than one hundred and eighty days in a calendar year, they could risk losing coverage. That was not something Harry was prepared to have happen. It was the perfect storm.

Harry had thought about driving back,(he kept a second car in Florida) but that would mean he couldn’t stop at any hotels on the way home for fear of contracting Covid-19 along the way. He didn’t even know if any restaurants would be open. It was a tough situaton, and the reality was a two hour and forty minute flight seemed like the only viable option.

After checking with different airlines, Harry chose a Canadian carrier and booked his flight. It would be an expensive proposition but they promised that they were already limiting the number of passengers and safe distancing would be practiced. The reservation clerk also said that masks would be mandatory and that was reassuring to Harry.

As the departure date got closer Harry was a jumble of mixed emotions. He had called a riding service and asked if they disinfected their vehicles as he needed a ride to the airport. They had sent him a statement clearly stating that every driver would be responsible for hygene and health for their vehicles.He could rest easy.

At 4:00 am on Monday March 24th, 2020 Harry waited outside his Condo building. It was a hot humid morning and there was a call for rain. Harry loved being in Hallandale Beach, and the idea of leaving and going back to the unknown of Toronto was scary. There was reported cases of Covid-19 in South Florida, but nobody seemed to be overly worried.

The driver showed up at four forteen. He was late and as he opened his trunk to throw Harry’s suitcase in, Harry noticed he wasn’t wearing a glove or mask. ‘’Did you sanitize the car for the trip to the airport?’’ The driver nodded his head but didn’t say anything.

As they were heading down the I95 towards Ft. Lauderdale and the airport, Harry asked the driver if he was doing regular cleanings of his vehicle. The driver looked back at Harry in his rear view mirror. ‘’Look man, my car’s clean, I only had a couple of other passengers before you, so just take a relax pill.’’ This was not very comforting to Harry.

When they got to the airport, the driver pulled in front of Terminal 2. ‘’Make sure and give me a great rating man, I got you to the airport.’’

Harry thought the only rating he would give would be to not trust the car service and their claim of disinfecting vehicles. As Harry got his suitcase he noticed the driver standing way to close, but he didn’t say anything, he took his luggage and said ‘’Good Luck’’ and scrambled into the terminal.

The flight was scheduled for six thirty and there were people lining up to check in. Harry was disgusted that there was no personal space. There was no way people standing six feet apart. He was praying for a big plane.

One of the things that was really bothering Harry and making him feel very nervous was the family of four standing behind him. The parents of two teens were not wearing masks or gloves and neither were their children. They were all laughing and expressing germs in the air. He prayed they wouldn’t be sitting near him on the plane.

When Harry looked around there weren’t many people wearing masks or gloves and he felt alarmed. He has been so careful while in home isolation.

It took twenty minutes but he finally made it to the front of the line. He asked the booking person for a seat in an empty row and she laughed. ‘’Sir, you must be kidding, this flight is completely full, all the Canadians have to get home. I can put you in a window in aisle thirty two. ‘’When Harry asked if there was anything open closer to the front of the plane, she again laughed. ‘’Yup, I have a seat in aisle four, but it’s a middle.’’ Harry had a rock and a hard place moment. If he sat in the back of the plane all the germs would come towards him. If he sat in the front, he would be in a middle seat. It was a tough decision. ‘’Sir, front or back? we have a long line behind you.’’ Harry made the decision and hoped it would be the right one. ‘’I’ll take the window seat, at least I won’t be stuck between two people.’’

The attendant asked him about his carry on luggage,and Harry showed her his tote bag. She then asked him to put his suitcase on the scale. Harry obliged and she tagged it and lifted it off and threw it on a conveyor belt behind her. ‘’Gate 8 F, go the right to go through TSA security. Have a Good Flight sir.’’

Harry looked at his watch, it was five twenty and there was a huge line waiting to check in. He was starting to feel extremely uncomfortable.

Going through security was standard, and Harry didn’t have to take his mask off. He did worry about the germs that could have been living in the baskets where he had to put his laptop and shoes to be scanned.

In the gate area, Harry tried to sit away from everybody, but the place was filling in and there didn’t seem to be any room to escape. He kept checking his watch for boarding, but the seconds ticked very slowly.

Finally they started calling out rows for people to get on the plane and his was near the end. By the time he got on the seven thirty seven, people were standing in the aisles, and putting things in the overhead bins.

He had to brush by a number of people till he finally made it to his seat. He had to ask a heavy set woman to let him get by her for the window seat, and she reluctantly stood up and moved out so he could squeeze in. He threw his carry on bag into the bin and sat down. The first thought he had was the woman wasn’t wearing a mask, he hoped she didn’t try and talk with him.

‘’Did you have a nice holiday? I was going to stay longer, but the Government is making us come back. Isn’t that ridiculous?’

Harry nodded and looked out the window. He was not going to have a conversation with her and pretended to be falling asleep

It worked better than planned and the next thing Harry knew the plane was moving forward getting ready for takeoff. He was semi-sleeping when they hit the sky.

Harry was dozing when he heard the woman beside him talking with the guy on the aisle seat and the people in front of her. ‘’So my friend says, this is all fake news. That people die from the flu every year and they are just making it a bigger deal this year so the Government has more control of us. ‘’ The conversation was making Harry uncomfortable.

The man sitting on the aisle had his own thoughts. ‘’ I blame Donald Trump. He pissed off China and they launched a chemical war against us.’’ The two people in front who were now turning and talking were shooting spittle and this made Harry very upset. ‘’Yeah, it could’ve been Trump’s fault but we think it is all fake news. The media is just trying to create a panic. We don’t believe have the crap they’re reporting.’’

Harry wanted to scream ‘’Turn the fuck around you ignoramuses’’, but he held his tongue.

The fat woman jostled him and Harry wasn’t sure if it was an accident or on purpose. ‘’What do you think Mr. Mask?’’ This brought laughter from all around him.

‘’I think if you read the reports from China and Italy this Corona Virus is no joke. People are dying, it’s different than the flu.’’

Instead of listening with respect to his response, they all started laughing again. ‘’Right, and if you’re interested we have some swamp land we can sell you. This Corona thing will disappear as fast as it came. You watch, it is a huge hoax.’’ Harry turned his head and tried to pretend he was sleeping again.

The people around him didn’t stop talking the entire flight, and their nonsense was causing Harry’s head to hurt. The landing in Toronto was the highlight of the trip.

Harry had to sit beside the people in his row till the plane emptied out. He looked at his watch it read ten fifteen.

He followed the woman down the aisle and as soon as he was off the plane, he passed her and headed for the luggage carousel.

Harry waited for what seemed forever to get his suitcase. He had people all around him and he wanted to scream ‘’Give Me Safe Space’’ but nobody would’ve listened. His suitcase finally tumbled down the ramp, but didn’t reach him till three other people had touched it, thinking it was their own.

He grabbed it and headed out to the limousine stand where he once again had to stand in line. It was starting to get beyond frustrating.

When he finally got in the limo, he gave the driver his address and they took off. ‘’You’re wearing a mask, is the virus bad in Florida?’ Harry responded that it seemed to be getting worse, and then he asked the driver a very pointed question. ‘’Do you disinfect the limo after you drive people home?’’

There was a pause and the driver responded ‘’Oh yes, we keep everything clean. But you shouldn’t worry the Corona isn’t bad here.’’ Somehow Harry didn’t feel reassured.

When he finally pulled up in front of his Condo building he was delighted to be home. He gave the driver cash with a healthy tip, and wished him safe travels.

The concierge buzzed him in and he headed for the elevator. About eight other people got in with him and once again there was no safe space distancing.

Harry was still wearing his mask. It had been a long day when he finally stood in front of his door. He opened it and stepped in. He immediately stripped down and left everything at the door as he ran to the shower.

He took a twenty minute shower and dried off. He put on fresh clothes and put on a pair of gloves. He opened his suitcase and his tote bag and emptied everything out. He then took his bags to the garbage room and left them there to be disposed of. He wasn’t risking Corona germs being on them.

Harry threw his clothes, including his shoes into the washing machine and put it on the heavy cycle.

After washing the handle of his door with soap and hot water, he sat down on his couch and reflected on the journey.

He would order food online, he would order masks and gloves online and he would start home quarantine immediately. He was so happy to be home.

Harry spent the afternoon answering emails and doing work. He made a delicious dinner and at ten o’clock he decided to go to bed and get a full night’s rest. He was enjoying his sleep when the phone rang.

It seemed ludicrous that someone would call at eleven o’clock but he was worried it might be some kind of emergency so he answered. ‘’Is this the number for Harry Levis?’’ Harry said it was. ‘’We’re sorry for calling you so late sir, but we needed to share some news with you. One of our gate attendants has come down with the Corona Virus. If you were in contact with her or in her proximity it is possible you have been infected. If you start feeling nauseous, have a headache, lose your sense of taste or smell, and have diarrhea, we suggest you get in touch with a Health official as soon as possible. Sorry for disturbing you, but we wanted to let all of our passengers know of the situation.’’ The message ended, and Harry hung up.

He tried to sleep, but he knew for the next two weeks he would be praying that he was okay and the Corona germs missed him. Harry kept thinking about the people on the plane around him. Fake News, there were more idiots in the world than he could have ever imagined. Those would be the maroons who thought it wouldn’t happen to them, and they’d be spreading the virus to the unsuspecting. What a strange time in the world. Harry’s last thoughts before trying to fall asleep again were ‘’I wonder if any of those cars I was in today were actually cleaned?’’ He knew the answer and as a result his prayer level increased.

‘’

Alan Schwarz loves life. He is the founder of JAMS Productions, a television production company based in Toronto . His passion is writing.

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