The global pandemic is possibly the single topic uniting every member of the human race. The fear, tragedy, disability and devastation experienced by many is not something to be downplayed nor discounted, it is however, something that needs to be “managed” and by that I mean respected but given the deserving perspective, without the fear mongering and scare tactic-ing.
Following our most recent international flight from South Africa to The Netherlands, a number of startling “senselessnesses” became so glaringly obvious that I feel compelled to commit them to my blog memory. Bear with me whilst I try and un-boggle my brain around the weirdness of so many “protocols”…
Firstly, the whole practice of social distancing is fairly strictly regulated with demarcated lines either painted or pasted on the floor. Most people are more comfortable with maintaining an acceptable distance from others however, that is not the case in the African cultures. The idea of a personal space, or bubble, is completely foreign to them. This is where the demarcated distancing lines become essential.
The second glaring point on the distancing front is that the lines in an airport terminal, more often than not, turn back on themselves, in a snake like fashion, in order to fit more human beings into the limited space. Herein lies the challenge: once the line turns, folding back on itself, so too do the humans in that line, leaving them shoulder to shoulder instead of the required 1,5m apart.
Shuffle through the security checkpoint, undressing virtually to one’s underwear, all the while the line backs up and concertinas onto itself… bang goes the socially distancing rules!
Perhaps the third world countries have not yet received the memo regarding the relaxing of the terrorism protocol in favour of the viral protocol, which meant stripping down to beltless pants and socked feet? Most airport security seem to have alleviated itself of the paranoia of terrorism in that the old rules of minimimum liquids, every electronic device, including a pacemaker, all seem to be largely overlooked in light of the new viral terror, this is rather refreshing.
Move on to the boarding gates for the next chapter of irony.
Those boarding the same flight are all herded into a small lounge, with minimal seating space, now reduced by alternate seats being taped off in order to discourage sitting side by side (social distancing measures, remember?)
The next lark is that the calls are made to begin boarding from the front, I guess that this is for the more privileged travellers to enjoy a carefree stroll onto an empty aircraft, before the riff-raff clamour in.
WHY, in the name of all things sacred, would you allow the posh to seat themselves at the front FIRST, only to have the rest of us crush, squash and shuffle our way past them, potentially “infecting” them as we go??? Surely it would make far more sense to keep the posh separate from the masses by boarding the masses first, at the BACK of the plane, moving forward in designated boarding zones (what are those?) until they can calmly be seated, facing frontwards in their extra legroom, reclining chairs, champagne in hand, in time for taxing and take off?
Remember the sacred social distancing protocols? Well, now is the time to forget them all as the cattle class are crushed together, virtually cheek by jowl, if not armpit by thigh, as far as one could possibly imagine, removed from the aforementioned distancing requirements!
Granted, every person boarding the plane would have had a very expensive PCR laboratory test conducted (do not get me started on this money making racket!), in order to clear the airport security, prior to getting through the line to the check-in counter. I guess it’s fairly safe to assume then, that those of us able to indulge in air travel, are of the “safest” on the planet?
Part of the scrabble of us rabbel to get into our seats, requires our limited hand luggage to be safely stowed in the overhead bins, right? Wrong! Once again, the protocols of remaining in your seat, not touching each other (impossible), wearing a surgical mask for the duration of the flight, changing it every four hours – who is checking this one, I have NO idea as crew are discouraged from spending too much time in the cabin with us. They dispense the necessary food and beverage, then retire to their galley, not to be disturbed. This part suits me just fine as I cannot understand why passengers ought to have crew on hand to pick up whatever we have dropped?!
Back to the hand luggage. The bin space above each seat is actually numbered according to the seat below, indicating that that space is allocated to THAT seat.
Forget that numbering system, Each man for himself and if you get in first, cram as much in as possible, slam the bin closed and skulk back to your designated seat. Then blatantly ignore any efforts by the allotted passenger to find a space for their legitimate hand luggage bag. It amazes me just how intriguing the inflight magazine, or even the emergency exit card, become in these moments – insert MASSIVE EYE ROLL HERE!!!
Roll on to the actual flight. Mostly, fellow passengers have taken heed of the unnecessary movement in the cabin rule. Not sure what happened to all our circulation exercises to prevent blood clots and keeping well hydrated – this would necessitate more traipsing to the toilet cupboard, which is discouraged. Being the most “healthy” members of the human race, PCR tests prove that, apparently, we are surely then free to move freely?
Anyway… disembarkation protocols seem to have improved somewhat. The crew announce the arrival, in the event of a smooth landing, and request that passengers remain seated. Strangely, this command finally seems to have sunk in as most obediently sit until the row before starts moving – impressive!
Let your foot touch terra firma and BANG! Social distancing protocols are immediately enforced – back to the 3rd and 4th paragraphs…
All this moaning belies the fact that I am beyond grateful for the opportunity and ability to engage in this privileged form of travel. May those of us wishing to be reunited with our dear ones soon be able to do so, safely, legitimately and comfortably for everyone.