I mentioned in a post several weeks ago that I would be leaving for a four- week road trip to do research for a writing project I’ve been working on… and to just get out of the house. As I sit here at my trusty computer and look around, it would appear that I have returned, exactly a month after beginning this little adventure. Looking back over the last 30 days, the one thing I will not soon forget is how entirely strange our world has become, for in so many ways, COVID governs the land, along with the mob, of course.
On that very first day, I learned how different this trip was going to be- in a very basic way.
Where’s the bathroom?!
As most Americans know, when you travel the Interstate Highways there are perioding “Rest Areas” as you motor through rural areas, but not normally in urban regions. On other highways, there are usually none of these rest areas. Even so, there is seldom much of a problem because gas stations and restaurants have restrooms you can use when you stop.
Not any more.
On the first half of our trip Interstate rest areas were open only if the restrooms had exterior doors, if not they were closed. As for gas stations? Most had their restrooms closed. Restaurants? Forget about it- drive thru and carry out only, and in the carry out places, everything except the carry out counter would be blocked off. I haven’t had to plan driving around bathroom breaks since I had toddlers with me, and that was 30 years ago.
On another front is the food aspect: I haven’t eaten so many meals in the car since the 1960’s!
Finally, you arrive at your lodgings and we very quickly found that you just never know what to expect. Many seem pretty much like they always did, while others were… strange. Two required you to bring your own sheets and pillows. Another had the office closed and you could only speak to the desk clerk through a cracked open office window while standing in a flower bed…
OK, now that you are in your room, where will you go for dinner- maybe you want to do a little shopping…
Forget about it.
If you want to eat, you’d better have your door dash app ready.
Just to make it a little more interesting, each state, we were in 13 of them, has different rules. Within each state each city and town has its rules, and of course, each business has its rules, so you never know where you stand for sure… and then they all change the rules yet again. As you can imagine, this whole COVID thing adds several layers of excitement to make any road trip a very grand adventure.
Finally, there’s one thing you can almost always count on: Most people only follow the rules when they know they are being watched.
Here’s a specific example:
In our first week on the road, my wife wanted to take the ferry from Ft. Meyers Beach, Florida to Key West, about a 3 hour trip each way. Key West has some of the strictest regulations in the country, due to its unique conditions and the ferry must be in compliance with those rules or they cannot unload their passengers. So, when preparing to board, everyone was required to wear a mask, have their temperature taken, and strict social distancing must be maintained. When you board, distancing must be maintained, as you are escorted to seating so as to maintain distance from others in their seats… and then you take your mask off if you want, unless you walk around, in which case, you put it back on. The same procedure applies when disembarking. Yet once you leave the dock, almost nobody wears the required mask. In fact, you see a lot more masks laying on the sidewalks and streets than on faces.
But most of the stores and restaurants are closed.
When the time comes to leave, you need a mask and a low temp to get back on the boat, until you reach your seat.
In case you’re wondering, I had my temperature taken 5 times on the trip, and my highest reading was 94.3.
Hmmm… maybe that’s why I always set the AC at 95!