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Post-Covid International Travel Is The Worst!

“Of course,” I promised my sister. “I’ll wear my facemask at all times, avoid crowded, closed-in situations, and never be around people who aren’t fully masked and vaccinated.” I lied through my teeth and headed for my annual reunion in India with my two best friends.

The trains in England were on strike, so for the five or so hours I spent on the night bus to the airport there was exactly one person (me) wearing a facemask. The driver apologized for the heat not working, and my fellow passengers spent the time snoring and sneezing and coughing out their lungs and any other bodily fluids that could reasonably be shared.

At the airport, I waited at the check-in desk to explain that even though I’d booked my flight months earlier, I wasn’t able to get a boarding card for the transfer flight in Bharain. “Everyone has to get their boarding card in Bahrain,” said the attendant. “Just look for the information desk across from Gate XX.” I headed for my departure gate, where I realized my next mistake. I was traveling without small children or a wheelchair.

When the boarding announcement came, about a third of those in the waiting area gathered up their wailing offspring and headed for the gate. They were followed by a seemingly endless train of passengers in wheelchairs.

After “pre-boarding” the few remaining passengers and I looked at the empty gate area. “It’s that TikTok video,” one said. “A few months ago it told everyone the best way to board was to fake injury so you get a wheelchair and priority boarding.” We all agreed virtuously that it was pretty disgusting when there are people who really need wheelchairs. But I noticed all of us watching the parade.

Finally, our little group boarded to discover all the overhead lockers were full. I was waiting in the aisle to get to my seat when an announcement came that due to “passenger delays in boarding” the plane would be late taking off. All the seated passengers glared as we clambered over them to get to our seats. I pointed out to the passenger in my seat that she was in the wrong place, and a flight attendant came up and asked if I would mind moving so the lady and her companion could sit together.

It’s possible that if I hadn’t spent the previous night on the freezing bus, and I wasn’t taking such a looooooong trip to Bahrain and then on to India, I would have been more compassionate. Probably not. I pointed out that I’d booked that seat well in advance and paid for it. My “If it was so urgent that you sit together, you could have done the same,” was silent but understood. A much more generous passenger across the aisle offered to switch, taking the center seat and allowing the couple to sit together. It’s good to know there are still nice people in the world, even if I’m not one of them…

In Bahrain I was at least able to beat the wheelchair brigade off the plane, only to be trapped by an endless serpentine that inched toward the security gate, where I stood while the wheelchair passengers were ushered through first. After an hour of my precious layover was eaten up by the security screening, I beetled over to the customer service station to get in (yet another) serpentine line for a boarding pass.

Clearly, I wasn’t going to make it. I was picturing having to call Janine and Jaya and telling them to start our trip without me when an angel disguised as an airline employee came up to our queue. “Is there anyone over age 60?” he inquired. “Follow me and I’ll get you boarded.” We trotted along behind him like a row of superannuated ducklings, ignoring the protests of those left in line. Soon I was on board, and so happy that I offered to switch seats with a lady so her daughter could sit next to her.

When the plane touched down in Chennai, I headed for baggage claim where my friend Janine had already arrived and was waiting. It took over an hour for my suitcase to arrive, the last one that came off just as I’d given up all hope.

We left the terminal to find Jaya waiting with a driver. Horns were beeping, people were yelling, food was cooking. It was India, and our trip was on. I love international travel!

Post-Covid International Travel Is The Best!

For our earlier India adventures, check out our earlier India books.