If You Must Fly… Please Be Smart

The Coronavirus is still causing havoc in people’s lives and there are a lot of demands on what people can and cannot do once they go out in public.

Many States are relaxing restrictions on “Stay at home” policies in a hope to get their economy rolling again including getting their citizens back to work.

Some Counties are feeling so much pressure from their struggling business communities that they are jumping out in front of their State Governors’ recommendations.

People are getting stir crazy, small businesses are on the brink of collapse and local governments are losing a lot of tax revenue.

In the eagerness to attempt some semblance of normalcy, the airlines are really struggling. They are in a no win situation when it comes to new demands, yet their logic confuses me on a couple of fronts.

We are now into the second week of mandatory face coverage on airplanes. You cannot board a flight without one. This makes sense to me and probably is a couple of months late in coming.

The latest challenges come with regard to social distancing. The new standard we have all embraced is to stay six feet apart from each other to help mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/faqs.html

The airlines are currently asking passengers to not huddle in groups when boarding and keep separation between themselves and fellow passengers at the gate and on the jet bridge.

This is a tremendous help to ease people’s anxiety during the boarding process.

We are also recommending that passengers scan their own boarding passes which promotes some much needed comic relief.

It is fun to observe how differently people act to this request. Some are so conditioned they cannot help but try to hand you their pass, even when the Gate Agent motions toward the scanner.

Others stretch out as far as they can so as not get too close. They are bending over in an effort to stay six feet away from the scanner.

Once they get on the plane things change drastically. If the aircraft has less than 30 passengers they can be accommodated with proper spacing. Anymore than that, social distancing goes out the window.

packed flight

On larger airplanes with six or nine seats in a row, it is easier by simply eliminating the middle seat. The distance between seats A and C are not quite six feet, but it is at least a sizable gap between you and your neighbor.

On smaller regional planes that accommodate 65 to 75 passengers, social distancing becomes impossible at more than half capacity.

With seating tighter these days, when you add people’s newest phobia to the mix, tensions will escalate. People’s paranoia is heightened, as well.

I had one woman the other day ask that the woman next to her be removed because she coughed. For all I knew it could have been an allergic reaction to her cheap perfume.

Sadly that type of reaction from people is becoming too common. People are paranoid because no one knows who is sick and who is not.

A great friend of mine just went off on Facebook about the lack of spacing on his CLT to DFW flight. His DFW to TUS wasn’t much better.

I agree with his point that social distancing is out the window once you board a flight. American Airlines’ current policy is to block the back row and the first row.

People do need to be aware of this in order to make their own decision on whether to fly or not.

Airports have been a ghost town since March, but passenger loads have been increasing the past two weeks.

Seems to me we are all getting a bit complacent about the possibility of contracting COVID19.

People are antsy and are now flying to vacation spots. Two weeks ago the majority were flying to see family members, most of whom were sick.

God calls us all to be good stewards in all that we do. That includes deciding if you want to fly or not.

If you do decide to fly, be aware that you will be closer to sitting on your neighbors’ lap than getting appropriate spacing.

Beware also that the newest trend (started by Frontier) is to charge you a $39 premium to get an open seat alongside your seat.

If you are flying internationally, please confirm first whether you will be allowed into the Country.

Long lines formed at the Polish-Ukranian border Saturday hours before a ban on foreigners entering Poland took effect.Credit…Wojtek Jargilo/EPA, via Shutterstock

True story: Tonight we had a passenger flying to Toronto to get married in the morning. Because he is not a resident of Canada and he doesn’t work in Canada he is considered a “non-essential traveler.” Now he is stuck in CLT with a return flight to where he came from. Because he was getting married he no longer has a place to stay safely.

True story II: Another passenger was going to Toronto to buy a truck with plans to drive it back. This is not essential so he, too, has a return trip home in the morning.

BE SURE where you are going and find out the possible restrictions.

stop blaming

I highly recommend to anyone flying these days that may have an issue with their experience to please contact the airlines.

Complaining to your Flight Crews, Gate Agents, and airport personnel is simply shooting the messenger. We have no more information than passengers.

I hope this post helps you understand what you may walk into when flying.

Please. Please. Please be safe and be smart about what you are exposing yourself to when flying.

Give Him A Call

It has now been 24 days since North Carolina issued their “Stay at home” order that has quarantined more than 10 million people. (Stay at home orders by State)

My wife and I have been honoring that order even though we live just over the border in South Carolina.

Our church in North Carolina has been streaming every Sunday for four weeks now.  I thank God for their service. It has been a technical challenge for the Pastors and the Worship Team, but they have been dedicated including Easter Sunday.

communion SCCC

Communion Service at home. (Click on image and advance to see how the elements were administered)

Some would say we are attending the Church of the Living Room. Some of our friends may be going to St. Mattress of the Springs or Bedside Baptist.

Is it real? Yes… different, but this is our new reality.

It has been weird not being able to fellowship with our friends at Steele Creek Church of Charlotte. Being as relational as I am, I miss it.

Some folks are keeping their home groups intact by meeting on Zoom. Some are doing bible studies by way of video conferencing. That’s impressive.

Our home group hasn’t met since mid-March. I miss them.

isolationThis is a weird time. It is easy to become so isolated that you forget there are other people out there.

Our friends become characters on TV like; Hotch from Criminal Minds and the Reagan family on Blue Bloods.

Our perspective of the world is blurry. Our sense of reality is not real. It feels like we are living in a bubble.

How are you surviving your quarantine? How are you spending your time? Who are you connecting with?

time with GodEven my time with God has dwindled. You would think that since we are sequestered to our homes that we would spend more time with Him, but it is really easy to fall into the traps of the enemy through distractions like Netflix and games on social media or our phones.

A friend of mine put it beautifully in her blog entitled Call Waiting. A graceful reminder that God is always available through prayer.

My prayer today is that we all find time with God. He is not punishing us with this plague. He really just wants to spend time with us.

Give Him a call.

give Him a call with text

Reach Out And Post Somebody

What are you doing to stay connected?

The Coronavirus has forced us all into isolation, but there are some great ways to connect through social media.

We are living in a time of quarantine yet the world seems so much smaller. Everyday people are reaching out looking to play games, have some fun, and give a perspective from their windows.

Gaming

board_games_online_1Did you know that the World Health Organization is encouraging people to play video games amid the coronavirus pandemic?

Here is an article from Parade.com titled The 22 Best Online Games to Play With Friends During the Coronavirus Outbreak. You may have some of your own that you can recommend in the comments.

Fun Interaction

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I have received invites from friends to do everything from photo challenges to online trivia contests.

There are suddenly a ton of quizzes to challenge you or you can list the Top 10 celebrities you have met.

What are you doing for fun these days?

Your point of view

One of my favorite activities that has come out of our captivity is how neighbors are connecting by singing out their windows.

Others are posting photos to share their view from a window.

Music

I love music and it has been a wonderful distraction from our “Stay at home” lives.

Everything from recitals to benefit concerts are being used to help lift the spirits of all of us.

Food

donutA lot of people find comfort in food.

Other than pictures of their pets, I think most of us post more photos of our food than anything else. This is a pre-COVID19 phenomenon that will probably out last all of us.

I am guilty of this and it drives my wife nuts. I’ve shared everything from my banana bread, chicken enchilada and peanut butter & jelly sandwich recipes to donuts.

Connecting

Online meeting places like Zoom and GoToMeeting are getting very popular for gatherings other than work.

One of my friends is participating in a bible study using these platforms. Some men’s groups gather for fellowship through their laptops.

There’s no wrong way

Social media is a great way to stay connected with friends and family. For example, before the quarantine I was meeting regularly with my nephew through Skype. He was stationed in Japan.

We are designed for fellowship

God created us for fellowship. God created Adam because He wanted to share the world with him.

Do not let COVID19 isolate you more than it already has. Reach out to someone… Family… Friends… A church…

Who are you connecting with?

together

Wiped Out?

Have you had any luck finding antiseptic wipes? It seems that nobody is right now.

I need to go back to work to apologize for criticizing them for not providing cleaning solutions for their front-line workers. Their recommendation has been to use hand sanitizer with a paper towel.

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The sad reality is that paper towels are scarce too so some workers are resorting to wiping down their work stations using printer paper. Really?

Hand sanitizers have become so valuable that we are being directed to lock them up before walking away from our posts.

 

The Coronavirus is winning the war on yet another front.

Every grocery store I have gone to has been out of stock. The store clerks tell me that shoppers are at the door every morning when they open up. These people then proceed to clear out their stock of toilet paper, paper towels, Kleenex and antiseptic wipes.

All of the pharmacies including Walgreen’s and CVS cannot keep them in stock either.

 

There are a lot of posts when you search the Internet for “antiseptic wipes,” including a number of advertisements. The problem is availability.

The top AD on Amazon’s website is a 60-pack for $8.80. It appears to be “In Stock,” but the only shipping option is Standard and the estimated delivery is May 6 through the 28th. I could be contaminated by then.

951Amazon does offer a 20-pack of antiseptic hand wipes for $2.43. Great price. The problem is they will not be in stock until May 26. That’s six weeks from now. I could be dead by then.

On the same 60-pack on Amazon the seller is noted as Suxman-US. I was unable to locate their website. All of the findings when searching this company point to Amazon. Is this what a hamster’s life feels like?

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Hey look! I just found all the toilet paper. The Facebook Marketplace is loaded.

Antiseptic wipes? Nothing within 40 miles and no one is shipping.

Plenty of first aid kits. Do I want to pay $34 for a few band aids, an ace bandage and the possible dried up bacterial wipe?

Did you know that some people are making their own wipes. They are with lotion, rubbing alcohol and heavy duty paper towels. Genius. So where are they finding the paper towels?

loveisintheairshirt_580x

I keep hearing my momma’s voice saying, “Wash your damn hands!”

You know, sometimes you have to just laugh at the situation.

Final thought. Please consider sharing this article with suggestions where you have been successful finding antiseptic wipes. Or put your suggestions in the Comments below. Thanks.

Now I need to go apologize to my boss. Stay safe.

 

 

 

COVID19 at 30K Feet

I have been working for Piedmont Airlines in Charlotte, NC for almost three years now. Starting on the Ramp throwing bags and working in Utilities cleaning planes, I moved inside over a year ago boarding passengers as a Gate Agent.

I have always taken pride in my work, but not until the outbreak of the Coronavirus have I had as deep an appreciation for my coworkers as I do today.

There is a lot of talk about health workers being on the front lines of this battle and a lot of attention given to grocery store and supply chain employees that are putting themselves in harm’s way while doing their jobs. I agree that all of these people are heroes. They are running into the fire similar to the way that Firefighters and Law Enforcement did during 9-11 in 2001.

I write this today to highlight the completely overlooked heroes working in the Aviation industry. We need to especially recognize all of the people working in airports all over the world.

With the Airlines being classified as an “Essential Business” it appears that flights are not going to stop.

Air Traffic Is Down

The CDC updated their Global COVID-19 Pandemic Notice this past week to include a Level 3 Warning to avoid non-essential travel. This is a good thing.

I work at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (CLT) which is the 12th busiest airports in the United States based on passengers boarding on a daily basis. CLT has averaged more than 20K passengers a day since 2012. The past week has averaged less than 2,000 passengers.

Our airport looks and feels like a ghost town. This is also being experienced in airports all over the Country and around the world.

I have seen flights go out with less than 10 people on board smaller aircraft that accommodate from 50 to 75 passengers. Mainline flights have much larger planes and their booking aren’t any better. Some have flown with one passenger and others with only the crew. One Pilot shared with me this week that he worked a flight to Boston, MA that was empty. That flight then went on to Hartford, CT empty.

Most of the passengers on these flights seem to be crew members being moved into position to work return flights or to work flights going to other stations. Some of these flights are then canceled leaving crews stranded. One crew last week was sent to Nashville, TN and the shuttle service was not running so they had to pay for an Uber service to get to their hotel. Their returned flight was canceled the next morning. They had to scramble to find a flight home later in the day.

On Regional flights, the crews are made up of two pilots (a Captain and a First Officer) and one or two Flight Attendants.

The pilots are working on the flight deck with a door that isolates them from the passengers. They are not completely safe since they are seated well within the recommended six feet from each other for proper social distancing.

The Flight Attendants are quite a different story. They are working directly with the passengers providing them assistance throughout the flight.

One Bag’s Journey

There is a very large population of workers at every airport in the world. It requires everyone from cleaners to caterers to bag runners to ramp personnel to Gate Agents before the first passenger gets on board. All of these personnel can come into contact with the Coronavirus. Some of these workers are more likely to be infected than others.

For example; if an infected passenger comes to any airport with a bag to be checked, that bag’s handle and cover can be infected. That bag can come in contact with the Porter at curbside service or a Ticket Agent at the counter when the passenger checks in.

That bag once checked in goes to the bag room where bag runners sort the bags and another runner runs it to the proper flight. This one bag may come in contact with three or more bag runners.

Once at the plane the bag is loaded into the cargo bin by Ramp Agents. One of these Agents puts the bag on a belt loader while the other Agent is in the bin stacking the bag with other bags.

So in that short journey this one contaminated bag has potentially infected five people (1 Porter or Ticket Agent, 2 Bag Runners, and 2 Ramp Agents)

That bag is now stacked with a number of other bags, flown to its destination and then handled by another half a dozen workers to get the bag to its next flight or to baggage claim. That one bag has now potentially infected nearly a dozen people. This does not take into account the virus transferring from one bag to another bag.

Passenger’s Journey

Quite a few passengers bring carry-on bags that are screened by TSA agents in Security Check Points. Sometimes they have to open bags for inspection which exposes them through contact with zippers and clothes and other personal items. These TSA Agents are heroes too.

That same passenger can contaminate a number of personnel by exchanging money with Porters and restaurant workers before getting to their gate. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. (Q&A on coronavirus COVID19)

That same passenger then has their Boarding Pass either on their phone or a paper version. As a Gate Agent we ask passengers to scan their boarding pass themselves, but with most people flying once a year (or for the first time) they are hesitant and cannot comprehend how to do it.

With the time limitations we have to board passengers it requires we keep them moving. We may have to scan the pass for them meaning we come in contact with their phone or paper tickets. You’d be amazed how many times I have seen people in line holding their boarding pass in their mouth while trying to get their personal belongings together. Talking about cell phones and personal hygiene is another story for another day.

Why are people flying?

So even with warnings and the death toll continuing to rise, why are people flying? There are legitimate reasons why people are flying and legitimate reasons why the airlines are considered essential.

For one, I have met a number of people this past week traveling to take care of family members.

One man was heading to Myrtle Beach, SC from Greensboro, NC to help his 95 year old father. His father earlier in the day found out that one of his home nurses quit because fear of the virus overcame her.

Another gentleman was going to take care of his 98 year old parents whose nurse was just diagnosed positive for COVID19.

In both of these cases these men could probably have driven, but with airfares way down it made more sense for them to not spend five or six hours in a car when they could be by their parents’ side within an hour or two.

On the flip side of this there have been a number of passengers going from their homes in one State to another State. How responsible this is depends on who you talk to. One gentleman shared with me, “At $77 each way I can go see my grand kids more often.”

Federal Stimulus

In defense of the airlines, a part of the $50 billion stimulus deal requires airlines to continue flying to cities they had scheduled before March 1st, according to USA Today. This is why we are seeing empty flights every single day.

As a way to recover some of the loss on these empty flights some Airlines are offering very low rates.  Spirit Airlines is offering $45 each way on almost all of their flights starting May 1st through June 10th.

Right now you can book a flight from Charlotte, NC to Denver, CO for $47 round trip on United and American Airlines. Or you can book a round trip fare to Miami, FL for $55. Yet the question begs to be asked, “At what point should the airlines be held responsible for exposure to passengers and employees?”

Are Airline employees being protected?

Yes, if you look at jobs being protected. There are Voluntary Leave packages and Early Retirements being offered. The Voluntary Leave packages are only extending a fraction of the current hours being worked, but the Federal Stimulus is helping the airlines assure jobs are not going away.

No, if you look at protective gear. A large part of that is due to lack of supplies. Masks are virtually impossible to locate. American Airlines is telling their front line employees that we are welcomed to wear masks and gloves, but we need to purchase them ourselves. They are providing hand sanitizer and wipes at the gates, but Flight Attendants are being provided iodine swabs in place of alcohol wipes.

As a sidebar, it amazes me that we have to lock up the limited supply of hand sanitizer we have because passengers are stealing them. I saw one coworker filling her small bottle from the wall dispenser in a break room. It is sad that people are just looking out for themselves. A large part of that is fear and people will do what they feel they have to do to survive.

On another note, Crew members are now finding themselves in hotels overnight without food. Restaurants are not open. Grub Hub and Uber Eats are not delivering by the time they get settled into their rooms. And drive-through establishments do not allow them to walk up to the drive up window. Most crews prepare their own food, but when traveling four to five days every week those meals don’t always last for more than a couple of days.

If You Have To Fly

If you do not have an essential reason to fly, please do not put yourself or anyone else in danger of contracting this deadly virus. The reality is that there are airport employees now being tested positive for COVID19.

According to CNN, Flight Attendant Paul Frishkorn in Philadelphia died earlier this week after testing positive and Flight Attendant James Rhoades is fighting for his life in North Carolina. I know of three coworkers in Charlotte that have tested positive. Thank God they are recovering.

If you have to fly to take care of family members or for any other legitimate reason, please be careful to not put yourself in a vulnerable position. This includes not huddling in groups while boarding and give everyone adequate space. Wash your hands and face regularly.

Please consider extending an encouraging word to airport employees for putting their health and their families’ lives in danger. These front line workers are heroes.

When boarding please be prepared to scan your own boarding pass which means you will want to have all of your belongings put away in your one carry on and one personal item.

Once on board think about sharing one of your alcohol wipes and maybe an extra mask with each Flight Attendant and thank them for their courage to be on the front lines insuring you get to where you are going.

SAFE travels everyone and please remember, the more you can wash your hands, the better you can protect yourself and others.

“Stay At Home”

This is a crazy time with the majority of States and County governments implementing “Stay At Home” orders. This makes sense to me since the goal is to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus COVID19 strand that has killed more than 101 thousand people to-date with another 50 thousand in critical condition worldwide. (https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/)

It is clear that this virus doesn’t play and we are just rolling the dice if we think we won’t get it. We all need to practice the CDC guidelines to help save lives.

 

Driving in Ireland

There are more benefits than draw backs to driving in Ireland.

Driving on the opposite side of the street from what we are used to is nerve wrecking.

What we consider a one way street, Irish people will happily use as a two way road, and they drive fast.

The town streets are narrow and many of the roads in the outlying countryside are so tight you have to pull into the bushes or back out to an intersection or open field.

The countryside is beautiful. There are rolling green hills everywhere you look filled with sheep and cattle.

And the coastline is breathtaking.

There is greater freedom to see the country with a rental and much cheaper than hiring a private driver or paying for tours.

Gasoline is expensive compared to our gas prices at home. It is priced by the liter so be prepared to spend closer to $70 per tank verses $50.

If you can get a vehicle that runs on diesel you will save some money.

Fuel costs in Ireland

https://www.theaa.ie/aa/motoring-advice/petrol-prices.aspx

In the five days we drove 1,650 kilometers (or 1,025 miles). We spent €100 on diesel fuel ($110).

After five days of driving I felt better about it and I was able to see more of the surroundings rather than focusing so hard to stay in my lane.

Tips

Here are some things to consider when renting a car.

> Know that automatics are scarce.

Upgrades will be offered because most of the cars in Ireland are manual. Keep in mind that your upgrade will most likely be a larger vehicle which can make the tight roads even tighter.

> If you are offered an upgrade on your rental consider not taking it. Especially if the vehicle is a full size SUV.

Some of the countryside has very tight roads and a lot of rolling hills which is a little scary when you cannot see who is coming over the hilltop.

> Consider using your Google Maps app instead of paying for the rentals’ GPS or Garmen.

Their maps are not always updated. Even when they say they are.

You may want to update your app on your phone to include the latest maps before you leave the States.

> Don’t worry about driving slow. The Irish are used to foreigners’ timid driving.

> Consider picking up your rental outside of the larger cities like Dublin.

Driving in the major cities is a greater challenge due to the obvious… more traffic.

There are roundabouts everywhere in Ireland. Especially in the cities where you may have five or six exits off a roundabout.

Have fun and enjoy the adventure.

Additional reading

https://shershegoes.com/renting-a-car-in-ireland/

In Search of Michael E. – Part 4

I was really struggling letting go of the opportunity to see the real property since we came so far.

I decided to call Josie and she was so gracious and accommodating.

We meet Josie back at the Church on our way out of town.

The Sexton Farm

She led us to the Sexton farm about seven kilometers away which covers 32 acres in Aghamore Upper, County Longford Ireland

Josie was born in the old house and moved into the new house in 1975. It was only she and her parents in the new house then. She has never lived anywhere else and has always been single.

Josie seldom goes down to the old house these days. She said to me, “Ya gonna need ya boots in all the muck Michael Edward.”

The property has always had cattle, calves and sheep on it and some of the acreage is now rented by a cattle farmer.

Who knows? There is a good chance that James and his father Patt were Cattle Farmers or Ranchers (or Cowboys as we call them in the States).

A Hard Life

Most of Patt’s life and all of James’ life were living on the farm as farmers or laborers. They worked for the landowner in exchange for a roof over their heads and food to feed their families.

Here is a sample of what a farmer or a Laborer’s house may have looked like in the 17 and early 18 hundreds.

Bothan Scóir, was a typical one-roomed house of a landless laborer who worked for a local landlord. Many of these houses, with their thatched roofs, disappeared along with their tenants during the Great Irish Famine.

Maybe that’s why Michael E made his way to America in 1891 at just 18 years old. He just didn’t see himself living the farmer’s life.

(Stayed tuned. There’s more to come.)