We flew to LA on Delta, the airline we always fly, and it was largely pleasant. New COVID protocols meant that there were no meals served, only snacks, which is fine. But about halfway through the flight, watching the cart roll down the aisle with numerous types of alcohol and not a single can of soda or juice or coffee, I discovered that they would only serve alcohol and water. As someone who’s 23 years sober, I found that absolutely infuriating. I asked why and the flight attendant told me that supposedly the airline would soon go back to serving soda and coffee, which didn’t answer my question.
Other than that, I felt pretty comfortable on the flight. I’m not an amazing flyer, which is why I wanted to get back in the skies as soon as possible. No one got too close, and the people I talked to were vaccinated (after all, one-third of Americans have received at least one shot). I did notice there were more dogs on the flight than usual, which I enjoyed, and I wondered if this was pandemic-related. On the way home a woman had a cat sitting on her lap, which I’ve never seen in an airport.
When we got to L.A. we were still extremely nervous about spending time with my niece, who is a baby and therefore unvaccinated. We went to get rapid COVID tests at a yoga studio turned testing center. We were negative. Of course the incubation for COVID is really three to fourteen days, but it made everyone feel better, and since transmission seems uncommon among vaccinated people, we saw my niece the next day. Part of this weird period of time in which we are coming out of a pandemic is trying to balance the risks, trying to do what I can to keep people safe, but still trying to get back into the world. We took Ubers but kept the windows open and wore masks. We ate in the hotel but mostly outside. I was nervous when my brother told me I could hold the baby—freaked out by being so close to someone so small and so unvaccinated.
But it was a thrill to meet my niece for the first time. I hugged my brother and sister-in-law. I saw my dad and stepmom. It was wonderful. We sat outside in the California sun and ate the tiktok feta cheese pasta and life almost felt normal. My sister in law made a red velvet cake with fluffy white cream cheese frosting. I started to wonder there in the warm sunlight, if maybe this was the beginning of the end.