Update from Italy: Passengers May Experience Turbulence

Photo by Johan Van Wambeke on Unsplash

The 58 days since March 5 have been a long and bumpy flight for all passengers of Air Quarantine. We passed through tons of security and numerous checkpoints prior to boarding. That heavy turbulence as we gained altitude was like nothing we’d ever experienced before. No light chop about it. We lost track of things; oxygen masks descended. We flew at cruising speed for weeks, struggling to breathe, buckled in and eating at regular intervals, devouring all the snacks and coffee, wondering if it was weird to ask for more red wine after the coffee to help relax. Bingeing every movie and program we could stomach on the in-flight entertainment system. Doing homework and workwork. Tired of breathing that stale Quarantine air that the poor reviews always mention. Looking out windows at fantastic cloudscapes, rays of sun slicing through the thin atmosphere. Sunrises and sunsets that seemed to be spaced far too close, traveling at supersonic speeds. A sunrise, a sunset. Impossible! Mere hours apart? What sorcery was this?

It’s May Day, the first of May, the Labor Day of almost everywhere in the world. In Florence, it’s the kind of overcast day when the glare from the clouds is brighter than a flat blue sky. Italy is trying to make its first tentative steps to return to our new normal. Alas, confusion reigns to cast a shadow on collective joy. Getting out of this quarantine might be as frustrating and traumatic as getting into it was, back in early March. Fifty-eight days, or 83,520 minutes ago.

The national decree states that the new relaxed rules will come into effect on Monday, May 4. The President of the region of Tuscany wanted people to have freedom a bit earlier, and said we could go outside for walks starting today. The mayor of Florence said, you know, please think about it. Let’s not backslide. There is disagreement about the wearing of masks when engaging in sport. There are disagreements galore. My WhatsApp group chats fill with frustrated emojis.

The pandemic operates on global, state, and local levels; the virus is all at once these things, everywhere at all times. The many layers of government do little to clarify how we should respond. It seems the best response should coordinate on all levels – a global recommendation, a national decree of support for measures taken by regional and local government. The virus is operating on all levels. Humans should too.

I am responding by staying put. I hope to get outside for a short walk today, but you know, it just might not happen. These last two months have completed my gradual, lifelong conversion process to shameless realist. It really does not matter what I want, or what I believe, in this situation. The facts exist. Here I am, an unapologetic pragmatist. I can stay put. What’s the sense in yearning? Wanting? Planning? I’m just a passenger in all this. There is minimal customer care on Quarantine Air. (We are grateful, however, for the meal upgrades and generous in-cabin cocktails).

Funny thing is, from a distance of 83,520 minutes since March 5, the planet looked at once smaller, but also more unified. Our cabin was small, yet everyone else has been in that same small cabin, whether in an apartment or penned in by the invisible structure built by fear, brick by brick. When will we have a chance again to view things from this perspective? (Spoiler alert: don’t answer that too quickly, because I think we’ll all be frequent flyers before the end of the year, if we’re lucky. Others may be boarding a… … different flight.)

The Air Quarantine flight now begins its descent, with a number of co-pilots and an amply staffed cabin crew. They’re slowly packing up cups and bottles, recycling dinner trays and plasticware. Collecting headphones. Blankets and pillows under your chairs, please. Fill out all your forms; you’ll need to show them upon arrival. If you have any questions, a brief video is looping on the cabin monitor. We’re trying to collect all our personal belongings and keep track of our small children. We’ll exercise caution as we proceed down the jetway to Arrivals. Baggage and oversize items may arrive later. I hope that I don’t fly this carrier again soon, but I suspect we will be on and off their flights at least a few times between now and 2021.