Anxious to get home, virus-free, I’d taken the best precautions I could with what I had. The Coronavirus wasn’t ‘a thing’ really mentioned or dwelled upon yet in Puerto Vallarta on that 12th day of March when we said goodbye to our winter friends. But I’d been keeping up with world news and knew it was going to be something real big, real soon.
I had the hand-sanitizer and disinfectant wipes I’d brought down with us, at the ready in my purse. I slipped 2 masks in my pocket for us and we were leaving, heading down to the lobby with the luggage cart Hub had brought up from the lobby to load our many bags onto. No gloves, but fully protected by the plastic bags I put on my hands to navigate that cart to the elevator and out to the cab to protect from invisible germs on my hands. I was leaving beautiful Puerto Vallarta where the sun shone, the birds sang and the ocean beckoned, all appeared as though all was right in the world. We were off to the airport, which gratefully, had yet to get busy as we departed days before the spring break and Easter crowd were to invade, and the Coronavirus had yet to become ‘a thing’ yet in Mexico, so all was calm at the airport crazy.
Grateful as always in that airport for the great check-in service and the immediate wheelchair assistance to help push my husband across what seemed well over a mile to our Toronto departure gate, a bonus was having his lap to pile more bags onto. We went on our way, walking, walking, and as usual, a long security check line that I smiled inwardly as we bypassed the crowds into the ‘special services’ lane. Bonus!
After putting ourselves and our belongings back together off the security belt, we continued on to the journey to our gate. Then we stopped at the elevator. I questioned the young man pushing the wheelchair in my broken Spanish, ‘why are we going down’, and before he could answer in broken English, I knew. Once again, we were taking the bus from the street level to the tarmac. Oye!
We had over an hour to wait for the bus boarding and our section with passengers to both Toronto and a flight to Montreal was getting busy. I’d remembered the year prior when the wheelchair assistant was assigned to someone, they were to come back before boarding to help on the bus/plane. But I never saw him again, yet, I saw other helpers standing by the passengers waiting to assist them. So off I went.
I dashed over to the boarding gate desk to ask for an assistant, but that never came to fruition. There was no way I could carry everything and assist my hub, so off I went again to ask an assistant helping another passenger to please radio for someone to help us. Finally, someone showed.
We finally made it off the bus and I grabbed what I could while the assistant grabbed another of our bags and the arm of my husband and walked him up the airplane stairs. I was grateful. We couldn’t snag a first class seat on the return flight, but I did manage a comfort row, which offered better legroom and food included, plus 2 bags each at no extra cost. I made friends with the lady, Janice, in the middle seat between Hub’s window and my aisle seats, and it seems we blabbed almost all the way home. Once we landed, my new friend Janice was kind enough to grab our bags out of the above bins, as it seems I’m iust a tad to short to reach them, happy to have the good samaritan to the rescue. I didn’t even get a chance to thank her and she was gone, she exited the plane and I never saw her at baggage pick-up again. Definitely an earth angel who kept me company and helped out then slithered away like those kind of people we meet for reasons and seasons.
As Hub and I exited the plane there were no wheelchairs on the ramp. What? Oye! I loaded up the bags onto my tired shoulders and pulled what else I could, gave one lighter bag to hub, and dashed ahead as Hub followed and caught up to me at the end of the ramp where there were several folded wheelchairs. I picked one out. waited for hub to amble up on his cane then sat him in it, re-piled the bags on him, and as I began to push us out of the congested area, I asked a rep where wheelchair assistance was. I was told to wait with the rest of the (many) wheelchair passengers in a designated area and staff would help with chairs in about half hour. Lol, you know that wasn’t happening. I don’t do waiting well.
I have to add that pushing someone in a wheelchair with almost 100 extra pounds of baggage on me and hub’s lap, and a cane that somehow kept getting stuck in our path, is no piece of cake. And I will admit, you didn’t want to be in my way as I blazed my way through a crowd and alas, spotted ‘the’ elevator that led down to the next floor where customs was located – only about another mile or so once off the elevator. I pushed the button, loaded us in and landed on the lower floor. The door opened with a thud to a barricade.
The door opened but there was no place to exit because it was blocked by approximately 30-40 wheelchairs! They weren’t in any organized order, just left in one huge pile in a disarray blocking the elevator door. What could I do? There was no way I could even get off to sort out that mess. No way was I going back up and waiting. I told hub to hang on tight and keep his feet tucked in as tightly as possible then proceeded to bulldoze our way through the wheelchair madness. It was like a demolition derby but a few moments later we were victorious and we were out! We laughed together as my husband kept saying I was a madwoman and he was scared of my ambition and of being on the frontline of my bulldozing. We continued to laugh.
I pushed and pushed for what felt like miles on my worn out bones and cursed my airport as usual, for having the longesttttt walks from any gate. About 20 minutes later we arrived at customs. The room was crowded and despite our advantage of going through special services and avoiding the long lines, we still had to wait first to put our passports through a kiosk security machine before approaching customs agent. Bad instructions, not a soul to help anyone, and after 10 minutes of fiddling and retrying numerous times, I finally got our clearance slip out of the machine we were to hand to the customs agent.
I was observant of the airport staff, keeping an eye around to see what my airport was doing with the emerging Covid19 problem, which had yet to be declared a pandemic for another day or so after our return. I noticed quite a few airport employees wearing masks, others not. I may have bypassed a few signs warning to wash hands and sanitize, but nothing much. The customs agent had on no mask. He asked us where we’ve been and for how long. I handed him the form spit out from the kiosk machine that quite frankly, asked the same questions. No further questions, not even asked if we had been ill while away or anything to declare. Wow! And we were on our way to baggage pick-up.
The airport was exceptionally busy. I found a porter to come fetch our bags off the belt and take us to a limo. The luggage from our flight had already come down the belt and was placed in a section on the floor as flights were coming in fast and furious and the next flight’s luggage was already on the belt. The porter pushed our bags and I pushed Hubby out through the gates of freedom once we handed our customs slip out at the exit doors, and gratefully, we weren’t selected to go through inspection.
The cool wind was welcomed once we arrived outside and entered the limo. It was almost the middle of March, usually still in the depths of winter here, but there was no snow to be found and much warmer than the morning we left for Mexico. We’d come home to an early spring.
Since that travel day home, little did I know I came home to a new world in the making. Despite at that point there were no new rules made, no pandemic declared til 2 days after our return when our country clamped down just before the spring break weekend, we took it upon ourselves to isolate for 14 days. I did get sick on Day 5 with many symptoms of the Covid – high fever, dizzy, painful bones, freezing cold. Ironically, my fever broke the very same night of that one sick day. I woke to a sweat-soaked bed and have felt fine ever since. Gratefully, Hubby didn’t get whatever I had, but I’d kept my distance from him as much as possible. I slept with a mask on too and I’m armed and dangerous with gloves, Lysol wipes and anything I could dig out of the storage cupboard.
My Mexican vacation, only a few short weeks ago, feels like it was so long ago now. I’ve been in touch with my real estate friend who emailed me the other day to inform me that the price has already dropped on the new construction condo we’d been eyeing. The Peso is falling. While I was there it was hovering around the usual value – 1 Canadian dollar = usually at 14.5 – 15 Pesos. Today’s value was almost at 17.5 Pesos to the Canadian dollar. Like I told my real estate friend, there’s no way I’m buying anything until the fallout of this global disaster has found a place to land and our own falling dollar makes a comeback.
I have no idea what will be next year. I anticipate a lot of despair, losses, real estate falling, terrible unemployment and devastation because of the isolations and loss of jobs and businesses. Undoubtedly, this anticipation isn’t mine alone, and the reason I haven’t heard a peep since my return from the woman whom I’m supposed to be renting her unit next winter. I’m sure all those that rely on renters for their properties are very concerned what will be next year for tourism.
As it stands now, one of our Canadian friends who winters at the complex with us has sent me a photo a full-time resident friend of his has sent him of the now desolate pool and beach where we all had just spent a lovely and lively time together. Truly a very sad sight, especially at Easter when this beach should be covered with wall to wall people celebrating 24/7 for a week.
I feel as though next winter is a lifetime away from us now. Who knows where we will be in the world. Nothing is certain right now for anyone. The one thing I do know – I won’t be traveling anywhere again until there is a vaccine for this virus now controlling our lives.