It was March 11, the very day COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. After much indecision, I had decided to cut short my winter stay in Mexico. The thought of being stranded and not able to get home really scared me. On the other hand, with the language barrier, it was hard to know just how serious the situation really was.
Not understanding what was being said around me was stressful. I struggled to understand more than the bare bones. A risk-averse part of me didn’t want to take any chances. Another part was already mourning the loss of nearly a month of vacation in this ice-free, colourful country.
I was mulling this over, careful to watch my footing on the cobblestone streets. That’s when I noticed the Corona beer company’s delivery truck. In the thick dust on the dark green truck, somebody had printed ‘virus’ under the word ‘Corona’. Obviously, folks here were also aware of the danger.
If it turned out that this epidemic was really serious, the airlines would be in chaos. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to get a seat on a plane going to Canada. I’m quite comfortable flying, in spite of my age. Once I turned 80, I’ve always let the airline know I need a wheelchair and an attendant to whisk me through the endless miles to my proper gate. From the time I check in, I’m in good hands: A helper whisks me through the various levels, up and down hitherto secret elevators and finally to the correct gate in plenty of time for my flight. I shudder to think how, without this help, my weakened body and my problem with short term memory would cope with today’s vast airports.
This time my sense of adventure abandoned me. All I could think of was returning back home. I remembered other times of disaster such as 9/11 in the USA. I recall that the people running from the collapsing buildings ran in the direction of their homes. For me, that’s a fascinating fact. When we’re scared, our impulse is to run for home. I was no different. I wanted to be in my own community. I wanted to understand what others were worrying about.
Since I came home early, Canada was not panicking about the virus. Everything seemed quite normal on the flight and when I first arrived at Pearson Airport. My neighbours didn’t distance themselves out of fear of catching the virus. I was told that people had started stocking up on toilet paper, of all things. There was a strange anxiety in the air, but still, nobody was jumping backwards to assure there was a big space between them and me. It was a few days before the new reality seemed to sink in, persuading me and others who had been south to go into quarantine and even to wear a mask!