Back To “Normal”

It’s been over a year since I last posted, and a lot has happened this year, especially in the last 6 (or so) months of it.

The biggest thing is maybe that I’ve flown on not one trip but two trips, and have managed to avoid COVID in doing so. (The last flight there might still be pending, since I just got home today.)

This summer we felt like we really needed to start doing something to get back to normal, since the world was clearly moving on without us, we clearly couldn’t go the rest of our lives without ever flying again, and the pandemic situation was clearly never changing significantly from its current state. So we decided that the safest thing to do was to book an international trip to the UK!

It sounds crazy, but it actually makes sense if you assume (like we did) that the riskiest part of travel is the airports (rather than the planes, which circulate air so rapidly and also filter it) and indoor spaces. London Heathrow is one of a single-digit number of international destinations that the Pittsburgh airport directly services so… London hiking trip it was!

Photos are here, here, and here, and ignoring the indoor breakfasts at small B&Bs (with like… two other groups at most) we had only one meal indoors at a restaurant. We also found that Heathrow immigration into the UK is totally automated and takes literally 30 seconds. From deplaning to heading to the train was less than 30 minutes.

The weirdest part of it (after the initial shock of “I haven’t been in an airport in three-and-a-half years”) was how basically no one wears a mask while flying. Like… COVID is still a huge thing? And airplanes and airports are great places to catch things? Maybe wear a mask just for this part?

The second weirdest (or maybe I just never noticed before) is how inconsiderate people are now when they cough. No covering of the mouth (with a hand or otherwise). No mask for people who are very clearly sick with some respiratory disease. Yeah, get on a plane and cough into the air for your neighbors to breathe thanks that’s a great idea we appreciate it.

In any case, despite all of that, the trip as a whole made me comfortable enough to travel in person to my teams’ release planning this past week, for the first time since summer 2019. And this trip really pushed a lot of my comfort zones.

Starting with… an airport transfer, so it wasn’t just the relative quiet of the Pittsburgh airport and the quick exit through SFO. We also had to deal with DFW (and, unexpectedly, ORD on the way back) which are extremely busy and have nary a mask in sight (although SFO seems to be better at this than anywhere else, which is maybe not surprising). Then also sitting in meeting rooms all day with dozens of other people for most of a week. And eating indoors at team dinners. And attending an (indoor) team event with over a hundred people in attendance.

I’d purchased an N100 mask specifically for the office, and while I’m sure I looked ridiculous in it, it apparently worked because I have successfully returned home without COVID (although we’ll find out about the return flight in a few days, so hopefully it’s not premature to make that statement). Photos from this trip will be on the photos site at some point. If the last set is any indication (Carnival 2023 photos posted in November) it might be next year. We’ll see.

There are so many other things I should probably write about, like how the elevators in Salesforce Tower in SF are the worst and made me literally 20 minutes late to a meeting waiting for them, or how I amusingly tried to meet my coworker Paul in the UK and couldn’t make it happen but ran into him (repeatedly) in SF during planning, or how I’m amazed that my team at work is now over a hundred people and I don’t know half of them and met a bunch of people I work with daily for the first time in person this trip, or how I’ve been playing a lot of roguelike deckbuilding (computer) games recently and really enjoyed Slay The Spire and Roguebook while not really being a fan of Banners of Ruin, or how I’ve started getting (somewhat) back into coding at work now that I can delegate more of my architect duties, or how we’ve watched through almost all of Picard and how I enjoy the series if you think of it as not being part of the Star Trek universe because the characters are just all completely out of character, or about how I was supposed to be home from the SF trip on Saturday except we hit a flock of birds on takeoff causing us to return to SFO and making us miss our connection and therefore continuing the trend of plane issues that has seemed to plague all our friends recently…

I could write a lot more things, but I think this trip has just made me tired and sad at the state of the “pandemic” (which is so clearly over to everyone else) because it’s just a reminder of how much I’m missing by trying to stay safe when the rest of the world refuses to do its part. So I think I’ll just stop here.