It is Thursday, just about 10:45PM, and I have arrived at the Portland International Airport, expecting to catch a flight at the last minute after a disastrously long journey from home, and I arrive to the airport only to find the airlines completely without any people there whatsoever. A phone call would later determine that the Portland-Ft. Lauderdale route that I had paid for had been cancelled, and I would have to begin my journey to Jamaica the next day on a flight in the early afternoon. I pondered whether to go home or not, and figured that it would be so expensive to get home just to snatch a few hours sleep before having to repeat the trip that I decided to stay in the airport, even if it was hard to snatch more than a bit of sleep.
It is 7:50AM this morning, and I am in Jamaica, only in Queens, New York, and not the Jamaica I had expected to be in. For almost two hours I have been trying to hail a cab to get to the airport without success. I have a plane ticket with a departure time of an hour from now, and I am ten minutes from the airport, but so far the taxis going along Hillside in Queens are actively avoid stopping for me. The only vehicles that want to stop are buses, and I am showing the universal sign of disinterest in turning my head from the buses and walking away from them, but still they come, even if the taxis are rather thin on the ground. Within eyesight there is a yellow cab that has been parked near where I stand for the entire time I have been out there. Will I be able to make it to the airport on time?
It is 1:45PM, and I have arrived at Montego Bay, at long last. I am sitting in the taxi area a bit frustrated that there has been no sign of the ride I arranged from the airport even while being surrounded by somewhat pushy people looking for someone to fill their taxis. Three quarters of an hour I have asked the question of where the ride is, and I receive a text telling me to go to booth #21 in the airport, which I have been in before without seeing it. I go in the airport and see that the circular are stops at #20, and in the back corner there is a booth with a UCG-HRH sign, and I find the person who gets my return flight information and then leads me to a van where I wait for a while, but wait knowing that at least at some point I will be where I am supposed to be, and should have been the day before.
Traveling in the age of Covid is a difficult matter. Not only does one have to deal with the difficulty of obeying the rules and having one’s temperature checked all the time and having people encourage you to use that alcohol cleaning that I hate so much, but transportation has proven to have suffered a great deal. This is more problematic than one might figure. Even though Jet Blue only offered one destination from Portland where I could connect to a flight to Mo’ Bay, that flight was not very crowded. It is possible that I was the only person who had bought a ticket on that flight to Ft. Lauderdale on the day that I planned, and so it is no surprise at all that the route had been closed. If few people are traveling even on the routes that are left, how can routes that are empty be kept? What is surprising is that companies are not doing a better job at recognizing the challenges that thee matters provide. Should it be hard for a travel agent like Travelocity to reschedule a route knowing that one is going to a destination, even if the original route is dropped? Should it be hard for a city that is famous for its taxis have a hard time picking up an eccentric and obviously out of his element white guy hailing a cab in Queens? Should it be hard to communicate better where a booth is so that there can be ease in travel? All of these are things that should be easy to do, but people are so overstressed because of low personnel that it is hard to do the basic things that keep things decently and in order, and it is the ordinary if sometimes clueless tourists who are left dealing with the issues that come from there not being enough of us to justify the infrastructure that makes travel feasible and sometimes even enjoyable for any of us. And no one knows when things will change.
What I do know, though, is that I feel better at the end of the journey than I did at the beginning, and am in a much better mood now than I was when I was first thinking about what to write. And it was not without a worthwhile result. I ended up chatting with some old friends at dinner and also ended up with a lovely Jamaica Feast of Tabernacles shirt for the person with the most arduous journey, a t-shirt that was, as it is usually is, well-earned.