Eavesdropping isn’t my thing, but I could hardly help but hear his conversation. Yes, I will, he said. Of course, I can do that too on my way home. I’ve gotta stop to get a few packs of cigarettes, and the car is almost out of fuel. After that, I’ll drive to the pharmacy to pick up your mom’s prescriptions, and then I’ll go to the supermarket. I’ll be late, very late, getting home for dinner. But, is there anything else besides potatoes, olive oil, diapers, and coke that you need me to get? He sits quietly for several minutes, listening to the voice on the other end of the call. Then, for the next seven or eight minutes, he only confirms he’s still listening to the voice on the other end by uttering an occasional, yes, okay, yeah.

Finally, he ends a rather long goodbye and then returns to the task of helping me. There’s a thick plastic separating the two of us with just a slot at the bottom where we can pass documents back and forth. The plastic is there to provide some protection for not spreading the virus from me to him and vice versa. And, I’m confident the same level of protective measures are behind the airline’s decision to make everyone check-in at the counter this morning. The online portal wouldn’t let any passengers get an electronic boarding pass.

Instead of an electronic boarding pass, the passengers, all one hundred and twenty, including me, have to get a paper boarding pass. Yesterday, I had to go to the copy store to obtain paper copies of my covid test results, travel documentation, and passport. The copy store attendant handled the documents, the copies and then handed them to me. This morning I’ve handed these same paper documents through the small opening below the plastic barrier to the attendant. He’s now handled them and passed them, one by one, after typing the required information into the terminal before him, back through the slot to me. 

If I wasn’t already a little irritated by standing here for fifteen minutes waiting for the phone conversation. I did feel the level of frustration elevate at the irony of the plastic barricade and all of the paper passing back and forth between hands. I’m the last person in the ticket process. The twenty or so people behind me had already obtained their boarding pass at the other attendant’s window and moved on to the long lines waiting for the security check. Nothing to check-in? He asks. No, I tell him I only have the carry-on luggage this morning.

Passing through security was smooth. The long delay at the check-in still aggravated me, and the phone call delay was still biting at my demeanor too. When I finally reached the boarding gate, the passengers were already on the plane. The last call, said the flight attendant as she took my boarding pass from my hand and scanned it. Do you have your proof of your negative test? She asked. I handed her the paper copy, and she handed it back to me after carefully checking the date and the name on my boarding pass for a match. You’ll have to check the luggage sir, she says. We’re full up in the overhead compartments.

She attached the tag to my carry-on. Then, she handed me the other half of the bag tag to claim it when I arrived at my destination. Which I did, after a fourteen-hour flight. But, of course, the airline lost my bag.

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