On October 3rd, I will do a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and finish with a 13.1-mile run. I write you from St. Petersburg, FL, training for a St. Jude Memphis Ironman 70.3. To all who saw my May 17th Facebook post while on my Southwest MEM/MDW/TPA flight and wondered why and where Stuart was flying to, now you know.
I’ll tell you what it is like to fly when most others are choosing not to fly right now. This article is not about what it’s like to train for an event that most others do not choose to do, ever. I’ll save that story for another day.
I never did write about my Delta flight from LAS/LGA on September 14, 2011. Suffice it to say, that was a high-anxiety experience in its own right. That flight brought me back to the safety and security of my home following a catastrophic global event. This 2020 took me away from the safety and security of my home in the midst of another form of catastrophic global event. That 9-1-1 story is one for another day, too.
For the record, this current trip was optional. All parties involved considered the possible risks. If any one of us were unconvinced it could be accomplished safely, it would never have happened – and you’d be reading a very different article.
The risk may be shared, but the reward was purely mine: to train alongside an Ironman and for us both to train with a highly respected, five-time Ironman (who’s trainer happens to be none other than Dave Scott). If he, or I, was unconvinced that I could accomplish an Ironman 70.3 (considered a half-Ironman) safely, this journey would never had happened.
Flying on airplanes in the midst of a pandemic may seem like a ridiculously unnecessary activity, but I want you to know that my attitude and behaviors are far from casual and callous. People who know me, know that I am a person of power-plant passion. It is true that I think big and I do big as a way of life. And, I am equally committed to my personal wellness as well as the wellness of my family and friends, including and especially the people I am with here in St. Pete for 4-day/3-nights. Nuff said.
Parking onsite at MEM was plentiful. I walked right through TSA-Pre (nobody in front, nobody behind) and there were a dozen or so travelers queued-up on the main security line. The airport was very quiet, as expected.
Around 25% of my fellow travelers were unmasked. I was disappointed but this, too, was as expected. I caught myself studying the unmasked travelers versus the masked and promised myself not to be quick to question or judge. I felt safe, secure and minimally uncomfortable wearing a mask. How could they? I wonder if they knew that I was masked for their safety. Was that too big a favor to ask in return?
Southwest abandoned their usual line-up by group and number and invited us to board in groups of 10. They required us to board masked and provided one to those who did not have. Things seemed smooth aside from the family group that accidentally switched boarding passes, presenting extra work for the gate agent. He was cool (because it probably happens often) but the traveler was not. Though the gate agent wasn’t at fault, she apparently thought he was and was unnecessarily rude. Sadly, nothing unexpected to report here, either.
On flight number 1 of 2 I had the row, sat in the middle and reclined without disturbing the person seated on the aisle behind me. On flight number 2, I had the aisle and the window seat was occupied by a young lady in her early 20’s. Hold that thought – I’ll come back to her in a moment.
The MEM Starbucks was closed. There would be no ‘complimentary’ beverage service on either flight. I quickly put that bad news into context. I had no plans on unmasking myself anyway. A mask and no coffee. Minor inconveniences, all things considered.
Deposit your cleansing wipes in the trash and not in your seat back was a new rule. The Southwest flight attendants were friendly and reserved the jokes for a more appropriate time in the future. I missed my usual coffee and their usual puns.
From what I could see, the masked stats were the same: 75% with, 25% without.
I was confused and sad to see the young lady (in her 20’s) open her tray table and proceed to lay her head on it to take a nap. Twice. This was on flight 2 when I was on the aisle and she was at the window (and the center was open).
I wondered if the people she was meeting in Tampa would ever know. I’m no expert but that sure seemed like a risky choice. If you have no fear for your own wellness, shouldn’t you have an ounce of concern for your family’s? Admittedly, this I did not expect.
All in all, everything was simple and smooth. I used my hand sanitizer frequently. I donned my mask. I protected me and everyone around me. I had no control over the 25% who didn’t share my personal sense of responsibility.
Should you fly? If you take it seriously and act responsibly. I did. MEM did. Southwest did. 75% of my fellow travelers did. I can only control my choices, actions and behaviors.
Preparing to compete in an all-day athletic event of endurance and stamina requires intense planning, training, and commitment. My goal? To finish healthy. I WILL DO THIS. Flying in the midst of a pandemic requires a heckuva lot less planning, training and commitment but the goal is the same; to finish healthy. I WILL DO THIS.
Stuart Cohen, Chief Motivation Officer at StuartLloydCohen.com
If you can think big, Stuart will help you do big! An accomplished 28-year travel industry executive turned serial solopreneur, Stuart is a creator of brands and an energizing motivational speaker. He motivates & maximizes personal performance in leadership, entrepreneurship, salesmanship & wellness.