DISCLAIMER: This is not intended as a political post. At its core, it’s about writing, but it will likely reveal some of my political leanings along the way. Just remember, you can wash your hands after reading this. In fact, you should probably wash them *before* reading it, too. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
In early March, I had to fly to Atlanta for my day job. With the COVID-19 crisis looming, I was not enthused about flying into the world’s busiest airport. Armed with copious amounts of hand sanitizer and hopped up on supplements reputed to boost my immune system, I reluctantly boarded a plane at Palm Beach International Airport, idly counting the passengers wearing masks or gloves (fewer than half a dozen on this short flight).
A quick rewind: This was several days before the US had acknowledged COVID-19 as a Big Problem, and many were still unsure just how seriously to take it. I was leaning towards pretty darn seriously, aware that my age and damaged heart put me in a higher risk segment.
Arriving at the office, I doused my borrowed cubicle in Purell, keeping my ears alert for the sound of sniffles and sneezes and coughs – oh my! I was scheduled to stay for the week, but when Fulton County began closing schools due to a reported COVID-19 infection, I decided to cut the trip short. I had rented a car for commuting between the airport, hotel and office, so I arranged to keep the car and drive all the way back to my home in South Florida.
My coworkers gave me some light-hearted shaming about leaving early – particularly when they learned I was driving instead of flying – but I felt more and more sure it was the right move. I wanted to go home.
On the road again (or, still crazy after all these years)
I was looking at a minimum of a 10-hour drive, but wasn’t overly concerned. As a road-warrior touring musician in the 80s, I’d developed the ability to drive for hours on end without tiring. Plus, I had good audio books to listen to, and felt pretty familiar with the roads I would be traveling. But I was still in for a few surprises.
I made it through the dense Atlanta traffic, then settled in for a long drive through a region I’d spent countless hours traversing with a country band early in my career. I knew to expect an onslaught of South of the Border billboards as I neared the Florida state line (the world’s most overhyped rest stop, if you’ve never heard of it), but over the past three decades, some new “roadside attractions” had appeared.