AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT 157 — Reentry.
That’s what this week felt like for me, for the first time leaving the cocoon of my home where I’ve been sheltering in place for the past three months.
I looked so forward to this.
Yet I was so apprehensive about it.
I wanted to go.
Yet I wasn’t really sure I wanted to go.
When the PGA Tour reworked its tournament schedule in April, the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club was going to be the first tournament to be played since the COVID-19 pandemic pause.
Weeks ago, when I asked my editor what his thoughts were about covering the historic restart, his response was, “We’d like you there as long as you’re comfortable going.’’
Of course, I immediately told him I was all-in. But quietly, I was apprehensive as the trip drew nearer.
After spending the past quarter year sheltering at home, the entire exercise felt like a reentry to a scary new world littered with more unknowns than before COVID-19.
Getting onto an airplane was stressful. Would I have anyone sitting next to me? In front of me? Behind me? What if someone behind me sneezes?
I was fortunate to have a row to myself on the outbound flight, which eased my anxiety slightly.
I was not so fortunate on the return flight home, from which I’m penning this correspondence. Twenty-two people were on the standby list and the plane is packed.
Contradiction to the global urging of social distancing when it comes to being on an airplane is criminal.
As I waited at the gate to board, a recorded message played over and over at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport mandating people stay 6 feet apart. But apparently, it’s OK five minutes later when you board the plane to be rubbing shoulders with someone you don’t know for the next four hours.
It’s infuriating and stressful and defines the phrase “mixed message.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has threatened to shut New York City down because he’s seen pictures of social-distancing-be-damned crowds hanging out on St. Marks. But being crammed onto an airplane with nearly no empty seats is OK?
Where’s the responsible regulation at 37,000 feet?
The next dilemma was the hotel. Would I be comfortable putting my head down on a foreign pillow at night? How can you trust that everything in the room has been disinfected properly?
Then: Where would I eat?
For the past three months, my wife and I have been cooking and eating every meal at home. Restaurants in New York and New Jersey, of course, have not been open — other than for takeout.
Some of the restaurants in Fort Worth felt like a free-for-all, with 75 percent capacity already permitted, little attention being paid to social distancing and almost no face coverings by the customers (thankfully, restaurant personnel all wore masks).
It’s difficult to wrap your head around the fact that some people are so cavalier about the virus, going as far as to say they don’t care if they contract it.
Those people clearly haven’t been affected by COVID-19, haven’t lost a loved one or a friend to the virus — as all of us at The Post did early in the pandemic when it robbed us of our dear friend and colleague Anthony Causi.
When the coronavirus crisis initially disrupted our lives, we were trained to stay home, stay out of potential harm’s way, avoid any contact with the virus so we would not catch it or transmit it.
Sports leagues were among the first part of society to shut down.
And, while much worse things were happening to so many people, in my small corner of the world, I was a sportswriter with no sports to cover with no end to that seemingly in sight.
While the sports fan in me craved the comfort of live sports to watch, the sportswriter in me was desperate for them. When were we going to get real games, live events to chronicle again?
That time came for me this past week at Colonial, and it was therapeutic. It brought back at least a sliver of normalcy. And, the trip gave me some advance insight on what it’ll be like in New York and New Jersey when we reopen restaurants and other businesses.
My reentry felt successful — albeit anxious, but rewarding, too.
The Colonial, which had its best field ever, produced a winner on Sunday evening — Daniel Berger — and I had the privilege of chronicling it for our Post readers. It felt at least a little like it used to before COVID-19.
So, in a strange way, as my return flight prepares to land back home to LaGuardia, I feel like I won, too. Because hopefully I’ll feel a little more comfortable on my next assignment and then a little more comfortable than that on the assignment after that.
Eventually, perhaps, normalcy will set in. Whatever that is now.
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