The plan was that within a few hours of now, I’d be settling in behind my old desk below deck on the icebreaker, down at the end of Muelle Prat in Punta Arenas. Working with an A-Team (Adina, Al and Andy) that makes me feel like Peggy Schuyler. But as the saying goes, if you want to hear the gods laugh, tell them your plans. So that’s not gonna happen. This week, at least. On the upside, it now looks like I don’t actually need to wear pants again until next Monday.
The hitch between plan and execution was a last-minute switch in Chilean COVID protocols. So instead of quarantining at our destination (on the ship, getting **** done), we now need to quarantine at our port of entry – Santiago, 1400 miles to the north. From my perspective, it’s fine. My job is to do what I can, where I can, and not stress about things beyond my control. Where “things,” in this case, includes Chile and COVID. Or, for example, American Airlines (motto: “We’ll get you there eventually. Probably.”), who canceled our southbound flight with 12 hours notice.
The travel ninjas at USAP fielded both of these without breaking stride, and swatted a couple other minor flying monkey wrenches like they were flies. Finding new flights, booking us at a government-mandated quarantine hotel. Lining up handlers to get us through, to and from. Modulo an earlier-than-optimal wakeup time of 3:30 yesterday morning, transportation and logistics spun like clockwork; by Tuesday evening we were striding down the jetway in Dallas like the badasses we like to think we are.
One perk of travel to a country that’s officially “closed” is that the flights tend to be less crowded. Seriously – we could have each staked out half a dozen rows for ourselves without any effort. Which is a definite feature for a nine-hour flight in economy class. Plane took off, I stretched out in my three-across with a blanket over my head and woke up next morning as they were serving a pre-landing breakfast. No muss, no fuss.
Things did get more involved once we disembarked. Donald Douglas is quoted as having said that an airplane is ready to fly when the weight of its paperwork equals the weight of the aircraft. Perhaps the same is true for getting through health, customs and immigration in COVID times. Not counting my passport and boarding passes, I counted 18 distinct sheets of paper I’d had to juggle in the four hours it took to maneuver from plane to quarantine hotel. But the Chilean officials were helpful and cheerful throughout: fellow at the booth next to me had failed to obtain some document – maybe proof of sufficient health insurance – and rather than dumping him in the penalty box, the young woman called a colleague over to help him figure out how to set insurance up on the fly. And at the hotel, every time there was a delay, they brought us treats: orange juice, Pisco sours, little Easter Island chocolates.
So no, I don’t get to complain, and I’m not inclined to, anyway. First world problems. Yes, we’re in the heart of the hippest part of town, but distributed on three different floors, and we don’t even get to step out into the hallway to see each other or anyone until Monday. Not supposed to even open the doors except for food delivery. The windows don’t open, so we can’t even breathe un-airconditioned air. Again, first world problems. There’s a nice room with a comfy bed, good wifi and room service with four (four?!?) meals a day. And hey, didn’t I keep saying on my previous trips that I wanted an excuse to spend time in Santiago? Just reminds me of another old saying: be careful what you ask for.
(Oh, and by the way: yes, I’m still wearing pants.)