David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
Twilight is a phenomenon that happens when the sun is setting (or rising) – just below the horizon. It’s as good an analogy as any for us to use – the experiences we have when the sun is setting – to describe what the world (and the world of travel) is like as the COVID19 pandemic sunsets.
When we were in the heart of state lockdowns, Atlantic City was one of the few places my wife and I living in New Jersey could travel to. (I wrote about it here.) Now that the pandemic is waning, we went back to Atlantic City one more time – and this blog reports about our experiences. Everything was sort of OK, but all of it can also be described as feeling like the Twilight Zone. So much has changed – or changed back – that it kept us way off balance for the entire weekend.
Our trip started very differently than in the heart of the pandemic – by driving up to the Borgata hotel’s valet. For over a year, the idea of letting a stranger into our car – and allowing them to actually touch our things (and breathe our air) was anathema. I mean…..ick! Now, we forced ourselves to deal with the weird feeling (really more I than my wife. I still made her spray the steering wheel with alcohol mist when we picked it up, but again, that’s probably just my issues.) I actually forgot how convenient it was to just drive-up-to and walk into a hotel without having to look for parking.
We had checked-in on line, so we only had to pick-up key-cards. When we got to our floor – no more stickers on the doors! (They were apparently listening when I said to just stop.) We still sprayed down heavily touched surfaces in the room to be sure they were clean and germ free, but here again, that may be just me. Much to our surprise, housekeeping has been completely returned to normal at this property. No need to call and ask for extra towels or arrange anything else. Just leave a daily tip and someone else just walks into your room, makes your bed, and does everything else. It is eerie to think that that was the norm for most of my life but still seems very odd now.
When at the property, the only way you would know there had been a pandemic was the hand-washing stations that were still in place (unused, but still there) and the staff that were wearing masks. Other than the staff however, very few guests and/or visitors were wearing masks. My wife and I had ours with us, and at the start of the weekend trip we put them on as a courtesy when we were speaking with any of the staff. But by the end of the weekend we were so used to not wearing them anymore that for the most part, we didn’t. All of the restaurants were fully open – including the self-serve, all-you-can-eat buffet. The property’s comedy club was also open for the first time, but the 3,000 seat theater had about 80 people seated (including us) for the Friday night show. In addition, for the first time outside of our house for a weekend, no one ever took our temperature!
When we walked out onto the Atlantic City boardwalk, the story was very much the same. Everyone was unmasked and enjoying the weather, but most people seemed visibly off-kilter because of the strangeness. Keep in mind, most of these people probably weren’t the ones who flaunted masks and distancing all along, but rather were likely the folks that followed the guidelines for over a year, and are now dealing with the strangeness of everything suddenly going back to normal. (The picture of us at the right was at the Miss America gazebo / sign near the historical Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall – formerly Convention Hall.) All in all it was a fine weekend away, but we’re excited that for casino/resort/dining/entertainment travel we can now stop going to AC and start heading back to Vegas (which we’re planning to do in a couple of months.) AC was OK as a diversionary stopgap for us, but the area and the properties sadly have never achieved their promise of a revitalized, exciting destination.
The distressing part of this ‘back to normal’ experience – and all the others – was the news this past week that infection rates are dropping in states that are encouraging vaccinations, but actually rising everywhere else. We simply don’t have enough evidence yet that vaccines will protect people from variants and breakthrough infections. That means when we are not in one of the states that has hit or come close to 70% vaccinations we’ll likely all need to mask-up and distance again. Eventually we’ll know if the vaccines are strong enough to do the job and/or if we will need boosters. I hate the idea that COVID will be around for the long term, but if it had to be, then not affecting those vaccinated would be the best of the possible outcomes – especially as vaccine distribution around the country and the world improves. People smart-enough to get vaccinated would be protected, and people not smart enough – well, remember to look up The Darwin Awards when you get the chance.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.
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