I guess we’re going to have to get used to parking lots littered with surgical gloves.
But at this point in the escalating crisis response to coronavirus, it’s still a pretty jarring sight. For my first few minutes of driving through central parking at Logan airport on Friday night at around eight o’clock, I couldn’t figure out why there was more discarded latex on the pavement than in alleyways around the Combat Zone back in the day. But after idling in my car for a few minutes, I saw a woman with a roller in tow walk up to her hybrid, peel a pair of blue gloves off her hands, ditch them on the cement, thoroughly sanitize, then open the door of her car using her sweatshirt.
Not exactly the most welcoming scene, but hey, at least folks are being cautious.
The meat conveyor stretching from the garage to the gates made for a wintry cinematic ride into the unknown. It felt like blindly speeding through a smoke cloud on a NASCAR track, even though I was prudently gliding, feet in place and hands in pockets, at two miles per hour. To complement the terrifyingly sterile and cursed scenery, the piped-in pre-recorded greetings from Mayor Marty Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker were clearly recorded in much brighter times, before coronavirus.
“Thank you for choosing Boston Logan International Airport,” Walsh chirped. Though no fault of his own since he couldn’t have known, the cheer in the mayor’s voice sounded awkward amid a national crisis. I didn’t get the sense that many people chose to fly into Logan (or anyplace else) with this invisible threat emerging as much as they’re desperately scrambling to get someplace—anyplace—where they will feel safe, or where they can help somebody who needs assistance.
Or, as an optimist may have observed, at least we’re not yet in a state of panic so severe that the loudspeaker announcements guide us toward gas masks and sterilization booths.
The scene was far less ominous inside the terminal.
One social media staple that has endured for the past week has been the airport or in-flight selfie, which if executed flawlessly shows the taker all by theirself without other passengers in the background, last-person-on-earth style. But while the airline industry is surely in a tailspin and some flights are empty, on Friday night, just hours after President Trump declared a national emergency, the JetBlue terminal looked somewhat normal. Major kudos to Massport employees, TSA workers, and in the interest of fairness, TSA agents and state troopers as well.
Most notably, despite the dreadfully selective clips you might see on the five o’clock news, I didn’t see that many masks at Logan. Were a lot of people shielding their noses and mouths? Sure, more than usual, but from what I saw, word seems to have gotten around about their lack of efficacy, and about how only sick people, who shouldn’t be at an airport in the first place, are supposed to wear them.
I’ve seen countless back-and-forths about the usefulness/uselessness of masks, and am familiar with the “better safe than sorry” rationalizations. I wasn’t there to judge, but I do feel obliged to note that several of the masked travelers who I observed were less than efficient in their application, in some cases wearing them strapped to their heads, or placing them on some surface or another while straightening their luggage.
To my surprise, people in lines (short as the queues may have been) and waiting beside baggage carousels made no exceptional attempt (as far as I saw) to keep more distance between each other than usual. I’m no better; though I managed to keep away from the crowd for the most part, on the way back to my car I wound up in an elevator with four other people. Not exactly social distancing, though I did avoid touching the button panel with my bare hand. Instead, I asked a woman wearing latex gloves to press my level as I held my breath and bit my lip, angling to escape asap toward the increasingly incomparable comfort of a car with all four windows closed.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.