We didn’t want to do it, researched our options, but ultimately needed to make a trip from Dallas to Chicago and back.
My last day in the office was Friday, March 13th. My daughter, who is in her freshman year at Columbia College Chicago, got sent home early for Spring break and flew home on Sunday, March 15th. My boys, 7th grade and 10th grade, went on Spring Break that week and never went back.
We’ve been isolating at home and staying in place. My boys spend a week at my house, then a week at their dads. He’s been staying at home as well. We get our groceries delivered. We leave to walk the dogs.
I’ve had to go inside a store twice for meds, but I mask up, it’s in and out and I feel anxious for hours afterwards. We have a drive through liquor store for necessities. (LOL!) And about a week ago we hung out with friends at a local park (being careful to stay 6 feet away from each other).
But yesterday that all changed. When Columbia College Chicago shut down in March they told students to leave. To take what they could carry but leave the rest and vacate the residence halls. But a few weeks ago we were told we needed to get her things and be fully moved out by May 10th.
Reminder – we live in Dallas, her school is in Chicago. Here were our options:
- Hire a moving company to enter her room, pack her things and ship them home
- Ask someone who lives nearby to act as a proxy to enter her room, pack her things and ship them home
- Drive to Chicago, pack her things and ship them home
- Fly to Chicago, pack her things and ship them home
It was not an easy decision. Each one had positives and negatives. We looked at cost. We looked at time. We looked at exposure to ourselves. We looked at exposure to other people.
Ultimately we decided that flying to and from Chicago in a quick one day whirlwind trip to retrieve her belongings would take less time, cost less and expose less people than any other option.
So yesterday, May 7th, 2020, we set off on a strange trip during this unprecedented Pandemic.
With masks and antibacterial lotion in hand we got to Dallas Love Field about 6am on a Thursday morning. Normally there would be a couple of security lanes open and a small wait, but this morning it was sparse. We walked straight up to the TSA agent, presented our credentials, lowering our masks only for the ID verification) and headed over to the one lane open. There were about 6 people in front of us and we got through quickly.
If you’ve been to Dallas Love Field, you know the layout. You walk from security up a single corridor with bathrooms and a few restaurants/stores, then there is a left and right fork with about 10 gates on either side.
It was a ghost town. There was a Dunkin Donuts storefront open for coffee, but everything else was closed. Gates pulled down, signs on the entryways.
Our gate itself was pretty deserted. Not many people waiting. The majority who were there had masks on, but a surprising number of people did not.
They announced while we were waiting that in order to maintain social distancing, Southwest Airlines would not be serving beverages or snacks on our flight so we should get it while we could in the terminal. Then for boarding they boarded us in groups of 10. It was very organized and we were able to maintain distance.
Once on the plane, they had to rearrange passengers a bit to ‘balance out the weight’ – it was an 800 series plane and there were 34 of us on board to Chicago. Southwest is also blocking off the first few rows and last few rows of seats and asking people not to sit in middles unless you are traveling together. I was definitely impressed with their service.
Uneventful flight and landed at Chicago’s Midway airport. We love Midway – it’s good sized, but never super crowded. Good restaurants and easy to get around. When we de-planed I was again kind of shocked. It was 9:30am on a Thursday and the airport was empty. Like ghost town empty. No restaurants or shops we passed were open. It was surreal. Baggage claim had a handful of people. Weird.
We typically would take the train downtown to the Loop, but opted for a Lyft since it seems like it would be safer.
Got to her Residence hall super quickly – it’s on State Street, a block off of Michigan Avenue and in the heart of the city. The sidewalks were deserted. There were some cars, but zero actual traffic. On a weekday morning at 10:45am. In the middle of Chicago.
We were given just under two hours to pack her things and get out. They are being very strict about appointments to move out and timing and it was pretty stressful. But we got it done and were back outside walking for a Lyft back to the airport at 12:30pm.
Still barely any cars. An occasional person on the sidewalk in a mask, but deserted.
Back to Midway. Just like earlier it was empty. We checked our bags at the valet outside, then sped through security with maybe 10-15 people in line with us.
Hungry at that point, we decided to find something to eat. At Midway we counted 4 stores open. One gift store. Two restaurants (for takeaway only) and Nuts on Clark (the popcorn store). Only one of the restaurants served alcohol of any kind. It was kind of a backfire, because with no other options, there were probably too many people at these places. Regardless, we were able to get some food and eat before we headed to our gate.
The flight home was a 737 and there were around 40 people on it. Again, a mixed bag of people in masks, people without masks and one person who had on goggles underneath a full gas mask type thing with leather gloves. It was interesting. They weren’t as strict about boarding small groups in Midway but it was organized enough.
After another uneventful flight back to Dallas, we get to the most interesting part. After landing, they come over the loudspeakers of the plane and say there are Troopers who will be talking to us when we de-board. If we are essential workers we should have our papers ready. If we are catching a connecting flight just let them know, but if we are staying in Texas they’ll have some paperwork for us to fill out.
In the terminal there were 4 DPS Troopers in uniforms and masks. Because we have come from Chicago, IL and are staying in Texas, there is an order from the Governor that we must self-quarantine for 14 days. We had to fill out a form with the address where we will be quarantined and a phone number along with our ID’s and names. Then we were given some paperwork with instructions.
Basically we are not allowed to leave our residence for 14 days or interact with people at all. They are authorized to check on us, either by visiting our residence and making sure we are at home or calling us. We are subject of a fine of up to $1000 or up to 180 days in jail if we violate the order. (Apparently you can violate it if you are a salon owner in Texas, so I’m not sure how enforceable this is.)
We will be honoring the quarantine. My boys are staying with their dad for the next two weeks (not the Mother’s Day I imagined, but it’s just a day.) We’ll walk the dogs with masks on but stay home otherwise and monitor ourselves for symptoms just in case. Hopefully we were able to stay safe on our trip and avoided the virus.
We made it back home about 15 hours from when we left. It was a whirlwind trip that we will not forget. And one day, when my great grand kids ask about this time, we will have a story for them about our crazy travel day during the pandemic.
Stay safe everyone.