The alarm woke me at 4:45am and as I drowsily pulled on some clothes Dave came to the door and said, Jim, look at this. He held out his phone with an alert: all entry to the USA from Europe would be closed. No!!!
We drove to the airport with a feeling of gloom. My mind raced through alternatives if I were not allowed on my flight. I could not go directly back to the UK as my visa had so recently expired. Where could I stay in Europe indefinitely?
But it turned out that I was lucky and the restrictions would not go into effect until the next day. There was no panic at the Zürich airport and I waved goodbye to Dave and Regula as I joined a short queue to pass through security.
After a short flight to Frankfurt I had an hour to wait for my long haul journey back to Seattle. A Lufthansa agent asked me some questions but nothing about travel through infected areas, and nobody scanned my temperature. I got my window seat on a rather empty jumbo jet: each passenger had his or her own row.
The direct line to Seattle took us over a North Sea frothy with waves. When we reached the coast of Greenland the sea was covered in broken ice and the land white with snow and glaciers. The frozen world extended well down into upper Alberta where finally signs of mankind reappeared as scars of oil and forest extraction. On crossing the US border only Mount Baker poked up above a chunky cloud deck. Our landing approach took us right over the Seattle downtown.
The immigration check was very quick. I was not asked at all about where I had been or if I felt symptoms of flu. I was only asked what I was bringing in from abroad. My cheese and chocolate were allowed. My temperature was not taken.
Joanne picked me up and took me back to their large gorgeous home on Lake Washington. Pappy was a jiu jitsu for, as it turned out, the last time before the business was shut down. We made a trip to Costco for supplies and found crowds stocking up on huge packs of toilet paper but, oddly, not a lot of food. Our own purchase ended up being just a case of Corona beer. Ha ha.
In the coming days the lockdowns grew. Schools were closed. Restaurants could only serve take-away. Dick's Drive In was open but had social distancing marks in the waiting area. Even the cherry blossoms were off limits in the University of Washington Quad, though many people skirted the barriers and strolled among them anyway, under watch by three bicycle police.
On the plus side I took a new work contract doing software development for a company that is all made up of remote workers (there is no office) so I can stay employed while staying in the house.
Karen was due to join me here a week after I landed but due to the new restrictions she had to cancel her flight. She got no refund because the flight itself was not canceled. I suppose it flew empty. And her travel insurance turned out to be a waste of money when she called them to make a claim and they directed her to small print on page fifteen that said they weren't liable.
So as of now I am stuck in this gorgeous home on a lake with two of my best friends and lots of movies and books and Corona beer. But with all of that how can I be very happy not knowing when my dear wife and I can be reunited?