Carnes: Finally fun to fly again

It’s been three years, and although we were lucky enough to make it south of the border last summer and a few domestic trips for college graduation and family visits, nothing compared to leaving the country a few weeks ago — sans masks.

Flying out of the Eagle airport on the very day that masks were no longer required by the FAA, it was refreshing to see the smiles and happy faces of fellow passengers for the quick flight to Denver.

It was actually exhilarating to board the plane while breathing something other than one’s own hot air (keep the jokes to yourself, please) and knowing you no longer had to keep the water bottle close to your mouth, pretending “just about to take a sip” during the entire flight.

The only ones with masks were employees on the job, from the check-in counter to the pilots, all still wearing face coverings in spite of the brand spanking new lack of requirements to do so.

On a side note, it’s always been funny to me how pilots and flight attendants still insist on announcing, “We’re about to land in Vail, please return your tray and seat … blah-blah-blah” during the approach for landing, ignoring the reality of distance between the Eagle airport and the actual town of Vail. I’ve heard people say, “Where’s the snow!?!? Vail doesn’t have any snow!!!” upon landing.

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Anyway, at DIA it was the same, with the only ones still wearing masks being worker bees across the board.

Reality hit hard, however, upon boarding an international flight to Europe (my bride is a Dane and we go to visit family, so haters, keep your skirt on).

The European Union still required masks at all times during flights, even the 10-hour marathons where most attempt to sleep between neck snappings (nothing interrupts a good dream quicker than self-induced whiplash) and being told you’re only “three and a half hours from our destination … we’ll be serving breakfast in another hour or so …”

Every airport we went through was all-masks, all-the-time, but at least the Mask Police (like the self-righteous types monitoring the rest of us at City Market, Wally World, buses, gondola lift lines, etc., these last few years) did not appear to be in attendance.

Once away from airports, whether on trains, taxis or simply walking around, nary a mask could be found. We were again surrounded by happy faces with smiling grins, everyone apparently eager to pretend the previous two-plus years were little more than a long, collective nightmare.

Sure, six million people have so far perished from COVID-19, with one million of those being American citizens, but ignorance of reality is one of the best ways to cope with mass delusion.

Although the Danes and others in Europe are ahead of us in areas like, oh, let’s say, electric vehicles, they traditionally trail behind the U.S. in most trends, and sure enough, today (May 16) they are dropping the mask mandates for air travel around Europe.

Having a few more flights before returning home, I now look forward to getting back to the good ol’ days of sharing fully processed and filtered air on each flight with my fellow passengers, regardless of the contagion they might be carrying.

And doing so with happy smiles.

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