Airport refugee

Delta’s change in lounge policy will move me further from using them as my preferred airline. While the lounges are crowded, limiting the duration to 3 hours before departure (not boarding) will do little to alleviate the problem.

Often I occupy a spot in a lounge for a long time. Here’s a list of some of the reasons why:

  • On standby for an earlier flight
  • Traveling to the airport with others (co-workers, family, etc.) where my flight leaves after theirs
  • Bad weather inbound
  • Holiday crush
  • Delayed or canceled flight
  • Hotel checkout time
  • International travel
  • Something about my work calendar that needs me in a place with power, good wifi, and relatively low noise at a specific time unrelated to boarding
  • When I arrive, needing to wait for co-workers, family, etc. so we can carpool to the destination

The list goes on. Other business travelers and those frequently taking to the air may have others.

I have ideas for Delta (and AMEX) on how to address lounge overcrowding, at least a little bit:

  • Expand the Priority Pass access to include airport restaurant access and/or gate delivery food service
  • Have a service desk for things like standby flights, rebooking, etc. near the check-in desk
  • Staff the toll-free service numbers, social media response, and in-app chat so flyers can get fast help
  • Have separate policies for domestic and international lounge access
  • In international gateway airports, partner on a separate international lounge (like in Atlanta) and offer arrival lounge access
  • Take reservations

The list goes on. Mostly my ideas revolve around people. So far, that seems to be one area outside of investment.

It’s easier to blame customers, in the short term. How dare they use our product!

Vaccination Cocktail

My international travel for work has been on (March through May) and then off (July) and then back on (ETA mid-August) but might be off for a variety of reasons including COVID’s Delta flavor.

The numbers for the US as a whole is accidentally ok. They’re not great, but as compared to 6 months ago they are almost miraculous. Tennessee drags down the national average, but my county and city seem to be doing some things right.

Overseas, and especially in Asia where I was and will maybe be again, is not so good.

When I was in South Korea the country’s daily new infections was around 400. Now they are closer to 1,600 and mostly of the Delta variety. This causes me pause.

Seemingly unrelated, this past week I traveled to Boston for work. Most people in the airport and everyone on my flights wore masks. Taxis and Ubers were masked adventures. As soon as I stepped out of those mandated cocoons …

South Korea has very stringent protocols for mask wearing, distancing, limiting crowds, &c. And yet their numbers are almost 3 times what they were 2 months ago. Why? Maybe their low vaccination rate with the added complexity of Delta explains it.

My takeaway: Vaccination helps for those who can get vaccinated. Mask wearing helps for those who cannot be vaccinated. Delta doesn’t seem bound by either, but layer defense — masks, vaccines, distancing — gives the best odds.

Even with all that, someone who is regularly masked and vaccinated can still get sick. I hope you, Dear Reader, got one of the good vaccines with a 70% or better efficacy. I hope you have a solid N95 or equivalent mask. I hope you keep your social interactions limited.

Which brings me back to my pending return work trip to South Korea. Allegedly I have the one shot Janssen J&J shot in advance of the trip I was scheduled to take in July. That trip would not have allowed me time for a 2 shot protocol though it was my preference.

The data on J&J with the Delta variant isn’t encouraging. While still massively better than not having had a shot, so far the numbers indicate J&J might not offer as much protection as the 2 dose Moderna or Pfizer mDNA options.

Today I may or may not have accidentally received a Pfizer shot. The extra shot might do nothing for me. It might make me feel ill for a few days and still do nothing for me. Early indications are that a shot of mDNA vaccine boosts the usefulness of J&J.

My hope is that, whatever my vaccinations, I’ve effectively reduced the likelihood that I will die due to COVID to 0, that I’ve reduced the likelihood of contracting COVID to a low number, that I’ve reduced the likelihood that I will pass COVID on to someone else to a very low number, and that the Delta variant will have less impact on me overall.

Viva la Science!

Stupid AF

Let’s assume people aren’t Volkswagen US and foolishly release their stupid AF (April Fool) nonsense in advance. They instead wait to unleash their stupid AF horse hockey on the day.

Stupid AF kicks off in the Pacific: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, and a whole whack of other countries awake to a fairly regular day. Maybe shenanigans ensue. I have yet to see any worthy of the name, yet the countries have to remain vigilant all the same.

Stupid AF moves to India and Russia, then Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

Stupid AF doesn’t really hit its stride until it reaches the Americas. The U.S., in particular, relishes in its stupid AF pranks.

Here’s the thing about those stupid AF pranksters in the Americas, and the U.S. in particular, …

It’s April 2 when Asia sees it.

That means ANZ, Japan, South Korea, and a lot of others have to stay vigilant about stupid AF bullshit for at least 36-47.9 hours.

And we do this because … ?

No one actually knows.

Korea things I wish I’d packed

There is a lack of information about quarantine when you hit Korean shores. I’ve written elsewhere about my experiences, but here is a list of things I was going to bring or things I now know I should have brought with me:

  • Coffee kit – 2 weeks worth of decent instant coffee at least or beans & grinder & AeroPress at best
  • Tea, again a 2 week supply
  • Tape – this is something usually in my travel kit. I don’t know what happened to it; useful for blocking out LEDs
  • Clothing deodorizing spray — the laundry situation is self-service so far
  • Folding plates & bowl – I’ve been washing things in the sink I think I can reuse but I have a nice camping kit that would do nicely
  • Alcohol — don’t know if I’ll be getting any
  • Thunderbolt 2 to Ethernet adaptor for my 2015 MacBook Pro – wifi problems abound here
  • Binoculars – to seep on the “world”, and also to scout out restaurants
  • Ethernet cable (see above)
  • Google Fi or a pre-trip shipped South KoreanSIM card – work turned off the international plans during the shutdown, so Verizon is charging a ridiculous fee
  • Selfie stick – for when I get out and about
  • Melatonin – to help with jet lag; usually in my kit but I totally spaced on making sure it was there
  • Snacks – I’m not a big snacker, but there is nothing in between the thrice daily meals
  • Dry erase markers – I used to always carry 4 of these as they’re often useful in personal brainstorming and work settings
  • Glasses cleaner – I have a cleaning cloth but the glass cleaner would work for the glasses and cleaning up dry erase from mirrors and windows
  • An immersion water heater
  • Spices!!! I always travel with at least some hot sauce but for whatever reason I totally spaced on this
  • Skin lotion – another “I always carry that” that I kind of forgot; I have some but it’s almost empty

I’m just glad I’m not a smoker. If I was, at least a 2 week supply of patches and gums and other palliatives would be damn necessary!

Korea so far

I arrived.

I’m in a penned off area between baggage claim and the outside world. This purgatory is populated by Asian golfers, Polish teen gymnasts, a Dutch photographer, and several men doing all they can to escape to beer or scotch.

The police man the entrance and a table where, for the sixth time since landing, passports and papers are checked and rechecked.

We’re all destined for government housing while we whittle away at our fortnight quarantines. If I understand things correctly, once were delivered by government transport we will not see each other or anyone else for quite some time.

The fellow to my left is the elder of the group, meaning he was here when I got in, and I’ve been here on this bench longer than most. He’s got his phone charging, he’s standing to keep the blood flowing, and he gives me hope that the bus will soon arrive.

But now another smattering of foreigners wait at the cordon to get into this waiting room just in the edge of freedom. The Asian golfer dude just tried to escape using the new entrants as cover.

He failed and received a stern talking to for his troubles.

The Polish gymnasts are fiddling with their suitcases. There is something wrong that a YouTube video was needed to solve.

The waiting area is split into two halves. The other half is all men. My half (I’ve taken ownership we’ve been here so long) is me, the old timer, and all the ladies. I’m not sure why that is but I’m not complaining.

One of the newcomers is sent to our side, a man, throwing the delicate balance off. He reminds me of a jolly fellow I knew in Tokyo. I can’t see him well what with face masks and all.

Another new batch is arriving. I think we’re shipwrecked here until all the international flights arrive.

Our scarlet letter is a red tag we all wear around our necks. They outwardly signal the red dot placed on our passports and the mark on our souls.

We can be escorted briefly to use the bathroom. That seems the only temporary respite.

Our cozy habitat is now invaded by an army of travelers of all stripes. Some have a jaundiced yellow tag around their necks. I wonder if they’re part of a tour group or theater troupe. It’s gonna get crowded up in here.

Some of the new entrants are laughing. They don’t know the limbo they’re entering into. I feel for them. I was once not long ago an innocent like them. That was in the before time, about 90 minutes ago.

I’m hearing Russian from the guy next to me. He’s on a speakerphone FaceTime call. Joy!

There’s some confusion at the desk, but the police are undeterred and processing these doomed souls with efficiency like I supposed St. Peter does at the pearly gates. Or the hell equivalent at the River Styx. Is that how that works?

The first guy who looks like an American has arrived. He’s shabbily dressed with a backwards ball cap, a sheep skin lined denim jacket and one of those backpacks that bulb out at the bottom. Dollars to donuts he was in a fraternity in his glory days.

Someone just escaped! The police are not amused. The guy (who knew?) is wearing a mustard yellow hoodie and got yelled at as he returned. He does not seem to care.

This one guy keeps standing at the entry talking to another guy in a ball cap on the other side. I think he’s placing an order for stuff from the 7-11 just out of reach behind me.

We have our first non-Asian non-Caucasian contestant as more new souls trickle in to the pen. I’ve been in Korea now for 2 hours.

Something might be moving. The police are going through the pen counting. Folks are standing! They’re gathering things! A queue is forming!

Maybe peace will be ours at last, the sweet release of government mandated housing.

UPDATE: The news of my release is in error. They only took the far side people. The Russian FaceTime guy found out we could be here for another hour or so. My thumb is tired but I’m otherwise in good spirits.

There is a dog barking in a high pitched yap. Lights in the exit hall are being turned off. We remain. More people try unsuccessfully to gain special dispensation to visit the 7-11, but the police aren’t granting any.

It will be a shame to shoot that dog. It will not shut up.

The Dutch photographer left to the ladies with all her gear in tow, like anyone could steal it here in this pit of despair … I mean, Forbidden Zone.

A fresh batch arrived. There are so many people wearing sweatpants in here.

The app we all have to install to make sure we’re doing all the quarantine things we’re legally obligated to do is always on in the background. It’s eating battery like mad.

We’re all talking on speakerphones now. That’s a fresh addition to limbo.

Correction: the guys behind me are Ukrainian, not Russian.

Coming up on hour three and not much to report. Still in the purgatory pen.

All those yellow tagged people are being sprung. They might be from lower risk countries. The Dutch photographer is asking how much longer.

It does seem that the sorting hat is source airport based. Had I come from New Zealand I would have gone to a light prison … er, quarantine housing. Coming from the U.S. I get supermax.

The yellow tagged folks are queued just outside the pen. They’re as stuck as they were just with different scenery.

Two American women are arguing with the police at the gate. They do not want into purgatory. They want to talk to a manager! The police guy is confused and keeps looking for his colleagues to help, but there is no help to be had.

I should have brought snacks and drink from the plane.

We just got counted. Hopeful sign?

The yellow tagged team got gone.

We’re all lined up in parallel. The Americans are having a family thing about birth certificates and stuff. I think the daughter is being quarantined and her adoptive folks are melting down.

On the bus! My suitcase was brought in from the under us storage for … reasons?

Still no idea where we’re going.

Two weeks of two months in Korea

I’m off to Seoul for business reasons for 2 months.

There’s sparse content about what happens when one goes to Seoul. It’s outlined like this:

  1. Get a COVID test 72 hours before departure
  2. Print copies of the test results and be ready to show them multiple times
  3. Get your temperature taken often
  4. Fill out paperwork on the plane
  5. Turn in all the paperwork when you arrive
  6. The Korean government drives you to a location
  7. Quarantine in the location for 14-15 days
  8. Install and use an app to verify your location and health during the quarantine
  9. Wear a mask

I assume there’s a “don’t lick doorknobs” clause, but I’m lost in the details between steps 5 and 11.

What’s the government facility? Where is it? What is it like? Can I go au natural while I’m there or is it a prudish fishbowl scenario?

Seriously, I know there is a place to which I shall be transported and that I have to pay for my stay. But what are the details? How do I pay? Can I earn elite status and, if so, what are the benefits? What delivery services can I use? How do my clothes get laundered? How fast is the wifi?


I just don’t know.

#6 & #10, there’s a lot I don’t know contained in those seemingly innocent ellipses. I assume one should not wrestle a bear for honey (Pooh taught us that), but otherwise mind the gap.

Wear a mask!