The best laid plans … escape from Spain, processing in Chicago
Now what’s that saying from boxer Mike Tyson, ‘Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face’ or something like that, well that’s how I felt when the Spanish Government suddenly issued a nationwide shutdown while I was vacationing in Seville.
I still had ten days left on my proposed itinerary and was about to head to Madrid, I thought about sticking it out and heading to Valencia but a couple of things changed my mind.
Firstly, Las Fallas, along with all the other events and festivals, was cancelled and everywhere was being shutdown, the police were already on the streets, restricting movement. Secondly, and more importantly, the US Government issued a warning that they were about to restrict flights into the country. I decided it would be wise to cut short my vacation and go home asap.
Easier said than done as I had to first get out of Spain before the Monday lock down and then get into the US before their Tuesday restrictions were to be imposed. I managed to get a direct flight to Luton, UK on the Sunday and thought the hard part was over now I was back in the UK.
I booked a direct flight back to Nashville for the Monday and checked into a hotel at Heathrow for the night, relieved I would be back home by the same time tomorrow, or so I thought.
The next day I checked in and at the required time headed for the gate to board the British Airways flight and it was at this point that I heard the announcement that anyone who had been in the following countries (a list of 20 or so were read out) should come to the check-in desk. For a split second I weighed up the options, but my conscience quickly persuaded me that it was best to tell the truth and I stepped forward.
I told the desk agent that I had been to Portugal and Spain and she informed me I would not be able to get onto the plane and I had to be re-routed through another airport for processing. I looked at the several hundred people that boarded the flight and the three of us that stepped forward. I was willing to bet there were a lot more that just plain lied and I felt both sad and angry that people would selfishly put everyone at risk, including themselves. Especially as they were headed to my home town, Nashville.
I was routed via Chicago (ORD), went through border control and was then processed through the section for those that had been in ‘other’ countries. I was asked several questions from the men in the masks and gloves, my temperature was taken and a visual check to make sure I wasn’t coughing or looked ill, before being allowed to go with some information documentation of what to do if I became ill afterwards.
I collected my bags, showed customs my ‘escape’ paper and then it was a rush to re-check bags, transfer to another terminal, go back through security and I made it to the gate just before they started boarding my connection to Nashville. I finally arrived home exhausted just after midnight. It had been a long two days getting home and I had lost ten days of my long-awaited vacation, but I was relieved to be sleeping in my own bed that night for sure.
The whole experience didn’t sour me on vacationing in Europe and I did manage to see my folks in UK and then spend a short time in Lisbon and Seville before it was all cut short. After the experience of being processed I did feel a little better that at least in the larger cities like Chicago that people were being checked. However, having watched all those people get on the flight to Nashville I felt less secure knowing that there had to be quite a few that were making me less safe in my home city. Stay safe out there!