I had a gig a couple weeks back, making for a grand total of two during the month of December. Wa-hooo! I’m thankful because many of my colleagues haven’t been so lucky. I should go out and celebrate by having dinner at a really nice rest – oh, never mind. I’ll use the dough to pay some bills.
I am now convinced that the problem for fly-giggers will not necessarily be at the venue, so much as it will be getting to the venue. First, the good.
Our gig was at a casino showroom, and casinos have a bit more wiggle room when it comes to not worrying about the ticket count. It’s not so much about how many tickets are sold; it’s more about the band attracting people who will pay for a hotel room, have a few meals and leave a week’s worth of wages on the gaming floor.
As a result, the venue was able to accommodate about 400 people in a room that normally would hold around 1,800. Needless to say, there was plenty of space for social distancing. Patrons were seated in pairs with at least 10 feet between them, and were required to wear masks. I’m happy to say that everyone complied. The seriousness with which the casino addressed COVID safety measures is an investment in their clientele: I think that people who attended this show not only would feel comfortable coming back under COVID restrictions, but will also remember in the future that the venue took measures to keep them safe.
Backstage was tight: all crew, hospitality, stage hands, audio and video people wore masks for the whole day, and many wore gloves, as well. The hospitality folks in particular were very helpful and accommodating.
Traveling, however, was unsettling. The check-in area at JFK airport bordered on a madhouse—crowded, unorganized and not very socially distanced—though thankfully everyone I saw was masked. I was disappointed to see that at the Delta check-in counter there was plenty of hand sanitizer on the ticketing agent side of the dividers, but literally not a single sanitizer dispenser at any of the check-in counters for passenger use.
Seating arrangements on the plane didn’t exactly inspire my confidence either. It looked to me like the number of passengers on our flight would have been appropriate for social distancing had the plane been a jet, but it wasn’t—it was a regional aircraft—and therefore had no middle seats. So much for all the B.S. about maintaining social distancing by not selling middle seats.
The seat next to me had been blocked. Moments before we took off, a flight attendant asked me if I’d mind if a passenger was moved to that empty seat due to concerns of balancing the aircraft. What am I supposed to do, say ‘no’? (at which point I’m sure they’d have politely escorted me off the plane). So much for the idea of maintaining social distancing by blocking seats.
What’s more concerning to me is the lack of consideration people gave to other travelers. When it came time to disembark the aircraft, a flight attendant made an announcement asking all passengers to remain seated until the aircraft doors were open, so that they would not be standing next to, and breathing over the shoulders of seated passengers. That didn’t work out very well, nor did the idea of people washing their hands before they left the men’s room. Disgusting. Apparently, we may need handwashing police. Good grief.
When we returned to New York and headed for baggage claim, we were greeted with what bordered on mayhem. All passengers returning to New York are required to file forms for COVID contact tracing purposes. There was an area with workers handing out these forms, yet there was no queue, no organization and no one ensuring that people remained sufficiently distant from each other. There’s no reason those forms couldn’t have been distributed to passengers on the plane before they disembarked—just as you’d expect when traveling internationally and filling out immigration or customs forms. Upsetting? You bet.
As one of my coworkers once said, “It ain’t the gig, it’s the commute.”