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A COVID-19 Friday the 13th: Glad I Didn't Shave My Legs

by Lisa Grant, Adjunct Professor of English and SUNY ADK alumni, class of 2010


I don't know what I was thinking booking a flight to Costa Rica for Friday the 13th of March. I booked well ahead of time -- September of 2019, to be exact. Now I find myself feeling like Rip Van Winkle after waking up from his twenty-year slumber: disoriented and scratching my head.

As an adjunct college instructor, I usually travel with my husband during winter break, directly following the holiday season. I don't recall the reason we bumped the trip to spring break instead, but I was careful to look up the spring schedule to make travel arrangements.

Preparing for my spring semester classes, I pulled up the school calendar once more only to find that spring break had been shifted. No problem. I've never missed a class before, but set to making arrangements for a sub. I should have known this was the first sign of things to come.

Three weeks before the trip, plans fell through for a sub. I scurried to get my classes covered and was grateful for my co-workers who stepped up. Problem averted.

The trip a week away, I graded student essays as soon as spring break began, worked up mid-term grades and submitted them, and thought I had everything ready.

By this time the buzz of the COVID-19 virus had been building. We considered every possible scenario and paid close attention to the news, but every report was different. I checked for incidences of the virus in Costa Rica, and the tropical climate seemed to keep it at bay. I would take proper precautions and keep a level head. All plans still a go.

Then the afternoon of March 11th, the announcement pulled up on the local news. Our governor declared that college classes were to take place remotely, starting the week I was to be away. Soon afterward the announcement came that the President would make an announcement at 9 PM.

By the end of the night, only two days away from our flight: travel to Europe would be halted; the virus had made it to Costa Rica (complicated by two of the infected patients being American tourists); almost hourly announcements were being made of the cancellation of events, ranging from the closing of Disneyland Theme Parks to the cancellation of the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Cases of patients testing positive for the virus continued to rise and get closer and closer to home. Still, I tried not to panic.

Thursday morning, after a restless night, we realized the risks outweighed the reward. By 10 AM I was on the phone and internet postponing our travel arrangements. Wait times were long on the phone, and information online was complicated to maneuver. Travel sites and airlines had already added clauses based upon the unexpected nature of the virus. This was new territory. I didn’t finish the process until 4 PM and, as disappointed as I was, I felt a wave of relief that we had made the right decision. I don't know what I was thinking booking a flight to Costa Rica for Friday the 13th of March. Friday, the 13th. I'd tried to ignore the omens. In the end I gained perspective while trying to maintain a sense of humor. As those around me are hoarding toilet paper, and stores are limiting the purchase of hand-sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, I take comfort that we changed our mind before I bothered to shave my legs for the journey.

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