I did something a little crazy last week. I'm sure some of my family, friends and coworkers think it was reckless. I went on a business trip.
It wasn't my first time leaving my home office since March 15, when everyone at Plastics News started working remotely. But I can count all of the other work trips on one hand, and the others were within driving distance of home.
This was a real business trip. I wasn't sure what to expect. I thought maybe everything would be clean and sterile, like a hospital. It wasn't. But it was good enough to make me comfortable.
I thought the airports would be like ghost towns, but there were plenty of other travelers. Some of the shops and fast-food joints were open. The terminal wasn't crowded. People wore masks and socially distanced, and there were signs everywhere reminding everyone to follow those rules.
I didn't have to touch much going through security. The airport has new machines that read my ID. I didn't have to hand my driver's license or boarding pass to the TSA. Of course, I still got frisked at the full-body scanner. Some things never change.
The plane seemed noticeably cleaner than usual. My wife packed some cleaning wipes, which I used everywhere anyway, and the airline also supplied some. We boarded and exited by rows, to avoid passing people in the cramped aisle. The seat next to me was empty. Snack time meant everyone got a sealed plastic bag containing a small water bottle, cheese crackers, a cookie and more cleaning wipes.
The hotel was OK. I missed the breakfast buffet. Instead of all-I-can-eat eggs and sausage, the clerk behind the front desk gave me a cup of coffee and a couple single-serve instant oatmeal cups. I was instructed to use the hot water from the coffee maker in my room to make the oatmeal. No worries, I have oatmeal every day at home anyway.
I stayed at the hotel for two nights, but no one cleaned the room after the first night. But that doesn't bother me either. I can make my own bed and reuse a towel.
The highlight of the trip was the company visit. I'm meeting with the Processor of the Year candidates. Some of the visits are virtual this year, others are in person. I appreciate the cooperation I'm getting from all of the companies; I'm sure this isn't easy for them.
The company required me to fill out paperwork confirming that I am healthy, and I provided my phone, email and home address for contact tracing. Every plant and office entrance had forehead temperature checks. Workers clean their stations frequently. Spray bottles of cleaning liquid are literally everywhere.
These factory workers, and many of the managers, have all been coming to work every day during the pandemic. They wear masks all day, except for when they're eating or they're in a room alone.
They're making products needed to fight COVID-19. They're considered essential workers. I respect what they're doing, even more now than I did before my business trip.
Their family, friends and coworkers might think they're a little reckless, too. But where would we be without them?
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of the Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.
Plastics News editorial cartoon by Rich Williams. Cartoons are available for purchase at www.plasticsnews.com/data-lists/cartoons