What Happened in Vegas (Spoiler: It was COVID.)

Back in February, Jenn and I booked a vacation. We wanted someplace warm and new to both of us, so we chose Las Vegas. We’re not big partiers or gamblers, but we like trying local foods and exploring unfamiliar cities and national parks (we got some excellent local recommendations for these) and in a worst-case scenario, we figured just relaxing by a pool would be peachy.

So a couple Sundays ago, we flew out of Cleveland, through Denver, and landed in Vegas during a dust storm (fun!) in the afternoon. That evening we walked across the street to Tacos El Gordo, and then opted for a last-minute show of RuPaul’s Drag Race Live – which was amazing and hilarious and wonderful. The next day we spent some time walking around the Fremont street area, taking stuff in and eating pizza and gelato, and then going back to our hotel for some afternoon pool time and dinner. Tuesday we rented a car and had a fantastic time driving and hiking at Red Rock Canyon.

And then Jenn woke up Wednesday feeling gross. We thought maybe the dry air plus unfamiliar pollen plus dust meant it was just an allergy attack, but we had a COVID test with us, so she took it – and it came up undeniably positive. So while she began feeling worse and we both started getting really anxious (while we’re fully vaxxed and boosted, we’re both high-risk for complications, and one of us not named Jenn is over 50), we found ourselves heading off to what became six days in total quarantine a couple thousand miles from home.

Those first few days in particular were frightening and overwhelming: Jenn got much sicker than I did, and all we wanted was to be home and safe and comfortable again, and those things felt terribly distant and unreachable. Neither of us needed hospitalization, but when you’re sick and the corner of the universe where you really belong feels impossibly lost, it’s just physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. It was awful, and in a million years, I couldn’t have handled it on my own.

We spent those six days in another resort with a motel wing specifically for situations like ours, but I need to make it clear: This was in no way a welcomed vacation extension. Although we were there voluntarily, we couldn’t go much beyond the sidewalk in front of our door under penalty of being involuntarily checked out of the place. So yeah – two rooms, one small couch, a coffee table, and minimal basic cable TV available. The staff who took care of delivering food and water and necessities were kind, understanding, and patient. It was still stressful and boring, and time lengthened at incomprehensibly slow speeds while we were getting better. We did a little laundry in the sink and bathtub, and ordered cold medicines and tissues and Slurpees and Oreos when we felt a little more OK.

I walked several times a day, clocking thousands and thousands of steps over the same 10 or 12 five-foot pavement squares, and developing a very real-world perspective on movement and combat actions in Dungeons & Dragons. While walking, I listened to an audio production of The Fellowship of the Ring and looked at the distant mountains. I doodled a few RPG maps and ideas.

Time crawled and we got better enough to fly home, and we both resumed work the next day. Five days later, I’m feeling mostly physically normal, but still kind of messed up by the whole experience. It crushes me to look around at people and realize how preventable all this was, if people weren’t selfish. When we booked our trip back in February, masks were still required on airplanes. Now they’re not. We masked up anyway, but we were in the minority.

And look – the pandemic is still going on, just like it was when we went to Walt Disney World in May 2021 (social distancing and masks in place), and when we went to NYC several times (masks and vaccinations required in most public indoor places), and when Jenn flew commercially for work recently (again, when masking was required). And in all that time, we never got COVID.

Correlation does not equal causation, but it’s a fact that masking and vaccinations and other safety measures work, and I’m really pissed off at everyone who fought and whined against compassion and science and common-sense actions that would have prevented ::gestures broadly at everything::.

I’m incredibly grateful to be home and mostly back to normal and yes, it all could have been much, much worse, but this whole thing messed me up kind of unexpectedly, and writing about it is helping me deal with it.

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