I never thought I would describe Washington Dulles International Airport as a relaxing place to be. I have other associations with travel and the iconic design of Eeuro Saarinen’s main terminal. Navigating traffic on the way down, making sure my passport is not just valid but valid for long enough to satisfy entry requirements of other countries, not knowing how crowded the parking lots would be, and the extra airline fees for things that used to be included (like a suitcase) add to the whirlwind of stress.
And yet, walking toward my gate I experienced a sense of freedom that had nothing to do with post-check-in relief. No one argued about wearing masks. It was uncomplicated. People wanted to go places. That was the priority. The mask was just a matter-of-fact part of being in the shared space, a detail no more irritating than taking off our shoes and lifting our carry-on items into the bins for security.