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A trip to Mexico during swine flu season

May 11, 2009 - Frank Robinson
My wife and I just got back from Mexico.

You read that correctly. Mexico. We spent a little more than a week there amid the so-called swine flu pandemic and came back without the swine flu but with eyes wide open about how people can get whipped into a frenzy for little or no reason.

We briefly thought we might have to canceling our plans to go to Cancun. What if the airlines closed? What if the hotel closed? Would we be able to get a taxi? We even called our family doctor and asked him for his opinion. He didn't say "don't go." So, we went.

We flew out of Pittsburgh International Airport in a half-full jet. A month or so ago we were told we were the last two to get seats. Many people had canceled or changed their plans and, thus, their flights. There was plenty of room and many jokes tossed around. There were so many jokes I was growing tired of hearing the same jokes over and over.

When we landed and got to the hotel, it was almost like a ghost town. The 500-plus room hotel we were staying in was at about 20 percent occupancy. Not many people around the pool. The restaurants had few people in them. But the service was good because the place was so overstaffed the first few days of our trip. By about May 3, I was told that about 200 workers at the hotel had been fired -- apparently that's what they do in Mexico, compared with the "laying off" term we have here in the states.

On the way back, we were screened at the airport for any fever. They used a little gadget about the size of stapler and held it to our foreheads to get a reading. I don't really know how it could be very accurate. There were some people wearing those odd-looking masks, but most were just going about life as if the swine flu never existed.

Looking back, it's amazing how scared people can get about the unknown. The unknown caused hotels in Cancun to suffer huge losses. Many of the workers, I am sure, still are not getting paychecks. What should have been a bustling place for tourism was, simply put, dead. And it looks like it will be for a while.

Itás the flu. Itás not biological weapons. Itás not terrorism. Itás the flu. Most people have had the flu. Something so insignificant should not be allowed to stop people in their tracks. That's the scary part.


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