I came down to Todos Santos in Baja on Thursday, March 12, for a bridal shower weekend with a group of seven girlfriends I’ve known and vacationed with for nearly 20 years. Back when we reserved our Airbnb and booked our flights, my biggest concern was getting a cheap flight and making sure staff could cover my weekend away from Greiser’s.
As the news about COVID-19 intensified, our group — flying from Boulder, Saratoga and San Francisco — agonized in long text chains over our decision to travel. My concerned Greiser’s colleagues checked in nervously every day leading up to my departure: “You still going to Mexico?”
Ultimately the response to my text, “if you were us, would you go?” to a close friend who is a senior infectious disease epidemiologist at the CDC made up my mind: “Yup! And copious margaritas.”
Westchester County Airport at 5 a.m. Thursday didn’t seem much different from a usual early morning there. People were subdued waiting to board flights, but I only saw one woman wearing a mask, and I appeared to be the only person wearing latex gloves. I had snagged a box of those and a carton of bleach wipes from Greiser’s before departure. My layover in Detroit was different. Detroit Metro Airport (DTW) was a ghost town. And when my friend flying from Saratoga and I met up at the gate, we didn’t hug.
Arrival at Cabo airport, on the other hand, was a party scene. Spring breakers crowded the outdoor bars alongside the taxi stands for the first Mexican beers and margaritas of their vacation. Our Avis rental car agent told us “the virus doesn’t spread in this hot environment.” The grocery store was fully stocked, no one was panic-shopping, and locals were cheerful and welcoming.
By the time our group of seven had all arrived at our gorgeous rental home in Todos, however, all of us had received word that the schools in our hometowns had closed. Five of us have school-age children, most of us have parents in the high-risk group, and four of us are small business owners.
We’re trying to keep up a celebratory mood for our friend who’s getting married in July, but coronavirus lurks in every conversation. Husbands back home are texting photos of barren grocery store shelves, newly acquired freezers and stockpiles of bleach. Teenagers are torturing their moms on Facetime with jokes about going to the mall and having sleepovers.
And walking around the charming little artists’ town of Todos Santos, we are painfully aware of how much the people here will suffer as tourists stop coming. A shopkeeper told me that just in the last two days here the business has nearly halted. I particularly felt the stress of a couple who own a lovely little specialty foods market and a group of men who were wiring the lighting for a new bar that is having its grand opening on Saturday. (We are doing all we can to support the economy, of course, buying local art and jewelry and cocktails and meals!)
My first real vacation since opening the store in November 2018 hasn’t turned out to be such a getaway from the job. I’m in constant contact with the Greiser’s team about how to handle things as the news worsens. We’re fortunate to have such an over-experienced staff: Our chief sandwich maker Cimi is also an EMT, so is keeping us all up to date on the latest health and safety advisories. And our barista Alice, who doubles as our potter, also happens to be a software engineer. She’s working on getting all of our inventory up on our website so customers can shop and place orders online for pickup or delivery.
In these two days I’ve been away, the team has enacted contactless curbside pickup and trimmed back our weekday hours to 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. to let our high school student employees stay home and staff who rely most on their Greiser’s income to continue earning it while we conserve costs and brace for tough economic times ahead.
Meanwhile, I’m incredulous and grateful each time I log-on remotely to our point of sale system and see that our loyal customers continue to come and our cash register continues to ring up sales, almost at business-as-usual rates. And I’m eternally thankful that my husband, Jeff, passed up a much-deserved ski weekend with friends to stay home and support our team.
I’m anxious to get back to my husband and dogs and colleagues and community. My girlfriends are also looking forward to flights home to their families on Monday. But we’re all trying to savor our time in this beautiful spot and what’s likely the last visit our far-flung group will have together for a long time.