“Random” Passenger

I used to love flying, back in the days when I could throw everything I needed into a carry-on bag and board the plane without getting hassled about my shampoo bottle or *gasp* my jackknife.  Back in the days when they still made airplane seats to fit normal adults instead of emaciated waifs with abnormally short legs.  Back in the days when they still served actual food on board.

Remember how we used to joke about airline food?  Well, the joke’s on us.  If we had known back then that today’s “airline food” would be ten mini-pretzels and half a cup of pop, we’d have shut up and reveled in our good fortune.

And don’t even get me started about security… oh, wait; I’m already started.  Hang on, ’cause here we go.

So you know how the security scanner automatically selects some poor schmuck random passenger for groping and harassment “additional screening measures”?  News flash:  It ain’t random.  It’s specially calibrated to go off like fireworks every… single… time… I pass through it.

Usually it’s not too big a deal, because I always strip to the point of marginal decency before I go through the scanner anyway.  When the inevitable lights and sirens start up, I assume the position, they search/swab/manhandle any luggage item and/or body part that catches their fancy, and then I get re-dressed and carry on.

But last week I got extra-special treatment.  The scanner went off and I assumed the position as usual.  The screening agent must have really liked me, because I received a particularly thorough pat-down – she should have given me flowers afterward; or at least a nice kiss.  I don’t know why it’s supposed to be less ‘sexual’ to get your PTA (pussy/tits/ass) squeezed and fondled by the backs of the agent’s hands instead of their palms; but maybe I’ve just been away from the dating scene for too long.

Anyhow, after my X-rated interlude I figured I’d be good to go… but I was wrong.  The explosives scanner picked up something on my suitcase, too.  That got everyone’s attention.

So in addition to getting publicly felt up, I also won the booby bonus prize:  Having every single item in my luggage removed and laid out so everyone could scrutinize it.  Mom really was right:  Always buy nice underwear.  Even if nobody ever sees you wearing it, at least it’ll look pretty when it’s spread out on the security conveyor in front of dozens of gawking bystanders.

By that point I was beginning to wonder whether I had actually packed some dynamite without noticing; but fortunately they didn’t find anything.

At last they allowed me to get re-packed and re-dressed, and I made it to the boarding lounge with everything but my dignity, privacy, and equanimity.  I left those behind at Security – I guess they had to confiscate something after all that kerfuffle.

Anybody else got “random passenger” tattooed on their forehead?

Book 14 update:  I hit Chapter 25 this week!  The middle of a book is always where I start to question my writing ability and sanity, but fortunately I know by now that it’s all part of the process.  Will… push… through…

Soaring Like An Ego

When I grow up I want to be a bald eagle.

First, they’re the biggest meanest birds in the sky.  Nobody messes with bald eagles.  The babies occasionally get eaten, but the adults have no natural enemies.  (Except humans, but we’re a menace to everything so we don’t really count.)

When the evolutionary goodies were handed out, eagles got flashy plumage, a massive wingspan, a formidable armament of beak and talons, and the ability to soar ‘way up in the sky to look down on all us pathetic earthbound types.  Who, incidentally, all look like dinner to them because they can and will eat just about anything.

You’d think that would be enough perks for one creature; but no.  Humans treat them like nobility, too.  Here on the west coast, landowners have to be aware of Eagle Trees:  any large tree where an eagle might nest.

If you have an Eagle Tree on your property, you aren’t allowed to cut down the tree, and you can’t even disturb the natural vegetation within 60 metres (200 feet) in all directions around it.  That restriction stays in place until no trace of a nest or any possible nesting activity has been seen in the tree for 5 years.

How’s that for a sweet deal?  Imagine flying over any place you’d like to live; choosing the best location for a house, and building there regardless of who currently owns the property.  And then the government makes everyone keep back a respectful distance from your house, even if you haven’t lived there for five years.  I want some of that.

But wait, there’s more.

If you’re an eagle, it’s illegal (see what I did there…?  Okay, sorry…) for people to “possess, take, injure, molest, or destroy” you, your eggs, and/or your nest.  So that crappy nest you built 25 years ago in that tree you haven’t visited in a decade?  It’s still there, just in case you ever want to move back in.  Nobody can knock it down – they can’t even go near the tree.

Better still, even your castoff feathers are venerated.  In the U.S. people can be fined up to $100,000 for possessing eagle feathers they don’t lawfully own.  (In Canada it’s $25,000.)  Since eagles molt and replace their feathers once a year, it sucks to be the person who gets caught with feathers they innocently picked up from the ground; but from the eagle’s perspective, it’s all good.

I’m imagining what it would be like to have people following behind me, carefully preserving my crummy discarded feathers and creating complex laws around them.  After a while my ego would soar like… well, an eagle.

It wasn’t always sunshine and raptors, though:  There’s the small issue of their near-extinction about 40 years ago.  But after battling their way off the Endangered Species List, eagles deserve a bit of adulation.

At least, that’s how I’ll rationalize it when I become an eagle and allow my eagle ego eager egress.  (Okay, you can smack me now; but I just couldn’t resist.)

Bald eagle not amused by my feeble human joke. (Public Domain photo from United States Fish And Wildlife Service.)

Bald eagle not amused by my feeble human joke. (Public Domain photo from United States Fish And Wildlife Service.)

Airport Deja Vu

I actually wrote this in the airport on Saturday but I’m flying home today, so who knows…?

The sun is coming up and I’m sitting in the airport waiting to board my flight.  While I sit here with my carry-on baggage tucked close to my feet so no evil person can tamper with it, I’m reflecting on the changes in air travel since I flew for the first time thirty-some years ago.

After several decades, you’d think things would have changed more than they have.  I still feel unaccountably guilty every time I go through security.  The boarding lounges are still the same boring rows of uncomfortable seating. In fact, judging by the numbness of my butt, these may even be the very same seats as thirty years ago.

They still ask us to get to the airport an hour or two before our flight, apparently for the sole purpose of clogging the boarding lounge with cranky people.

The aircraft are basically the same.  The same cramped seats, the same seatbelts, the same impossibly tiny washrooms.  I never cease to marvel at the fact that some people actually have sex in those washrooms.  Hell, there’s barely room for me in there.  Then again, I guess if you did actually manage to cram two people in there, they’d pretty well have to be having sex.

It’s funny, but the only major improvements are to the airport terminal washrooms and the public-address systems – the two things that aren’t directly related to flying.

I like the automatic flush toilets, except when they flush before I’m done.  There’s nothing like a splash of icy water on your ass and a sudden loud noise to get the old adrenaline pumping.  But it’s nice to see they haven’t eliminated (sorry) the most critical function of airport toilets:  they still project a spray of contaminated water up to three feet when you flush, and it’s impossible to vacate the cubicle fast enough to avoid it.  You haven’t truly travelled until you have splatters of toilet water on your pants.

I have a love/hate relationship with the motion-activated water taps and soap dispensers, too.  When they work, they’re wonderful.  When they don’t (which is most of the time), I feel like an idiot waving my hands up, down, and sideways under an unresponsive spigot.  But, whatever.  I look like an idiot on a semi-regular basis anyway, so there’s really no added humiliation there.

The change I appreciate most is the improved public-address system.  I used to hate those old PA systems that sounded like a garburator attacking a table-setting for twelve.  You never knew whether they were saying your departure gate had changed and you had ten seconds to get to the opposite end of the airport; or that your flight had been cancelled altogether; or possibly that a fireball of death was speeding directly toward the terminal and everybody should flee.  It’s wonderful to be able to effortlessly interpret the announcements now.

But I’ve just discovered that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  The public address system just came on and delivered a lovely, crystal clear message:  my flight has been delayed for nearly two hours.


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Since “that new-fangled internet” can be unreliable in airports, I’ll be responding to comments sporadically today… unless that fireball catches up with me.  If that happens, all bets are off.