I rode on an airplane last week for the first time in several months. Everyone is nervous these days, but the only terrorist act I witnessed was how much they charged me for the ticket. (Am I right, folks?!)
The most startling change in airport security is the guys in camouflage who hold big, scary guns and stand near the metal detectors. These boys are apparently part of the National Guard Li’l Tykes Brigade. They look no older than 17, and yet they are more heavily armed than a redneck at a rodeo. They make me feel safer, I think, in the sense that in any given situation, the more guns present, the better — something I used to say sarcastically, but that I think I’m starting to mean.
We live in interesting times.
The airlines had warned travelers to arrive early and have a lot of patience. This worried me, because patience is not my strong suit. But checking in and proving to the security people that I was not a threat to anyone — anyone, that is, besides Tom Shane, SuperDell, Gayle Ruzicka, the old ladies who sit behind me at shows and talk the whole time, Freddie Prinze Jr., Keanu Reeves, people who say “acrost” when they mean “across,” Jay Leno, Howard Stern, Angelina Jolie, people who think “Phantom of the Opera” is an opera, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Courtney Love, people who assume I care about football just because I have an Adam’s apple, Bill Clinton, Strom Thurmond, both Tom Greens and Carrot Top — only took a few minutes.
So I had nearly an hour to loiter. I used that time to do my civic duty and compile a list of everyone I saw who looked suspicious. This was just in case something went wrong and the feds needed suspects.
— Two guys with shaved heads who I didn’t like the looks of.
— A woman in a short skirt and sexy black stockings, accompanied by a grubby man in a sweatshirt and sweatpants, who I assume was her kidnapper.
— A minority.
— A guy drinking coffee.
— A 7-foot-tall guy.
— A girl with pink hair.
— A toddler in pink pajamas with the feet on them; she didn’t look suspicious, but she sure was cute!
— A guy making a list (wait, that was me).
— A girl in checkered pants. (Seriously, what gets INTO people?)
On the way back, I flew on a tiny plane with only 50 seats. It was designed by elves, for elves; unfortunately, the passengers were all non-elfin. I used the bathroom on this plane, and I believe it was not only the smallest bathroom I’ve ever been in, but the smallest space I’ve ever been in, period, including the womb.
Still, I was better off than the band of travelers I passed at the airport, whose flight had been canceled and who were trying, all of them, to get onto MY flight. People whose flights have been canceled are the grouchiest people in the world, except maybe for people whose flights have been canceled who are now trying to cram themselves into a plane the size of a lunchbox that will actually only seat a few of them. Needless to say, my ticket on that plane was a hot commodity. I haven’t had that many strangers eyeing my seat since I visited West Hollywood.
But it’s worth a few mild discomforts for the privilege of traveling such great distances in such little time. Our pioneer ancestors would surely marvel, all wide-eyed and drooly, at the modern conveniences we have in the 20-somethingth century. I think they would marvel at checkered pants, too, but that’s another matter.
I wasn't sure whether people would get the West Hollywood reference. I asked around the newsroom, and they did, but you can't count on those reprobates being typical of the general public. So I posted a query on my message board and sought input. The consensus was that people got it, so I kept it. (San Francisco would have worked in the line, but it seemed too obvious to me, like it was hitting readers in the head with the joke.)
The list of people I'm a threat to started as just one person (Tom Shane), but I thought, "Why should he be singled out?" So I compiled the longer list, which was very enjoyable.