I was thinking about writing a simple observation of everyday life, involving the wonderful experience of airports, and traveling the friendly skies, in spacious, comfortable, and worry-free airplanes. That was until, I spent four hours in an airport, endured incredible stress and aggravation, faced debilitating panic, extreme fear and frustration, waited impatiently in long lines, got an unbelievable cardio workout, and had my wife get felt-up by a woman with hands as big as baseball gloves. Now to make this clear; all this happened, before I even made it aboard my plane, which was delayed for two hours for some unknown reason. Due to this horrific experience, I’ve decided to focus initially, on writing about getting from the airport entrance to that little tunnel leading to the airplane. If you’ve faced similar situations – please hold your ear-splitting screams, and hair pulling until the end of the post.
It should be noted that this post will not mention any specific people, airports, or airlines by name. The purpose of this is to protect the innocent – namely me. Heaven forbid, an airline executive, or high-level airport, or government official, happens to take a break from counting all your money, and decides to read my simple observations of everyday life blog. It wouldn’t help that my picture, and full name is prominently displayed. Chances are; on my next vacation, or trip to visit relatives, I would spend two hours having my baggage meticulously searched, endure the cold snouts of multiple drug and bomb sniffing dogs, and face a thorough, full body strip search, along with an extensive cavity exploration, by a person with a huge smirk on their face, and a true love of their job. There’s also a high probability, I’d end up sitting in a middle seat between two enormous Sumo wrestlers, receive no food or beverages, and eventually disembark at a small airport in Siberia, and never see my baggage again.
You may have noticed that parking, baggage check-ins or pickups, the security checkpoints, and the location of your terminal, are never together, or within easy walking distance. Have any of you ever arrived at an airport, and casually strolled among the vast multitudes of humanity, and complex signage directing you to your flight? Did you feel relaxed and stress-free, maintain a resting heart rate of 60 beats per minute, and a blood pressure reading of 120 over 60? If you did; you must be, either a Buddhist Monk, a Zen Master, high on ganja weed, or unconscious, and being wheeled through the terminal on a stretcher. Have any of you ever measured the total distance traveled at break-neck speeds through vast parking garages, up and down multiple stairways, along various moving escalators and walkways, and inside long, glass-covered tunnels? How did you feel when you finally reached those seats at your designated boarding area, fifteen minutes before takeoff? Was it just as good as a passionate, romantic interlude with your spouse, partner, or significant other?
Oh, I almost forgot. Before you get to the wondrous Shangri La, known as your boarding area, you need to make it through the security checkpoints. For any of you, who may not have faced this, I have a few words of advice. Don’t place alarm clocks in your carry-on bag, don’t wear backpacks, or tee-shirts that say things like, “Cocaine is My Domain,” don’t sweat profusely, and be sure to say, “yes sir, no sir, yes mam, and no mam.” You may have also been faced with, digital scanners, which use millimeter scale waves to generate an image of the outer few centimeters of a persons body. These ingenious devices, allow security personnel to look under passengers clothing, without actually touching them. It’s kind of like those x-ray glasses, I sent away for as a kid, that claimed to be able to see through clothing. The difference is – these airport devices work, and leave very little to the imagination. Especially, since you’re required to raise your hands over your head, and slightly spread your legs apart.
If you decide, you may not enjoy the thought of perfect strangers viewing your private accessories, you have the choice of getting what’s called, “An enhanced pat-down.” This highly intrusive procedure, is performed by specially trained professionals with latex gloves, who may have once been a combination massage therapist/proctologist. The security person, will use the palms and fingers of their hands to make contact with every surface of your body. Picture, a recently married couple on their wedding night. Now add dozens of complete strangers – watching!
Have any of you, ever been faced with a “random” security check. These are interventions by behavioral detection officers, who are specifically trained to spot passengers who may be acting suspiciously, appear to be hiding something, or fit a terrorist’s profile. I’ve never faced this, but it seems to be driven by political correctness to the extreme, in order to not offend people. Typical, potential terrorists, who are randomly checked the most, appear to be, either attractive women, smiling, white-haired grandmothers, men and women of the cloth, toddlers and young children, wheelchair-bound octogenarians, nuns, and Mary Poppin, look-a-likes.
Well, you finally made it through security with one carry-on bag tightly clutched in your hand, what’s left of your pride and dignity, tired legs, and a growling stomach. I guess, that’s not too bad. After frantically rushing for miles, burning hundreds of calories, rapidly dehydrating, being stressed to inhuman levels, and finding that your flight has been delayed for two hours – what do you see before you? No, it’s not a hunger-induced hallucination. Stretched before you is, what looks like a mini-mall, with a massive array of high-priced, credit-card-taking restaurants, bars, food courts, buffets, express spas, clothing stores, various curio shops, newspaper stands, vending machines, and dozens of strategically placed ATM’s. Whoever came up with this diabolical, and insidious master plan to procure massive profits, has to be an absolute genius.
Have any of you, before going to an airport, checked the list of items that are allowed, or prohibited from being placed into your carry-on bag? If you want to bring along adult toys, hockey masks, booze in tiny containers, screwdrivers under 6” long, parachutes, golf balls, Geiger counters, boxing gloves, bowling balls, forks, knitting needles, rocks, body armor, artificial skeletons (real skeletons of ex-spouses are not allowed), and scissors less than four inches; no problem. What this tells me is, I could conceivably be seated next to an extremely surly, seven-foot man named Jason Voorhees. During the flight he would be allowed to retrieve his carry-on bag, dress in body armor, put on a hockey mask, procure pointed, and sharp objects, heavy rocks, and…….. Well, you can imagine what comes next, since Jason has a window seat, and on the other side of me is a guy named Michael Myers. The bad news is, any type of self-defense spray, including pepper or bear, is strictly prohibited from carry-on luggage. Other things not allowed are: water pistols, foam toy swords, golf clubs, and Nerf guns. The good news is, I’ll still be able to defend myself against giant, powerful, evil juggernauts of death and destruction, using an allowable light saber. It may also help that I just came from my annual Star Wars convention; and I’m still wearing my Darth Vader costume (which is allowed). I may be defeated by this demonic duo, but I’ll have the satisfaction of saying in a deep, raspy voice, “Jason, Michael – I am your father.”
As always; I have a few questions, and observations concerning, my latest simple observation of everyday life. Do you think airport security keeps, looks at, passes around, or possibly sends your embarrassing body scans to risqué websites? Do you need to worry about them showing up on Facebook? I hope not. To be honest, I don’t look my most attractive, during full body scans. As a matter of fact, I don’t look good in clothing! That’s probably why, I rarely have trouble navigating security checkpoints. Personnel, will usually take one look at me, and say, “It’s okay sir. Just walk around the scanner.” Have any of you ever been lost in an airport? Worse yet, have you lost a loved one? After a futile search, did you end up going on that fabulous, sun-splashed Caribbean vacation, by yourself? Did you have the best time ever? Now, be honest people. Did you ever find your spouse or partner when you got back, and were you glad to see them? For some strange reason, my wife didn’t look very thrilled. What’s with all the shoe-shine stands at airports. Besides, Japanese businessmen, who else is wearing uncomfortable dress shoes, instead of sneakers or other practical footwear? I also forgot to mention that medical marijuana is not allowed in carry-on luggage. I guess that explains why airport lounges are always smoky, and everyone looks so happy.