My daughter and I recently returned to the scene of my formative years, Hollywood, Florida, which of course meant: Air Travel. Now, we all know what Air Travel entails these days what with removing shoes, removing belts, removing computers, removing phones, removing liquids, the x-ray body scan, the pat down, liquids retrieval, phone retrieval, computer retrieval , belt retrieval, and shoes retrieval. Years ago when all of this started, you’d think we were preparing for dates with the security agents it took us so long to perform these tasks. We redressed carefully, reorganized our bags with precision, and checked and rechecked the bins.
Now, we’re all like contestants on some kind of TSA “beat the clock” game show: “John S. Pistole—TSA Head—I can completely disassemble and reassemble my packing in three-point-oh-four seconds!” Afterwards, as we sprint for the gate, our clothes are askew and our laces untied, our bags hang open, and if we leave something in the bin, so be it. We can always buy another.
My favorite passengers in the security line were the two 2-year olds behind us. When the snappish security agent told their mother that their teddy-bear harnesses had to go and she removed them from their tiny shoulders, they let out a combined wail that could’ve been heard all the way to the office of Homeland Security. This act of Civil Disobedience got them a straight shot through the electronic scanner to freedom. You go, toddlers! I’ll tell you, my role models are getting younger and younger.
My least favorite? The brittle, blond woman in front of us who was donned from head to toe in black and metal. Metal ? Really??! As the family in front of her frantically unpacked, she clutched her black-and-bling bag, shook her jangling wrists, tapped her studded stilettos, fiddled with her chain-link belt, and emitted exasperated sighs while completely ignoring the empty bins in front of her. When I asked if she had anything to unpack, she fixed me with her withering gaze, rolled her eyes toward the encumbered family and sighed, “Yes, but….”
Of course as you might imagine, when she finally answered the golden invitation she’d been awaiting, her chain-mail ensemble required repeated trips through the x-ray machine and caused much consternation among the agents, holding up the line much longer than the hapless family ever did.
Once on the plane, I immediately reached for the SkyMall catalog. SkyMall is a mastery of marketing savvy. Opening the cover is like coming home. Or like coming home to the home you wish you were coming home to. This home is filled with handcrafted wine from “America’s most trusted wine club” and portable power gadgets that guarantee “you will never be without power again.” Yes!, I said to myself, world dominance is mine! I was feeling pretty good about things.
But then the flight attendant gave the spiel about how the only time we may look forward to clean oxygen during the flight is if the plane goes into a death spiral, and the cabin began filling with stale, diesel-y, germ-laden air. I moved on to the next SkyMall entry: “ThunderShirts.” ThunderShirts are tiny jackets for “calming pets distressed by fear or anxiety.”
The bad air and two inches of personal space were starting to take their effect, but I was still aware enough to wonder: “Is this what life in America has come to? What could frighten our animals so much that they need straightjackets to cope?” Then, just as I was about to pass out, I saw this: “NEW! Abominable Snowman Yeti Statue.” This life size (72”H x 45”W x 38”D; $2,350.00) “ape-like Bigfoot” is designed to be “innovative garden décor,” a “unique holiday decoration” (I can’t believe the Yetiday decorations are already out in stores, it’s not even Nessie Day! And remember: Keep “Yeti” in Yetiday.), or an “office mascot.” I jolted awake because I realized that all over America people have picked up the phone or visited the website to buy this and that pets have every right to be afraid…to be very afraid.
With the promise of these kinds of quality items, how could I not turn the page?Looking for an activity where you and your friends can knock yourselves unconscious without the aid of drinking games? Try “The Human Slingshot” which involves “four people slinging each other back and forth within a human sized stretchable band.” **
**Attending EMTs cost extra
Tired of those thin lips that come with age or from intense grimacing while watching Congress attempt to pass legislation or while trying to log onto HealthCaredotgov? Stop agonizing! You can get fuller, more beautiful lips in seconds with these suction cups specially shaped to “enhance your whole mouth or only the center.” Didn’t they used to lance boils this way?
Ok, so I was having a hard time deciding what to buy when I turned to the back pages and saw this: “Mounted Squirrel Head.” Bingo! This is just the thing I need to hang next to the bird feeder as a warning to others. But then I thought our wily squirrels would probably use their poor, fallen comrade as a spring board to the feeder. After all, there’s no honor among thieves.
Suddenly, the flight attendant was back on the intercom. She told us we could resume use of our electronic devices and that the seat pocket in front of us should be used for “light reading material” only. Again, I was thrown into a quandary. Oh why does Air Travel have to be so hard these days?
On my lap sat the book I’d brought along—All the King’s Men. It is the “Restored Edition” of the 1947 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Robert Penn Warren. Did this qualify as “light reading material,” I wondered? It’s not War and Peace, but still the issues in it are pretty weighty. If I put it in the pocket, would it bring down the plane? Did I dare risk it?
By this time I was feeling a bit shaky and wishing I had one of those ThunderShirts. I turned the page in SkyMall and there in front of me was the answer to another burning question about Air Travel—what happens to all the clothes left behind in the security line? It is cut apart and sewn together with other lost garments. The result is the “One Of A Kind” shirt. This “piece of art” (take that Picasso!) allows you to “show that you’re a little different than everyone else and want them to take notice.”
Looking closely at the picture, a few things came to mind. First, I would also have given this an “F.” Second, it seems someone did take notice: Is that a black eye?Did he get it fighting to acquire the shirt or because he was wearing the shirt? And third, could they possibly have paid him enough to model it? My head was swimming with these thoughts when the guy in front of me reclined his seat back even further and brain fog came over me again.
I picked up my book, opened the seat pocket, and slipped it in. I really needed some oxygen.