Monday, April 09, 2007

Buff enough to fly?

En route from Seattle to Cincinnati
27 March 07

Ranting about airline travel has become the standard among even casual, leisure travelers. Long after the dust on the 9/11 horror finally cleared, we are still removing belts and shoes, folding jackets into neat squares, removing laptops from their cases, and silently praying that loose pocket change doesn’t inadvertently set off World War III.

On my most recent flight, to Seattle to visit my brother, sister-in-law and new nephew (so adorable, oh my God), I had a long moment of leisure time alone, waiting to clear security, to reflect upon our current state of screening. Long because the lines vaguely reminded me of Disney World attractions pre-Fast Pass, and leisurely because for the first time in nearly four years, I was traveling without my children.

Clearing security with two small children is an exercise in patience, stealth and timing. My first trial at doing so was without my husband’s aid, when my children were five months and three years old. The pass through security involved a double stroller weighing 31 lbs. that had to be x-rayed on the belt, a Baby Bjorn carrier that also had to be x-rayed on the belt (which I did not know until I had just settled the baby in it), a diaper bag, three winter coats and a rogue tube of lip balm that didn’t make it.

That security check ended in tears—mine, not my children’s—as I learned while standing in holey socks on a cold, linoleum floor, cradling the baby, tethering my elder child to my body and wondering how in the hell I was going to manage both of them while removing the stroller from the belt, opening it and loading all of our paraphernalia on the stroller without dropping my daughter’s blankey or my son’s paci, that I had indeed been singled out to undergo additional security screening. Because I didn’t look hassled enough, I guess. Or maybe they thought my bulging, post-partum tummy was concealing explosives. Or maybe I was just that lucky.

I digress. Today’s pass through the TSA security line and detector was minimally invasive. With 20 people left to pass before me, I removed my sandwich-sized clear, plastic ziploc bag containing lipstick, lip balm, lotion and hand sanitizer from its home in my black sling shoulder bag. With 10 people to go, I undid my belt and pulled it free from its loops. I immediately felt my jeans sag several inches, which threatened to reveal a plumber’s crack usually reserved for my husband’s unfortunate eyes. With five people to go, I slipped off my shoes and held them next to my belt. When my turn at the table arrived, I placed my bag on the table, binned my shoes, belt and fleece jacket, ensured I had my ID and boarding card out and available for inspection, and waited for the TSA employee to wave me through the metal detector.

I grinned self-assuredly, as the woman before me was sent back to the table to remove her belt, and the one before her was not allowed through until she removed some 20 pieces of jewelry that adorned her appendages. Not me, and not this time, I sighed, walking through the detector and watching a woman and her husband struggle with a baby, a stroller, a toddler and two carry-ons. Today, for once, I brought my security A-game. I had met the metal detectors head on, and for the first time in four years, I emerged victorious.

I did have a moment to reflect, however, as I was threading my belt back through its loops, and sinking my feet into my loafers, putting the ziploc bag back into my backpack and the jacket around my waist, that in this crazy, fear-induced, strip poker-like TSA reign, we as passengers are down to our final hand. We are already removing coats, sweatshirts, shoes and belts. Will jeans be the next to go? Will we all have to adopt FAA-approved, spandex flight suits for air travel in the future? The bonus, I guess, could be built-in climate control. But I wouldn’t want to see 75% of today’s current travelers in spandex—myself included.

I already feel as though I lose my shirt every time I purchase a ticket departing from CVG, one of the country’s most expensive places from which to fly (damn you, Delta monopoly). But I don’t want to lose my literal shirt as well. I already think twice about the socks I wear to the airport (double layer, no holes so as to ensure minimum exposure to the thousands of feet who trod the security line trail of tears before me). If measures continue to be put in place and our security level is raised to iridescent pink or some equally alarming color, will I have to schedule extra crunches at the gym?

If I lose my shirt, I know I’ll never be buff enough to fly.

1 comment:

trAcy said...

indeed, in a clishe subject you have brought out a new timbe of insight.

i agree.

flying is disgusting and if 'they' really were all bent out of shape about how naked american women are (i sometimes myself wonder at the shortness of shorts in february, the belly-exposingness of things kids wear anyoldplace/how 'bout church), then they would have thought twice about what making FFA paranoid would truly accomplish.

that's not your insight, no, but i was 'inspired.' : )

i haven't flown since the ban on goo and liquids. not looking forward to it.

saw a huge contract go through city council this week about buying more screening equipment.

makes one wonder how the drug trade is still alive, eh?