RAYMOND REID: Air Travel Has Changed Forever
I boarded an airplane last week for the first time in years.
After seeing horror stories about cancelled flights and delays, as well as being told to arrive early because of long lines at security, I arrived at the airport two and a half hours before scheduled departure. I also arrived super early because I didn't have a ticket, I had what they call an "E" (as in electronic) ticket, which means I didn't have, well...a ticket.
So here I am at the Northwest ticket counter at 10 a.m. (scheduled departure is 12:29). I practically had to wake up the ticket agent. This guy would have made the Maytag repairman look busy. I'm the only passenger in sight. But I knew the hassle would begin as soon as I handed him my flight confirmation number from Yahoo.com.
"I will need to see some ID, Mr. Reid," he mumbled.
This is where the trouble will begin, I thought. Surely I am on some kind of terrorist watch list. After all, I had written a column about Dick Cheney mistaking his best friend for a quail and shooting him.
Not to mention being at the post office in the 1960s during a war protest. Never mind that I was there just to buy stamps. I sported a beard and very long hair and was wearing a cap adorned with a peace symbol, which made me look right at home.
And it so happened that the High Point Enterprise covered the protest, and my picture, along with that of my "comrades," ended up in the Sunday paper. When the regulars at my mother's church told her they had seen my picture in the paper protesting the Vietnam War, she couldn't wait to get her hands on a copy.
"You should be ashamed of yourself," she said. "What were you thinking, Raymond, standing out there with all those long-haired weirdos?"
"But Mother, I was just there to buy stamps."
"Well, what about that symbol on your cap, Mr. Smarty Pants? What did that stand for?"
"Uhwould you believe it's the logo for Mercedes Benz?"
"Mr. Reid," said the now wide-awake ticket agent. "Here's your boarding pass. Your flight will be leaving from Gate B-22."
OK, I thought, that leaves me just one hour and 25 minutes. Now it's time to face that long line at security. Hope I have enough time. Well the long line at security turned out to be one man, who I thought was undressing. First, he emptied his pockets. Then he took off his shoes. Next came his watch, his rings, and then his belt.
"Lord, please don't take off your pants, sir," I thought. (I just remembered I was low on underwear and had to wear boxers that were emblazoned with Jack Russell Terriers wearing Santa Claus hats). Thankfully, he kept his pants on and breezed through the final checkpoint.
Now it was my turn. Off came the jacket, the watch and the shoes. Next came what seemed like $42 worth of change. Then came two ball-point pens, breath mints, chewing gum, pipe tobacco, pipe, regular glasses, sunglasses, car key, house keys, wallet, divot repair tool (where did that come from? I haven't played golf this year) and cell phone (after I picked it up off the floor). Then it was time for my metal detector "walk-through." I was expecting all hell to break loose but nothing went off, except the security guy's mouth.
"Please step over here, sir," he demanded, "and tell me about that metal contraption on your finger. You could put somebody's eye out with that thing."
"Well, this 'thing' is a splint, sir. I have a mallet finger, or in other words, a dangling distal. And if I remove this thing, my distal will probably dangle for the rest of my life."
"Hate it when that happens," he said, giggling.
At least I didn't have to walk through one of those new x-ray machines, the ones that see through your clothes. I can just hear it now: "Remember that guy with the dangling distal? He was also wearing drawers that were emblazoned with Jack Russell Terriers wearing Santa Claus hats. What a weirdo!"
Raymond Reid can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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