Airlines in the United States

In Simon Ushakov's icon of the The Last Supper...

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I haven’t commented on the wedding. It was a wedding. They are all the same on the surface, varying only slightly depending on the personalities involved and the tales told in the aftermath.

Dee loved being a flower girl but she has no use for Catholic ceremonies that involve/revolve around the mass. The last time she was in church was for my dad’s funeral in ’08. At that time, she and N2 entertained each other a bit and the ritual still fascinated her with its exotic qualities and mystery.

No more.

Cannibals At the Altar

At nearly nine, she listens. And her reactions ranged from frustrated – because she couldn’t participate in the rote recitation and response that is so drummed into me that I could follow a mass while in a coma – to horrified when she finally comprehended what the priest was saying at communion.

“Body of Christ,” he intoned as he placed a wafer on each tongue

Horror. That was her expression.

“He doesn’t mean that literally, ” I whispered.

Incredulous horror.

“Do you remember the Last Dinner painting?” I asked her.

She nodded. Da Vinci’s Last Supper is a favorite of hers. The Canadian public school system recognizes no separation between faiths and state though Christianity in its Catholic form gets the most play. Dee loves to talk about the “last dinner” and what happened.

“Do you remember that Jesus shared bread with his followers?”

Eyes begin to widen in growing comprehension.

“The priest is just doing what Jesus did,” I assure her. “It’s not really anyone’s body.”

“That would be gross,” she said.

Indeed. And yes, I know perfectly well that Catholics believe (or should at any rate – it’s so hard to know what Catholics actually understand about their own faith) about the host, but transubstantiation would sail over the heads of adults and I didn’t have time to get into that with Dee then.


Rob and I ended up being matron of honor and best man. It’s a better gig than reader though I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to explain the role reassignment and by the time I had to reassure Fr. Pat that all was well and truly figured out, I was thoroughly reminded of why patriarchal systems irritate me so completely.

Domestic Air Travel in Canada

The weather was wonderful. It warmed our spirits up considerably to be somewhere that snow wasn’t, and the air travel, aside from a few minutes of disaster movie like turbulence on the return trip, went smoothly.

Did you know that Canadians don’t remove footwear as they move through security for domestic flights? Nothing even slightly Gestapo-like in the screening area at all. Just quick, suspicionless inspection of bags and jackets.

However, I did find the security wonks at the Kelowna airport a bit lax in their reaction to an abandoned backpack. I noted it and, being an American I suppose, pointed it out to Security agent. When he radioed it in, he was told to simply “take it to the break room and I’ll look at it later.” As I haven’t seen any news reports about the Kelowna airport blowing up, I will assume that someone – who is clearly not an American nor has ever traveled by air in the U.S. – just forgot the whole “unattended bag thing”. Understandable because in the domestic travel areas of Canadian airports one doesn’t hear that automated voice droning on about responsibility and how “only you can prevent a terrorist incident”.

On A Break

This week, I officially asked for some time off at my paid blogging gig. Between reno, teaching and recurrent health issues, I need a real vacation.

For example, I didn’t take my netbook along last weekend. I didn’t check mail or blog or Facebook.

It was nice.

More than nice and has jumped-started my quest to balance virtual and actual reality toward the latter. Rob’s opinion is that until the Internet completes its inevitable split which will leave those without means trolling a UHF-inspired tier like bottom feeding fish, one should enjoy what is left of the web. It is a shadow of what it was even just a few years ago as the “entrepreneurs” continue to destroy its actual quality for the fastest bucks possible. But my eyes and interest are open to opportunities to free myself though probably not from my personal blog. I still enjoy my little corner of the blogosphere enough to resist attempts to make it bigger or shinier.

Family Matters

Rob picked out a movie for us at the bookmobile last evening. It’s never a good idea to watch a film on a weeknight and now with Dee’s bus driver on a mission to get us up as early as possible, it’s even less of a good idea, but we haven’t snuggled and viewed in a while (unless you count the “Hoarders” thing this last weekend and I don’t).

A 2010 flick called Mother and Child, which takes all the worst aspects of adoption from every possible angle and mushes them into one film. I am used to the misrepresentation of adoption – good and bad – but there was one thing in the film that made me incredibly sad. Sad enough that I cried when the movie was over.

There is the notion that it’s difficult for adopted children or birth parents to find each other. If the agency is known, most allow adoptee’s and birth parents to place contact info/letters in the file that both parties can easily access. Agencies will sometimes contact one party on the other’s behalf.

Both the mother and the daughter in the film write letters for their file, but due to miscommunication the mother doesn’t learn about her daughter until after the young woman dies.

Which was sad, but not what upset me.

The upsetting thing was being reminded that neither of my birth parents have ever contacted me. My information has been on file with the agency for 25 years. I haven’t thought about that for sometime now. Not looking for sympathy, mind you. Just an observation.

Last But Most

Both Rob and I are tired. In the last 6 weeks obligations have been plentiful and while we took care of them, the reno sat by idly a lot and we have gotten run down, over-tired and illness/injury prone. That’s being the grown-ups, I know. Suck it up, Buttercup.

But we now have a bit over a month to move a few mountains around before the obligatory family holiday to see folk down south and it’s just him doing all the work and just me trying to make the trains run around it.

This last weekend was a two nighter of bad mattress that has stove up both of us for much of this week, and a week or better at my mom’s (not to mention hotels there and back) promise more back and shoulder issues on top of exhaustion. Tripping to the States is about family. Not fun. Not relaxation. However, Christmas was exhausting and I don’t foresee resting up in advance of the trip. A dilemma that I am rolling around with now and for which I have no solution. Having pulled the holiday rug out from under Dee in November, I can’t see doing that again, but a hotel is a pricey option given the expensive Christmas followed by an unplanned for in the budget wedding and other miscellaneous.

“I am content never to leave home,” Rob pointed out as we discussed this today. I’d called him from the truck with the latest dental update (I’m not ready to discuss that).

“I suppose we could just start telling everyone that if they want to see us, they will have to come here.”

“No one would come then.”

A sad but true point. He and I are the wheel hubs in our families. If we don’t make it so, it just won’t be.

Just a good night’s sleep. That’s all I need. Oh, and to avoid further illness. At Christmas the new father-in-law left Rob and I the cold from hell as a parting gift. Today Rob got an email from his mother describing some virulent stomach/intestinal flu that they came down with last evening.  Nice.

With (mostly) white men earning exemptions from the new enhanced screening methods being employed by the TSA now, it seems that we’ll soon be back to the norm of women and children only.

Pilots and members of Congress joined President Obama and his wife and daughters in the “no touch my junk” zone according to the most recent TSA flanking maneuvers in the media as they desperately try to spin their way past the public’s ire.

Since 9/11 the friendly skies have been  a groping haven where women are concerned, with complaints about inappropriate touching during pat downs and questions about why big breasted and young women are more frequently selected at “random” than their male counterparts.

Until the enhancement, which came on the heels of bombs being discovered on cargo planes (which apparently hasn’t prompted Homeland Security to set up scanners and frisking at Fed Ex or UPS offices), men have skated with ease through most of the TSA nonsense, and it’s been speculated that the furor that’s erupting is a direct result of the fact that men in the U.S. have always had fairly complete physical autonomy. There are few, if any, rules or situations that require them to be man-handled.

Regardless, with Opt Out Day looming, the TSA is more than a bit anxious to silence as much vocal opposition as possible.

In the meantime, it might be a good idea to revisit the “good and bad touch” thing with your kids and to arm Dad with a recording device the next time you pass through airport security. He’ll be the only one not vigorously screened and in a better position to hold the camera anyway.

Seriously rethinking any future flights into the United States in the foreseeable future these days. The Speedo Bomber’s thwarted attempt to deliver a Christmas present to the American people in the form of mangled bodies and jetliner debris has caused the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority to go above and beyond American expectations of reactionary backlash.

The latest word is that no one flying into the U.S. from Canada will be permitted carry-on luggage. There will be pat-downs at the security check-in as well as manual searches of briefcases, purses and diaper-bags, which will still be allowed, and these items will be searched again when passengers are molested again at the departure gate.

Because check-in’s were taking so long (7 hours on Boxing Day in Toronto for example), the RCMP was called in to provide assistance. That’s correct. They called in the Mounties, who have a troubling history of tasing people without cause.

It is no surprise to my dear readers that I hate to fly into the U.S. and that border crossing by air or land put me in a Fox Mulder frame of mind. I see grassy knolls. But the prospect of standing meekly (because they will be watching for anything un-sheeplike) in line for hours just to be treated like a criminal and then packed into an uncomfortable seat where it is very likely that all forms of distraction for me and, more importantly, for child will be forbidden just makes me wonder, what is so great about the U.S. that I couldn’t live without visiting for the next – say – five years.

Okay, family. But they can come here. Nothing prevents them but lack of passport and it’s still possible down there to easily obtain passports. But otherwise?

Empty laps. How does one manage an empty lap for several hours in such cramped quarters? I’ve read reports that babies and books were prohibited from obscuring perfect lap view. No books? Keeping America safe from what? Knowledge?

According to the current administration, it will be up to the pilot to determine what is or isn’t okay. So if the pilot is having a bad hair day or is just a prick normally, welcome to hell in the air? It’s already not that great. And what qualifies the pilot to make such decisions?

I should be more concerned about safety, you say? I am a bit jaded on the safety thing. Speedo Bomber shouldn’t have even made it on the first plane out of Nigeria let alone the second one out of Amsterdam. If I were inclined to get all conspiracy theory I’d say that the U.S. government let the guy through hoping he would lead them to a terrorist cell somewhere. His being in Detroit with a bomb in his undies wasn’t something they considered. They risked peoples’ lives on purpose. But that’s my cynical side talking.

Ben Franklin is often quoted in situations like these because he once said something about people who willingly trade freedom for safety deserve neither. The Founder Fathers, not exactly the greatest group of guys ever, would simply not understand the wimpy people who inhabit the free nation that they risked everything to create. We are like aristocrats bred out to a point that we are barely able to think or do for ourselves anymore.

Next up will be full body scanners. Rob tells me that the radiation they emit can disrupt DNA. Are you going to walk through it when the time comes? It is coming. Or will you opt for the wand, the rough handling and possibly missing your flight for being a troublemaker?

I think we should all just pick a day and designate it for flying naked. Or plane loads of people should refuse to put away iPods. What would happen to the draconian assault on passengers if Air Marshals were suddenly having to arrest every passenger on dozens of flights for refusing to give up blankets and pillows? The blanket thing is funny in light of recent stories about flight attendants coming unglued by breast-feeding mothers. That will be even more interesting in the future. And more ridiculous.

A high school friend on Facebook thinks there should be profiling, and he thinks I am too much of a liberal to agree with him. I don’t see anything wrong with targeting demographics for extra scrutiny except for one thing. It wouldn’t stay in airports. It wouldn’t be implemented in a thoughtful or courteous manner. And eventually, it would be turned back on the average person and we’d be right back where we are now.

Unless it’s the most dire of emergencies, we are done flying into the U.S. Land crossings have the potential to be painful, but at least I won’t be trapped in an airport without clothing, toiletries or a means of stepping outside to scream in an attempt to find my zen place.

If you saw my early morning Facebook status, you would have been heartened to learn that our flight out of Cedar Rapids on Northwest was on time. Seconds after posting that status, the flight was delayed by an hour due to weather. Talk about inviting the jinx into the mix for the day.

Our connecting flight is later today, so if we manage to escape Iowa and arrive in Minneapolis by noon or so, we should make Edmonton later today. If not, and given the general crappiness of our air travel experience thus far, the next flight to Edmonton is not until 9PM. I have taken that flight before with just Dee. By the time one disembarks, clears Customs, collects baggage and makes the 45 minute drive home – it’s pretty fucking late.

Oh, did that not sound Zen/chipper?

I am actually quite grounded (emotionally and philosophically as well as literally) this morning. At some point – this week hopefully – we will be back in Canada. And the next trip to Iowa will be by vehicle or we’ll fly into Chicago and drive. Cedar Rapids – despite the free wi-fi which is aiding my mood considerably and is far more progressive than the airport in Minneapolis – is a Bermuda Triangle. Flights simply vaporize. Even now there is a line stretching from the Delta counter several feet deep with travelers who are probably well screwed in terms of making it anywhere but Minneapolis today. Unless Delta is busing.  Last Thursday they were simply loading up Greyhounds with displaced passengers and sent them on their hours delayed way. By bus. As if they do that kind of thing all the time. Which is an alarming thought.

For those wondering, the TSA experience was tolerable. We were even complimented by security in Minneapolis for our knowledge, speed and our ability to get out-of-the-way of others. It surprises me the number of people who aren’t prepared when they hit the first “checkpoint” on the gauntlet. There was a couple in front of us who didn’t have their ID’s pulled from the plastic sleeves in their wallets, held up the line while the TSA personnel walked them through the carry-on screening (how can you live in the police state which is America and not know that shoes come off and laptops come out?). Then they blocked the lane while they redressed and packed on the other side. The male actually had his boot up on the rollers tying them while Dee and I stood, shoes on and packed, behind him.

And the TSA was not it’s usually frowny, humorless self. We got a few smiles and a “thank you,  have a nice day” although the last bit may have been sadistic.

I am afraid that Rob and Dee are losing their humor. Dee is insanely exhausted. A weekend with Grandma and both cousins always means late nights and early mornings. The mattress situation (small, hard and somewhat lumpy) left Rob near sleepless too. Neither one of them functions optimally in travel situations sans sleep. I am still brimming with optimism that should last me until we are stranded again for the night. I can’t really say yet where that might be. I do know that without a vehicle it will suck beyond my ability to articulate properly unless profanity is involved.

At least there is tea and free wi-fi, which is only civilized.

I don’t travel well. No, it’s true. I don’t and I freely own it. I am especially awful about air travel. Despite the fact that it is preferred by many, I would rather drive. Driving aligns more comfortably with my control freaky nature and I tend to get where I am going. Air travel is for gamblers. People who haven’t any issues with turning their lives over to the fates and are happy as long as the outcome approximates their expectations.

Because I am often the downer on air trips to the States, I resolved to be the Dalai Lama of the skies this time. I would not overheat or flap. I would be zen’s cremey vanilla center.

And I was.

When our first flight was grounded for an hour with a computer glich, I napped. The American across the aisle was on his cell phone franctically trying to make sure his connecting flight could still be made and grumbling to anyone who would listen that when a pilot said “We’ll be leaving momentarily” then perhaps that’s what should happen. I have been in Canada long enough to know that “moment” is a completely relative term. The Canadians occupy the same temporal space as the Mexicans when it comes to time, space and the idea that work should intersect these spheres.

“He just doesn’t understand the whole time thing here,” I said to Rob.

“You have assimilated well,” he replied.

“Seven of Nine,” I added.

When the plane circled Minneapolis for an hour, I was serene. When a tiny woman tried to guilt Rob into stepping aside for her when we finally landed and could disembark because “I have a conecting flight!” and his reply was strained through his teeth, “We all have connecting flights.” I just concentrated on my breathing and scurrying Dee along.

The cancellation of our connecting flight, after we’d run Dee’s tiny legs to nubs to get to the gate on time, did not faze me. Nor did the fact that we couldn’t get on another flight until the next morning.

Even the fact that our lugguage was caught in the unspeakable vortex of the unknown that claims all luggage whose owners are victims of “acts of God” and “irregular conditions” wasn’t enough to keep me from chirping all sorts of silver lining mantras.

But when the shuttle bus to the hotel arrived late and the pouring rain and rush hour traffic pushed a 20 minute drive to the hotel past an hour, I was done with my Pollyanna of the Skies persona. It was ill-fitting and, frankly, stupid.

Flying sucks. From the moment a person walks into an airport terminal to be herded and suspected and stripped of any real power over their well-being, loved ones and belongings until it deposits him/her like spit on summer’s sidewalk – maybe at their destination and maybe not – everything about it peels and grates and burns. It’s like being Gollum on the end of a tether.