TSA


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.


Northwest in and out of Cedar Rapids has proven to be the riskiest leg of any trip to Dubuque. Perhaps it sits within a vortex of evil and goat sacrifices are required? More likely it is just a crappy airline. Airlinks to regional hubs are not high on the priority list of any airline. People in the fly over states are well and truly gripped by the balls when it comes to choice and convenience where air travel is concerned and the airlines know this quite well.

 

Arriving at the airport we felt fairly confident. The boards were reading that our flight was on time. It wasn’t pouring rain as had been threatened, and we had all the check on/carry on sorted and duly packed. At check in counter however we were greeted with the sadly predictable news that our flight was delayed an hour and a half, which put our connecting flight to Edmonton in jeopardy. Even worse, and pathetically less surprising, came the revelation that should we miss the connection, we couldn’t be accommodated on another flight home until 9:30 the following night. Welcome to Hellmouth.

 

Rob, of course, was unperturbed. Nothing about the indignities and sheer clusterfuckiness of air travel ruffles him in the least. He operates on the premise that since the world is populated mainly by stupid people, we should be more emotionally jolted by those things that do work and are fouled up. Shit happens most and anything else is a really good day. Since flying makes me nervous and, as I have mentioned, I am disturbed on a deep physic level by the TSA and all the other pseudo-fascist state things that masquerade as “protection”, any extra time “in the system” as Rob has dubbed it does not make my day.

 

We held back from going through security for a bit after the news, and I took Katy to the restroom for the third potty stop before boarding. It’s just easier to empty her out in stages. While we were in there someone several stalls down began moaning, groaning and god-damning the Lord before announcing to, the Lord I presume, that she had “diarrhea god-dammit”. Pretty sure that the Lord needed to hear that bit of information as much as I did. Yeah, I couldn’t get us out of there fast enough. Judging from her old lady from Phoenix attire when I spied her exiting not long after us, I imagine that her gastrointestinal distress was diet related because if she is anything like my folks (and she looked a contemporary except my mom’s attire isn’t as garish) her tummy is a dumping ground for any and all types of carcass, starch and refined sugars. However, on the off chance she was carrying some new variation of bird flu (vortex of evil, remember?), I wanted us washed and away when she emerged to – hopefully – wash her own hands.

 

By the time we cleared TSA ,where a guard actually gave Katy a dime (I know what you are thinking but clowns look friendly too) and got to the gate, our plane was know 20 minutes less late. We snagged a table near the only restruant/gift shop/newsstand/got you by the short hairs if you need anything shop, which was nice because there aren’t a lot of those (tables) to be found anywhere in most airports and we enjoyed the free wi-fi (vortex of evil, Carol Anne, stay with me and do not go near the light). As the later arrivals to the concourse arrived we received more than a few dirty looks for our comfy table. Mostly from old women. People of the “greatest” generation have a more acute sense of entitlement than any teenager I have ever known.

By the time we hit Minneapolis we were barely late at all. As Rob pointed out, our pilot from Cedar Rapids was “one with the plane” and we made our connection easily. On the flight, Katy slept and Rob and I finished the film Failure to Launch which not so ironic to us anymore, turned out to be a movie about a widower who was having trouble moving on and allowing himself to love again. We don’t even try to find these films. They just come to us. Was the world so loss focused before? We were so clueless then.

 

Customs in Edmonton was a breeze. One moment of pause when the officer asked Rob if he was Katy’s father. I had to tell him that Katy’s father was dead but fortunately didn’t have to pull out the death certificate to prove it. It’s always nice to not have to prove it.

 

2AM found Rob and I snuggled up, passed out from exhaustion in our own lovely king-sized bed. Home.


It could just be my naturally suspicious nature or it could be that the process is designed to intimidate and dehumanize, but I dislike crossing borders and security checkpoints. U.S. Customs was a non-event this time back. The last time it was just Katy and I, so I got the usual questions about where I had been and did Katy’s father know I had her out of the country. Since I always tuck her dad’s death certificate into her passport, it is right there for them to see, but they ask anyway. I guess they need to hear me say that he is dead. With Rob along however, the Custom’s official didn’t even open the certificate. Even traveling with different last names on our passports, because getting mine amended to reflect my new martial status is proving to be a hassle, the official just assumed that Rob was her father.

The TSA screenings are not as Nazi paced in Canada. After all, we are talking about Canadians who are never in a hurry do to anything job related. A marked change from the TSA at the Des Moines Airport who lacked only the snarling German Shepherds and people hollering “Schnell! Schnell!” As if it should take no time at all to de-shoe yourself and a small child while simultaneously dumping everything from your person into impossibly small plastic containers while presenting proper photo ID and boarding passes. Still, it has the feeling of one of those test dreams a person has from time to time even years past being in school. Wandering frantically up and down hallways. Searching for the right room and never finding it or arriving too late. I don’t think it would fit Amnesty International’s definition of torture but it is being brought to us all by the people who think that simulated drowning does not count because it’s not specifically prohibited by the Geneva Convention.

Once through and into the gate area the cluster fuck truly begins. Why do people rush to get into boarding lines? Boarding is a slow process that is actually made quicker by being last. I guess it is to snag all the overhead compartments rather than putting one carry on up and one under your seat. Again, a behavior based on the false assumption that disembarking will be made quicker this way. I can’t count the number of times I have waited patiently with my carry on secured and me ready to leave while nearly every one around me struggled to free their luggage from the upper compartments.

As soon as you board the plane, you are greeted by the impatient glares of the first class passengers. All twelve of them who sit grumpily with their drinks and ample leg room waiting for the rest of us peasants to please hurry up and sit our fat bums down somewhere behind them. Of course everyone glares at you when you are the last to board because it is surely your fault the plane isn’t already taxiing down the runway. We were in the dead last row. Good because it puts a person right next to the washrooms. Bad because there is no reclining. Good again because it’s a done deal that you will be the last people off, so there is no pressure to hurry.

My daughter is a jaded air traveler already. The wonder of flight isn’t lost on her but it has become routine, which I find interesting and I am hoping bodes well for the future because I have a feeling we might travel by air more and more frequently. The downside of travel for me though is the tendency towards motion sickness that has plagued me since I was a child. For some reason I can write and read but not simply read and that makes flights above two hours a tad bit tedious. On this trip both Rob and I, uber-geeks that we are, sit with laptops out. He catching up on work email and me writing this blog piece. Rob to my right and Katy on the left, engrossed in the SpongeBob episode playing on the iPod.

It’s 9:21 Edmonton time and we are due into Minneapolis at 11:30 Central Time U.S., and since the flight attendants are busily collecting snack trash I expect that within the next twenty minutes or so it will be time to begin landing. Why does landing take so much longer than taking off? Although I am still a bit apprehensive about the return trip through Canadian Customs, and I imagine it will be a lengthy sit in Immigration again, I am not going to let that spoil the trip to see my folks and extended family and friends.