Monday, May 5, 2014

The long road to Texas, Vol. 1: Manbabies in flight

My Texas odyssey began yesterday at around 5 pm (Eastern standard time, the correct time) in the great state of Pennsylvania. That’s about the time I cleared security at the Philadelphia International Airport, way ahead of my 6:45 departure time.
                So just like the one taken by the legendary Greek wanderer Odyssey, my own voyage also kicked off with about two hours of loafing around an airport listening to podcasts on horror movies. Trust me, that’s how that book started. I should know since I took a Greek Lit seminar in college. Seminar. They don’t just let anybody take one of those.
                Now, the TSA agents at the Philadelphia airport tend to take a lot of flak for being woefully incompetent and needlessly surly and some of that flak – OK all of it – has been totally deserved. Until yesterday.
                It seems that Philly International has adopted a new approach to airport security.
                Apparently the days of emptying out your laptop and toiletries bags, taking off your shoes and belts for some reason and then putting all of those items into half a dozen giant gray bins to be scanned individually are gone.  
                All I had to do yesterday was empty my pockets into my laptop bag and then they just scanned that and my suitcase. With everything still in them. And then they walked me through a metal detector, belted and shoed.  
That’s it. No bins. Simple, speedy … efficient? It was almost as if they had some sort of machine that could let them see inside of your bags without you having to open them first. And maybe even a second machine that was powerful enough to see through belts AND shoes.
Are we any less safe now that people are allowed to walk through security without performing the least appealing strip tease ever? No, of course we’re not less safe and this just makes me all the more angry at TSA for wasting all of that time since 9-11 making people take their belts off.
But don’t worry. Philly’s TSA hasn’t exactly become a well-oiled defender of common-sense. On my way into the building, a lady stopped me and asked me to zipper something on my suitcase, which when left unzippered, made the bag look too puffy. Still fighting the good fight against puffiness at least.
Once I boarded the plane – a very reasonable by Philly standards 30 minutes after my ticket said I would – I made the mistake of putting my laptop under my seat and not the one in front of me. This led to an issue.

When I heard the reminder about where to put your bag, maybe five minutes after I’d put mine under the wrong seat, I reached for it to move it. After a little digging, I found it and went to place it in the correct location.
As I was about to do that the guy behind me let me know what I had was actually his bag. I looked at the bag and said, no this is mine. I put mine under there and he said no, that was his, the flight attendant now had mine.
My question to you sir-sitting-behind-me is this; it’s very complicated and has many twists and turns: Why?
Why didn’t you tap me on the shoulder and ask me to move my bag? Or if you weren’t sure, ask me if that was my bag and, if so, could I please move it?
And even if it wasn’t my laptop bag and it was a bomb or something, it’s not like giving it to the flight attendant was going to make a difference. The dude wasn’t walking around like Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker.” He didn’t grab the mysterious parcel and run off the plane screaming “Red alert!” or “Take me instead!”at the top of his lungs. No, he just stowed it in his little flight attendant cubby hole thing where it could blow up or poison us all from a slightly different ground zero.
But no. Asking me to move my own bag isn’t what we are as a society anymore. We’re just a bunch of passive aggressive dopes who’d rather delegate solving-problems onto someone else (or in my case cry about them online the next day) then risk having to interact with a stranger on their own.
I got the bag back without any issue, but that’s beside the point. The point is, there was a time when two men would resolve even the smallest conflict with pistols at dawn. Now, we resolve them by running away from even the slightest chance of conflict (in this case: “But I don’t want to move my bag”) and hiding behind the person with the most possible authority we can find.
Is it that hard to find a happy middle ground? One where we can actually speak to another person only without one of us having to wind up dead before breakfast as a result?
So I had a giant manbaby behind me, but the character to my right, in the window seat, was even more interesting.
Continue on to Volume 2.

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