Ok, honestly, traveling by air has gotten to be such a demeaning hassle that I don’t really see why on earth people bother with it. I’m informed that I can’t get through security with a freshly-bought soda still sealed and bought from the machine next to the freakin security line—the limit is 3 ounces. No prob—I’ve got plenty of time before my plane boards, so I go out of the line and drink my soda at a leisurely pace. Once the level of the soda is down to the top of the nubbles at the bottom of the bottle, I show back up at security. It’s a new person. “You can’t bring that through here,” he says. “It’s less than three ounces,” I say. “It don’t matter. It has to be either empty or you throw it away.” Three ounces is different from empty. I bolt the rest of the damned soda and keep the bottle, as one needs to have a bottle when traveling. One just does.
Further along security, I take off my coat, yank out my laptop, put it in a bin, and lug my carry-on onto the stainless-steel table as the people in front of me take off their shoes. I don’t want to take off my shoes. I look at the matted and discolored carpet under the man’s socks. I look around for signage. Evidently, we’re no longer in the “removing shoes is optional” age that we were in the last time I boarded a plane. I take off my shoes, jam them in with my coat. I am directed to the puffer machine. I place my feet on the yellow footprints that no doubt harbor untold varieties of pedal fungus as the authoritative female prerecorded voice directs me to stay put. The jets blow harder than I’d thought, directly and painfully into my ear. The little TV screen’s blue and yellow grapefruit sections rotate, indicating I should continue staying put. The machine decides that bed lint is not a danger and I am allowed through the turnstile. By the time I get back to the conveyor, someone is already calling out for the owner of my bag. I raise my hand. “This needs to get looked at,” she states curtly. Fine. I put on my shoes and wait. And wait. The bag sits there. Another man’s bag gets called out. He’s a highly-strung Corporate type with his four-year-old. “Ridiculous,” he mutters. He fiddles obsessively with his limited-edition Blackberry. Neither bag is even being looked at. Mr. Corporate begins hassling the TSA folks that his bag needs to get looked at now. The TSA mention that someone’s bag is in front of him—namely my bag. “Ridiculous,” he says again, “I’ve been waiting here.” “So have I,” I say. Several minutes further, during which I let Mr. Corporate work himself into as big a lather as he wants (he has things to do), I finally am called over to explain my carryon. Mr. TSA opens up my bag and pulls out my toothpaste. “This is too big. Too much toothpaste.” He continues in a tone that makes it evident he thinks me a dumbshit, “You need to le me know what you want to do. You can either leave security checkpoint and go back to the desk to check your toothpaste and then come back through security, or you can throw it away.” Check my toothpaste. How moronic. Practically a new tube. “You can have the toothpaste,” I say, with an interior flaring up of anger in my skull that, were it a superpower, would have left him a steaming prune underneath his epauletted shirt. At least, now that I’m finally through security, I’ve found a seat next to an outlet so that I might be able to type on their nickel. When I was a kid, air travel still seemed to have some bit of style about it. It’s amazing how things have changed since. No dignity, no privacy, no respect. And no free peanuts.