Saturday, March 30, 2013

Knuckleheads In The Sky

We're pretty much trapped in a sinister new pluto-theocracy where we willfully vote for bible-bangers and billionaires to dictate a rigid societal and economic construct with little hope of resurrecting the faded idea of the American Dream. God and Greed, working side by side, dismantling America brick by brick. But what's really pissing people off is having to remove their shoes at the airport.

Certain members of our society handle air travel better than others, particularly when it comes to cooperating with the TSA security procedures. From my perspective there are two kinds of people: Planners and Knuckleheads.

Planners plan for airport security by looking up the latest rules online before they leave the house. You can spot the Planners in line -- they're the ones wearing easy slip-on shoes, wearing a bare minimum of accessories such as belts and necklaces, toting along minimum toiletries, all of which are safely sealed in the recommended plastic baggies. Planners move through the lines calmly, in an organized manner. Planners tend to bring a good book. They cause no trouble. They align as one-with-the-TSA.

Planners inherently accept that a safe world for everyone means the occasional delay here, ID-check there. It's not a big deal, this is just how we do now.

Knuckleheads, by contrast, demonstrate in a dozen different ways the zero-thought they have given to any of this pesky national security stuff. Planning ahead is simply not for them and widely regarded, ironically, as a waste of time considering how much time they, in turn, waste for their fellow travelers. Knuckleheads hold up the entire line, having arrived at the airport dressed in complicated layers. They have selected their coolest pair of knee-high lace-up boots, jewelry it takes three people to unclasp, ballooning cargo pants with an astonishing number of pockets that pale the faces of the poor TSA agents. Knuckleheads never, ever have their ID out and ready, frantically checking fourteen pockets for it, during which process manage to also lose their boarding pass.

Knuckleheads haven't read a single one of the twenty different large, brightly colored informational signs placed around the terminal that would have informed them that they cannot board with, among other things, their 24oz soda. Instead they complain they "just bought it fah chrissakes."  Uninformed, they ask loud stupid questions and look up and down the line for faces reflecting back some kind of support. They find none, but since they're Knuckleheads, they just assume everyone else is stupid.

There's an interesting correlation to be made between what kind of air traveler you are and what kind of person you are; spend some time at the airport if you want to witness the true essence of human nature revealed.

You know something I've observed about Knuckleheads? They hate taking off their shoes. Haaaate it. The central argument amounts to "I shouldn't have to take off my shoes."

Okay. Well, no, no one "should have to" but we're living in crazy time.

As they'll explain to you earnestly, THEY aren't planning anything along the lines of a terrorist act.

This is the same type of person who, should anything bad happen, will argue for tightening airport security. The implication being that only people who appear as though they are keen to hijack the plane ought to be checked out.

"You mean racial profiling?"


Meaning, yes, Knuckleheads.

Frankly, I'll take off every stitch of clothes I'm wearing and sing the national anthem over the PA if that'll help keep everyone safe from a malicious person with nefarious intent.

In reality, though, this is all academic. To me, most of the TSA rules are part of yet another Emersonian ruse being perpetrated on the people. This whole "shoes" thing is a totally pointless practice that epitomizes the early American caution against little-mindedness. I'm referring of course to the most well-known nugget from Ralph Waldo Emerson, from his essay "Self-Reliance."

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,
adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

As dreadfully dull as I've always found most of 19th Century American Lit, the reason that I always aced the classes was that most of it makes simple sense. There's nothing out of reach in any of the texts. Emerson just meant that everyone really needs to stop blindly, foolishly doing the same dumb things over and over again just because it's the way things have always been. He says get an original thought once in awhile, decide how you feel for yourself, really examine your actions. Break away from foolishly following the herd. Pay attention, dammit, and become self-reliant.

Now, it's up to you when and where you want to stand up and make a statement. Do it with your vote, do it by teaching your kids to be good people, stand up to bullies, do it somehow. But in line at the check-in gate? No. Just take off your stupid shoes and shut up your fat face about it. Do what the TSA wants and we can all get where we need to go sooner.

I will close with a funny TSA story that may or may not render untrue everything I just said.

In this story, I did NOT do what the TSA wanted and I didn't shut up my fat face about it. Just this once. I was dieting and cranky and I didn't even want to go on the trip in the first place.

A bit of background: for more than ten years I'd had to travel quite a lot for work and I had learned to pack super light. Why carry your big bottle of shampoo a jillon miles? Do you think you'll land and find they've outlawed shampoo in that state? Everywhere you can imagine going in North America, you will find a CVS or a Walgreens, with a perfectly good aisle full of travel-sized-anything.

Though I bring no toiletries. I do, however, have some pricey cosmetics. Not Paris-pricey, but a few grades above "whatever is on sale at the Rite Aid." My mascara, for example, while isn't the hundred-dollar serum you can find in the tonier uptown boutiques, it's a decent Lancome from Sephora that's in the thirty-dollar range.

This happened almost verbatim between me and a TSA agent at Logan Airport when he bag-checked me, took out my mascara and informed me that I had to leave it behind.

"It's a liquid, ma'am.

"No it's not."

"It is."

"No it isn't. Is ketchup a liquid?"


"Strictly speaking, it's not. It's a *non-Newtonian pseudoplastic suspension which means it acts more like a solid, based on its shearing properties. Mascara isn't a liquid either."

"...this...uh...this is a liquid, ma'am," brandishing my mascara.

"If it's a liquid, then pour it out."

Obviously, you cannot "pour" mascara, and, as I pointed out to the nice man, even if he could pour it out, it is only .20 of an ounce, which places it far under the "three ounce" limitation anyway. See, you need to go online and read the rules.

While he's clearly doing a wonderful job today, there's securing the airport against real risk and then, far on the other end of the spectrum, there's the folly of placing any practical real-world fear on a fraction of an ounce of black sludge that I bought at the mall to make my eyelashes look fatter.

On the trip home, not one TSA person gave my mascara a second thought, which only serves to prove the pointless inconsistency of the TSA rules.

Consistent inconsistency, now come on...that's got to be a hobgoblin of something even worse, wouldn't you agree?

*I would like to thank Hub, my ex, for all those years of unsolicited spontaneous lectures at various all-night diners where the ketchup bottle became a prop to demonstrate how difficult it can be to define the constant coefficient of viscosity. Somewhere between the curly fries and the bacon cheeseburgers (we were in our twenties when that was still considered "food" years before we learned about kale) just enough knowledge sunk into my brain and found a home amongst the sonnets and superheroes and 80s music and Brady Bunch trivia.