Thursday, June 24, 2010

I b'lieve the children are our future - sell tchotchkes and let them lead the way

I really wish I could make this shit up - it's sometimes too easy. Like throwing a worm into a tank of starving trout, sooner or later something will grab that bait and tug. Going to the airport (especially the airport on a trip to Las Vegas) is SURE to result in a blog worthy note, especially since I already dread the airport and am cynically expecting the worst

Let me tell you why I dread the airport. The airport is supposed to be one of the most secure place a civilian can go. They have checkpoints and xrays and big signs warning you of all sorts of nasty things that can happen if you bring a pair of tweezers on board. They have their own Federal Law Enforcement Agency (the TSA). They can make your life a living hell if you so much as JOKE that there is a ticking package or something of the like.

Plus the liquid. Oh, the liquid! I sit there before a trip and scrutinize my contact lens solution bottle size - making sure the manufacturer didn't up size and fuck me over. And, I wonder - I wonder far too obsessively on whether gel, toothpaste, shaving cream, etc.. is a liquid or a solid. I weigh the effectiveness of using hand soap as shaving cream (but looking like I lost a battle with a toy helicopter) against risking an international incident caused by an aerosol Colgate Shaving Cream can ( Newman was going to smuggle dino embryos in one in Jurassic Park, so maybe they're on the lookout for shaving cream canisters!). Half the time the faithful TSA agent picks apart my luggage if so much as a trial size bottle of mouthwash gets forgotten and half the time I find a bottle of water that I forgot was in a bag made it through. (Ok, once...but it was glorious!)

The airport also makes you disrobe. Not to a degree where I feel uncomfortable, just to a degree that pisses me off. In my case as I'm usually traveling for work, I'm almost always in a suit - with suspenders. So to go through the detector I have to take the shoes off, suspenders off, coat off, and then waddle through the metal detector holding my pants up with one hand and my boarding pass in another. Then I pick up my two gray bins (one for the laptop...the laptop gets its OWN bin) and waddle over to a bench to get dressed. But they do all of these things - the threats, the machines, the carefully measured liquids, the near nudity - to make things look, SAFE.

But marring this veneer of safety are the employees. Let's face it, nobody wants to work at the airport. Well, nobody that you want working at the airport is working at the airport. I think the TSA is the only federal law enforcement agency that would hire me hands down, no physical examination needed at all. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm in better shape than most of their entire brigade. Especially the ones they place at the EXIT of the secure area. You know, the area where, if someone really wanted to get something past a metal detector they would sneak past? Yup, they stick the most out of shape people (who find it necessary to gossip loudly about when their next break is, who is screwing who, how bad their back hurts and what they're having for dinner) at the exits of the terminal. At every single airport - without fail! Now maybe their being super clever and anyone that runs past will instantly be vaporized in the hail of bullets fired by the hidden SWAT team - but I somehow doubt it. Instead, what will likely happen is the person will get far enough inside the terminal to cause a major airport to shut down. Oh, wait - that DID happen. My bad.

On this afternoon however my ire wasn't raised by an overzealous TSA agent, it was an underzealous agent. Or a sadly out of date airport policy against solicitation. Either way, it was 3d glasses that brought the red to my face. Not just 3d glasses but 3D FIREWORKS GLASSES!

I found out about the glasses while I was sitting and waiting for my plane to start boarding. Up comes this guy, looking like a fatter, sweatier version of Chuck Liddell, who asks me: "Hey, big guy - you like the Fourth of July, right?"

Ahh, if there is one thing a big guy really really likes, it's being called "big guy." Almost as good as "tiny." Either way I could already smell the bullshit he was peddling. "You want to put these on and look at the lights?" He was holding a "demo" pair (written in large, shaky Sharpi across the top) out to me and motioning to look at the lights.

I politely declined. That's when he started earning the sweat that was dampening his armpits and his brow.

"Wassa matter? Don'tcha support the children's hospital?" He informed me that for the low low price of $2.00, the money he earned would go to the childrens' hospital.

"Which childrens' hospital?" I asked.

He looked at me. "The childrens' hospital."

Ok, well. Maybe he forgot the name of the rather famous childrens' hospital near the University. Or maybe it was a national childrens' hospital foundation. Whatever. I just wasn't interested.

"No thanks." I said and then watched him huff with disappointment before I turned back to my magazine.

A couple minutes later I looked up to see him frantically approach person after person. I smirked (yeah, I'm an asshole) when I saw every impatient passenger rebuff his offer of saving the children through lame glasses.

And that's when he lost it. Well, that's when he lost it for the first time. Someone managed to smile at him and he let loose. "Well that's the first smile I've seen on anybody in this airport. I thought all you people (meaning all the denizens of the state of Tron, I suppose) are supposed to be nice." A sort of uneasy silence fell over the people surrounding him before it was carried away into the general din of an airport terminal.

A woman came around, presumably his travel partner, and spirited him away. That's when I started to get mad. After all of that. The careful rationing of liquids to carry on the plane. The lines. The xray. Having to unpack your shit before the scanner and put it all back after. All of that doesn't matter a goddamn bit. Sure, they got rid of the thousands of family members waiting for their mormon missionary to deplane, the love sick teenagers sneaking in one last sloppy tongue kiss before college, the mom and seven kids waiting for dad to come back from his conference. All of those people are gone from the terminal. But not the crap peddler - no matter where you are, some douche-bag selling some lame product is going to be there to throw their little sob story in your face.

The postscript to this though is rather awesome. Turns out, Mr. SweatyGuy was on my plane. Turns out, Mr. SweatyGuy was trying to sell his bullshit glasses during boarding and had two flight attendants ask him if he even HAD a ticket for the flight and then proceeded to get in a rather loud argument with his seatmate (not his travel partner) about halfway through the flight prompting the THIRD attendant to warn him to cool it or the eff-be-eye would be awaiting for him at McCarren. Turns out Mr. SweatyGuy got into an even BIGGER argument with his travel partner once we de-planed that raised the ire of a couple of blue garbed TSA agents..a couple of blue-garbed TSA agents that managed to both look like they could take care of Mr. SweatyGuy without breaking a sweat themselves. That's the last I saw of Mr. SweatyGuy - red faced, hands full of crappy glasses, frantically gesturing towards my new friends in blue.

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