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October 16, 2010
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A tale of mile-high woes.

    “Freedom isn’t free.”  It is the mantra of many country music songs and southern republicans.  So does that mean that if I had a little less freedom I’d have to pay a little less?

It seems to me that freedom has a price tag like most things in this grand country of ours.  Don’t get me wrong, there are not many other places I’d want to be.  However, there are certain things that irk me.  To get right to the point, I really am not a fan of airport security.

Long gone are the days of my youth when one could simply walk casually through security.  Ever since 9/11, as far as security was concerned, I was one of many who wanted to ram a plane into a building.  Never mind the fact that I was 11 years old at the time and, while I don’t mean to stereotype, white.  Maybe things were different decades ago but I had a hard enough time figuring out my math homework, never mind assembling improvised explosive devices.  But, regardless, the rules had to be followed all the same.  Even if one’s testicles hadn’t descended yet.

One memory that sticks out in my mind was a flight I was taking out of Manchester around 2006.  I don’t remember where it was going but probably a family vacation.  It was early in the morning and I decided to go to the McDonald’s that was conveniently located outside of my terminal and security.  Tired and groggy I start to head out.  As soon as my foot crosses the point of no return I realized I left my boarding pass at the terminal.  I tried to pivot around and walk back in but I was stopped by a rather large security guard.

“You need to go through security,” he stated rather sternly.

“I’m sorry, I realized I just forgot my boarding pass.”

“You can’t come through here.”

“Are you kidding me?! You just watched my walk from my terminal to where we stand!”

I stormed off and took solace in a McGriddles sandwich.

It took a few tries but eventually my family broke radio silence and answered their phones.  I got the typical harassment for forgetting my boarding pass and as I told the tale of my woes my kind mother offered words of comfort.

“You’re lucky you didn’t get a cavity search.”

Thanks Mom.

One of my more recent ventures included a flight to Orlando.  I had driven to Philadelphia to catch an 8 am plane.  Needless to say, and this seems to be a running trend, I was tired and security was something that I really had a hard time with.  My sister Sarah and I started with checking in.  I did not have the foresight to take note of our confirmation number and so I scrambled to maintain a wi-fi connection.  Two minutes later, Sarah calmly presents an email on her phone with the number.  We’ve been at the airport for 5 minutes and I’m already in a tizzy.  I went outside briefly to smoke a cigarette and thought to myself how crazy security is about getting on a plane.  What about getting to the airport?  One could easily drive a car bomb right in the drop-off zone and kill as many people as you would on a small plane with an equal amount of collateral damage.  This is purely speculation, mind you; I really have no interest in that sort of thing.  It was merely a thought. 

So to get back on topic, we started heading toward security and saw the massive line.  By this point, I started feeling a little woozy from sucking down my first cigarette of the morning.  As we trudged through there was a video explaining TSA’s security measures.  One of those measures included behavior examiners.  This made me more nervous since I was already concerned with embarrassing myself by puking all over an airport.  Now, I had the fear that a Behavior Officer would spot an unshaven, red-eyed, pale, sweaty, and sickly looking 20-year-old male.  Luckily, there was no issue. 

When we reached the metal detectors and x-rays I realized I needed to take inventory of what needed to go on the belt.  So rather than use any thought or reason, I simply grabbed a bunch of stuff in my pockets, dropped it all over the floor, scooped into a bin, and slid it down the belt.  Sarah walked through the metal detector without a problem.  I walked through and just as I thought I was clear, I heard the beep.  I was sent back and reminded that cell phones must be x-rayed.  I quickly scrambled for a bin to throw it in as I noticed a line of impatient travelers.  I walked through again and there was no beep.  However, the security officer deemed it necessary to give me a thorough rub.  As I was being groped, I thought to myself that it probably beats going through a body-scanner.  I then changed my mind as a hand was creeping up my inner-thigh.  He got to my pockets and asked,

“You got cigarettes in there?”

“Oh great,” I begin think, “Now this guy wants my last cigarette to finish off our moment of intimacy.”

“Yeah?” I say.

“Those need to go through the x-ray.”

Son of a bitch.

So I walk back again, find another bin, toss the pack with one cigarette in it through, and try the metal detector again.  This time with success.

I usually wonder to myself: “Why do I get so thoroughly examined before going on a plane when there are so many others who do get on planes who shouldn’t.”  On my flight to Orlando the plane was fairly full.  Sarah and I were one of the last to board so seats were limited.  Sarah got in a row up front with two other girls.  I worked my way to the back and got into a row with one other guy.  He took the window seat and I got the aisle.  Perfect, or so I thought.  A minute later a large family (both physically and numerically) boarded late.  They worked their way towards the back.  One by one, they sat until there was one.  I soon found myself sharing a row with a kid that bore a striking resemblance to Cleveland Jr. of the Cleveland Show.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the character: he’s a chubby black kid with glasses and odd mannerisms.  Alternatively, you could watch an episode on hulu and save me the trouble of going into further detail.  Anyway, if you’ve ever shared a row with a fat person you probably could sympathize.  Oh, and by share a row I mean share a seat.  Apparently, personal space was not in Junior’s vernacular.  As soon as we took off, an elbow was jammed into my side, the rolls rolled over, and Junior was fast asleep.  For an hour I had to deal with this.  I tried writing with no success, as typing required some room for my elbows to rest.  I settled for watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail on my iPod but no sooner had Dennis began to debate political philosophy with King Arthur, Junior woke up and his eyes were on me and my movie.  Forty-five minutes later, we were getting ready to land and Junior resumed his sleep position.  There was a stop at Raleigh, NC and I prayed this was Junior’s stop.  It was not.  The attendants requested that we remained seated so that the remaining passengers could be counted.  That one minute dragged on for what seemed like an eternity.  When my ribcage and nicotine deprived brain could take no more, we were told we could change seats.  I sprinted to the front to grab a seat with Sarah.  In retrospect, I suppose I was lucky that I wasn’t halted by someone for charging in the pilot’s direction, considering my luck.

I pray for the day that flying doesn’t involve pain and suffering but until then I guess I have to stick it out.  That said, I would give my first-born to anyone who can come up with a fast way to travel in which I get my own seat, can smoke, and in general do whatever I want.  To anyone who reads this I’m completely serious (sort of).  So yeah, feel free to get on that people.  Or alternatively, someone can buy me a private jet.  That’ll work too.

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