America’s Corps

February 26, 2010

My kid and I have left the frozen wastes of the Finger Lakes to come to the damp-but-not-freezing-wastes of the Pacific Northwest to visit Husband Guy, who’s doing some military stuff. Flying with an infant is an interesting experience, especially when you don’t own a stroller. Which we don’t, because we’re like the Maggie Gyllenhaal character in Away We Go: no sugar, no separation, no strollers.

(Not really. WE JUST DON’T OWN A STROLLER. GET OFF MY CASE!)

So anyway. We carry our kid around in slings and wraps and stuff, which apparently totally befuddled the TSA people, along with how I also don’t carry around diaper cream. Here are un-improved-for-comedy conversations I had with them:

TSA GUY
Have any liquids or gels in your carryon?

ME
No.

TSA GUY, LOOKING POINTEDLY AT MY BABY.
Really.

ME
…yes.

TSA GUY
Really. No formula? No diaper cream? NO HAND SANITIZER?

ME
No! That may make me a bad parent, but it also makes me a speedy traveler.

Here, I looked to the guy behind me in line for support, but he was just looking at me, aghast. NO HAND SANITIZER?!?

TERRIBLE MOM IS TERRIBLE.

Moments later, putting my bag on the conveyor belt:

TSA LADY
Any bottles of formula in here?

ME
No.

TSA LADY
(“You are a moron.”)
You have to tell me if there are bottles of formula in here.

ME
…but there aren’t.

TSA LADY, LOOKING POINTEDLY AT MY BABY
Really.

ME
No.

Awkward pause.

ME
He’s breastfed.

TSA LADY
(profoundly skeptical, staring at the X-rayed image of my bag on her monitor, HOPING TO CATCH ME IN A LIE)
Hmmmm.

Moments later, we walk through the metal detector. Nothing beeps.

OTHER TSA LADY
Step through again.

Nothing beeps.

OTHER TSA LADY
I’m gonna need to do a pat-down.

ME
…? Okay.

Okay – I have been patted down before, mostly when I was youthful and cool and went to rock shows on the regular, and more recently when I wore an ankle-length skirt while flying and apparently triggered some kind of POSSIBLE TERRORIST LADY alarm. It’s cool, man. So I stand patiently, my arms out, waiting.

But other TSA Lady totally ignores me and starts running her hands all over my kid.

ME
Really?

OTHER TSA LADY
(about halfway through an ultra-thorough pat-down of my kid and his carrier)
Yep.

Security theater! It’s so totally stupid. Some guy tried to carry a bomb on in his shoes, so now we all have to take ours off. A dude tried to carry a bomb on in his underpants*, so some genius at the TSA is probably working on a proposal where everybody flying internationally has to go commando. A guy tried to carry on explosive fluids, so now we can only bring on liquids in 4 oz containers**. Because there’s no way you could bring on EXPLOSIVE FLUIDS SPLIT INTO MULTIPLE 4 OZ CONTAINERS AND RECOMBINE THEM ON THE PLANE OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT.

It’s total after-the-fact security theater that has no real effect except for to make people feel like they’re safer than they actually are. And it’s STUPID. And it doesn’t make you safer. Come on! You think some guy in a cave in Afghanistan isn’t able to figure out a way to circumvent the fact that you have to take your shoes off now? HE LIVES IN A CAVE IN AFGHANISTAN! HE HAS NOTHING ELSE TO DO.
You know who doesn’t have failed underpants bombers on their planes? ISRAEL. You know why? Because they have effective security measures at the airport. They look for people who are sweaty and acting weird and then they grill them, using their Secret Mossad Techniques(TM). They don’t make everyone wear airport-issued paper underpants OR WHATEVER.

Grumble grumble grumble. ALSO, MY CHILD IS NOT CARTING AROUND A BOMB IN HIS DIAPER. [YOUR POOP JOKE GOES HERE.]

But now I am here at Army Base, where the gate guards, after checking your ID, mumble “America’s Corps” at you. (Once particularly amped up guard said “America’s Corps, hooah!” but most of them just mumble “America’s Corps” and look embarrassed.)

I suspect that maybe there’s a call-and-response thing I don’t know about. You know? “America’s Corps!” “And wave ’em like you just don’t care!” or something… it’s hard to say.

Husband Guy doesn’t know the answer. I have noticed that people in the military are generally kind of perplexed by my interest in things they take for granted, like “Why do you pronounce cadre like that?” or “Why does that guy’s beret flash have a pitchfork on it?” (although I am invariably wrong about it being a pitchfork…)

Army bases are pretty funny places (to people like me): they’re extremely earnest and yet also kind of lame and yet also kind of sweet. Like if you go to the PX, there’s a giant sign reading MEET AND GREET WITH MARIO LOPEZ, which… I find wonderful. For various reasons. Another great thing about the PX is that it has this hilarious display of glamor portraits. You know how in Napoleon Dynamite his girlfriend tells him to imagine he’s surrounded by “Millions of tiny seahorses”? LIKE THAT, only the people are wearing military uniforms in the pictures. And I asked Husband Guy if all PX’s have a glamor-portraiture kiosk (because of how the only one I’d seen previously had something similar) and he said, darkly, “Yes. Nobody knows why.”

Also, people at Army bases are really nice to you. I was standing at a corner and it was raining and because WE DO NOT OWN A STROLLER, my kid was slowly getting wet, and this lady pulled over and jumped out and gave me an umbrella and wouldn’t let me not take it.

So basically it’s like being in a delightful small town that’s armed to the teeth, I guess. Perhaps like living in Idaho, or Switzerland.

*You know what else, while I’m complaining: why do we refer to this guy by his full name and make him sound scary? Why don’t we just call him FAILED UNDERPANTS BOMBER? It’s gotta be harder to recruit martyrs for the cause when the cause makes you sound like a total dweeb.
**Unless you’re carrying on baby formula or breast milk. Then, apparently, you can bring all you want. You just have to taste it in front of a TSA person. Which is foolproof! Because there’s just no way that something like nitroglycerin could be dissolved into something that looks like formula, or that nitroglycerin won’t kill you in small amounts when tasted… or anything like that. ***
***Hello to my friends at Homeland Security. I AM NOT PLANNING ANYTHING.

So today I went to get my hair cut. If you are a person with long hair, you may be familiar with the thing hairstylists do where they are ALWAYS TRYING TO CUT YOUR HAIR SHORT. So you get into the habit of exaggerating how long you’d like them to leave it, just so you don’t walk out with some kind of ultra-hip haircut that does not at all reflect your dorky personality.

Today was no exception. I told the nice middle-aged Thai lady that I wanted to take off a couple of inches, but please still leave it below the shoulders. And maybe some layers or whatever. Basically, I explained, I had just had a baby, never got to take showers anymore, and needed my first Mom Haircut.

“Aha!” Middle-aged Thai lady exclaimed, and flipped through a nearby magazine. “Like this!”

“Um… okay,” I said, hesitantly.

She was showing me a super glamorous picture of former Charlie’s Angel Jaclyn Smith. Like this one.

Middle-aged Thai lady pulled me over to the hair-washing sink. “You look so fabulous, so sexy! Just like Charlie’s Angel!”

I tried to explain: “I’m not really… a fabulous, sexy person. I wear a lot of corduroy and look up pictures of dogs on the internet.”

“You look so sexy,” she insisted.

Then she cut my hair. I periodically tried to point out things like “Not too short, okay?” and “Please, not above the shoulders!” and “WHY ARE YOU CUTTING AROUND MY JAWLINE???” but sure enough, by the end I had hair above my shoulders.

(Also I totally did not look AT ALL like a Charlie’s Angel, unless it was a character from the lesser-known spinoff, Charlie’s Dorky Corduroy-Wearing Angels.)

I was pretty doubtful about the whole thing. BUT. Then I had to go around the corner to the ATM so I could pay the hairstylist. I want to point out that I am NOT TELLING THIS STORY as a backdoor brag – you know, when girls are all “Are those new jeans? Lucky you! It’s soooooo hard to find pants that fit me, on account of how I have a shockingly narrow waist!” or “I really like your hat! I wish I could wear one like it, but my hair is just too thick and luscious to be contained!”

(If you’re a girl, you know what I’m talking about. YOU KNOW THOSE GIRLS.)

So this story is not like that. I mention it only because of how I was clearly totally wrong for doubting the middle-aged Thai lady, because based on my giant snowboots/practical coat outfit and general corduroy-wearing-personness, what is about to happen is obviously solely because of the POWER OF THE JACLYN SMITH KNOCKOFF HAIRSTYLE.

“Hey,” a bulky man dressed head-to-toe in Carhartt said, as I walked by him as he got out of his truck in the gas station parking lot*. “How’s it going?”

“Fine,” I said. “How’re you?”

“Good,” he said, and started to follow me. “So, uh. Where are you going?”

“…to the hairstylist,” I said, pointing to the tiny storefront ten feet away.

Carhartt Man squinted at the sign outside that reads:

*WALK INS WELCOME!
*REIKI
*PET READINGS
*PET REIKI
(ALTERNATE THURSDAYS, BY APPOINTMENT ONLY)

“Oh,” he said, and hovered for a moment before awkwardly walking back to his truck.

Ladies, if you, too, are interested in becoming alluring to men in head to toe Carhartt who grew up on CHARLIE’S ANGELS, you should email me: I can give you the exact location of the middle-aged Thai lady’s salon.

*Like many girls from big cities, I don’t normally talk to strange men who chat me up in gas station parking lots. People who talk to you in gas station parking lots are ALWAYS WEIRD, have you noticed? Like they want to sell you “origami paper” that is just the Target circular… But my in-laws live in a charming Finger Lakes small town, and people are friendly. (In a kind of distant, Yankee way.)

Puppets!

February 6, 2010

This video, of a puppet interacting with people on ChatRoulette, is… do you ever see something on the internet that makes you clap your hands with delight? YES, like that.

(Contains a drawing of a wang but is otherwise safe for work. Come on, this is the internet. YOU KNOW WHAT’S OUT THERE, PEOPLE.)