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:
Have any liquids or gels in your carryon?
TSA GUY, LOOKING POINTEDLY AT MY BABY.
Really. No formula? No diaper cream? NO HAND SANITIZER?
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:
Any bottles of formula in here?
(“You are a moron.”)
You have to tell me if there are bottles of formula in here.
…but there aren’t.
TSA LADY, LOOKING POINTEDLY AT MY BABY
(profoundly skeptical, staring at the X-rayed image of my bag on her monitor, HOPING TO CATCH ME IN A LIE)
Moments later, we walk through the metal detector. Nothing beeps.
OTHER TSA LADY
Step through again.
OTHER TSA LADY
I’m gonna need to do a pat-down.
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.
OTHER TSA LADY
(about halfway through an ultra-thorough pat-down of my kid and his carrier)
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.