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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Amber is the Color of Security

It’s summer and you want to relax, but work’s a grind and your old lady is always nagging you about the litter box or the living room curtains. All this tension and heat are driving you to drink. A vacation seems like the perfect solution, and the 21st century American airport is arguably the best part of the trip. All this anti-terror campaigning now leaves American travelers safely wrapped in an amber security blanket as soon as they book the flight.

So its not 1947 and you’re not Howard Hughes-- no worries, Traveler, aviation’s heyday is just now burgeoning. Why, this border-control legislation has created the highest demand for US passports in the history of travel! Now, more Americans than ever are desperate to get out of the country-- and all will find they can do so with dignity and safety. After waiting six months to receive one’s $200 expedited passport and removing all nail files, safety pins, and contact lens solution from their carry-ons, it’s off to the airport. After several anxious sidelong glances at your line-mates and that suspicious fanny-pack left on the self-check-in kiosk, your tickets are collected, your passports stamped, and your boarding passes neatly tucked into an envelope bearing your gate’s number-- you’re now off to Security! Upon arrival to the security-ensuring area, you are safely felt up, patted down, interrogated further, and are shuffled half-dressed and shoeless through an x-ray machine. If you happen to be entering the US as a foreign traveler, you are invited to take some cozy photos and shake hands with a few security-ensuring machines that scan your iris and fingerprint you. No matter where you are from, you are encouraged to eat well and be merry in flight. There’s no better way to be awoken in transit than by an announcement urging you to scarf down your delicious home-made mozzarella and tomato lunch sandwiches at 7:45 in the morning so as not to incur a $500 fine when you’ve returned to the good ol’ US of A. We would'nt want any terrorists bringing their secret family recipes oversees, corrupting our refined American palates with their noxious flavors and tedious preparations. Surrounded by all these threats, yet shielded from them at every turn in American air travel will leave you feeling at first anxious, then superior, and ultimately, safe.
Your luggage is similarly cared for by American airport personnel, allowing you to travel worry and hassle-free about the globe. The bags, checked or carried, are treated with the same respect and care you gave them while packing them up at home. For example, airport staff at all points of transportation carefully inspect your luggage by X-ray and by hand for dangerous items such as battery-operated vibrators that have shifted and turned themselves on during ground transport or birth control pills and anti-depressants, to ensure that these items are legal and yours. Once you have explained your lifestyle and psychological defects to the baggage handlers and strangers around you, your luggage is oh-so-carefully placed on a personal cart and gently conveyed to its own secure corner of the plane’s holding area. If delayed or altogether misplaced, your luggage will be lovingly shrink-wrapped, plastic locked, and heavily tagged/taped minutes before you recieve them once again, proving that international airport staff and travelers have not been tampering with your belongings for 11 days, 16 hours and twenty-seven minutes. The bonus? You will also not be able to open the luggage you have been without for your entire trip because airport staff know that the temptation to put on something clean or charge your phone on the spot would be too great and that ultimately, you would rather do this in the privacy of your own home, two hours later. Forget that three-toed Brazilian sloth dead from an overdose of heroin in your American Tourister roller bag; just let it remind you of how badly you have always wanted to visit Sao Paulo.

While your carry-ons are inspected at seemingly random times in random airports for your protection, these searches are in place to remind you of what might be harmful to you and your fellow passengers. Without the weary, hungover, 18-year-old bag inspector pushing around the contents of you duffel bag while looking at your tits, you might expose your fellow travelers to dangerous fumes emanating from your mentholated lip balm or the annoyance of your over-exuberant Vitamin-watered self. It’s best to leave these liquids and gels packaged securely in ziplock baggies which are then placed on a card table, in a large heap of similarly packaged items out in the middle of your gate’s ramp, guarded by no one.

I can’t speak for everyone, but when I travel by air in the USA, I feel like I’m observing the world through amber-colored glasses. But should you ever feel your security is the least bit threatened, your airport will be happy to furnish you with a shiny steak knife just before you get on the plane, conveniently concealed- I mean, wrapped- in a clean white napkin bearing the TGIFridays’ logo.

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