Airports Gone Postal

by Carol Ward

Soon our airports will be fully secure from unauthorized speech or behaviors. They better be, or offending travelers will find themselves handcuffed, face down, with a half-dozen steel boots crushing their noses into dirty commercial carpeting.

Our governors have decreed that we will be safe, or else. To that end, we have a new, highly visible, paramilitary, enforcement class, to shepherd travelers between global villages. Anyone not in a coma for a decade knows what this means -- Nothing good, this way comes. These tactics don't have to be profitable - they're Federal.

The New Enforcers are Standardized, Unionized, and Homogenized -- A leaden rainbow of federalization. A cushy slot in airport 'security' is similar to the bonanza at the Post Office [for those who are so inclined] but with the added perk of being able to detain, humiliate, or even violate, anyone who annoys you.

Government employees are cut from pretty much the same cloth. I call em the Grays - the soft core unemployable. Unable or unwilling to scrap out a comparable living in the private sector, they gravitate to the government nest that begets an intemperate bounty of paid and unpaid benefits. You work less, earn more, and have police power over the people who have been snubbing you for a lifetime. There's full dental, medical and retirement benefits, not to mention vacation, parental and bereavement leave, and necessary counseling should trans-gender surgery require extended therapy. Federal employment doesn't discriminate, so we are assured that nothing but the lowest common denominator in human behavior will be the norm.

Now when that 300-lb former Compton welfare queen tells you to empty your pockets, as she waves a metal detector in your beleaguered face --- well, you best not be givin her any lip, or it'll be a full rectal search for you.

I got a teensy reality check of things to come, when I flew home from Brussels, just weeks after 911. I arrived at the airport several hours early for my flight on the Belgian state airline. A single line for international departures was long, brown, and covered head to toe in less than fashionable shades of muslin. I didn't try to stifle a tiny gasp. [b-b-but I'm flying non-stop to Dallas, I thought to myself - they can't possibly be going to Texas -- can they?]

Everyone was visibly uncomfortable with the multicultural company - White or brown. Large-haired blonde women surveyed the crowd, clutching their handbags, fingering their rings, and exchanging nervous glances with other self-evident Texans. [Who were these other people -- and are they going to let them on the plane with US???] It was a casting call for Gunga Din Meets Dynasty.

I confess, I'm never a very nice person before coffee, or when suffering the wrath of grapes. So I won't defend what happened next, because in retrospect, it was thoroughly avoidable. I brought it on myself. And I made it worse than it had to be. Anyone with a triple-digit I.Q. knows better than to taunt or challenge the demons of the state when they are in full Enforcement Mode, adorned with stripes and badges -- And before coffee.

But the ghost of H.L. Mencken haunts me. I swear I can smell the breath of that old drunk on these occasions, as he whispers in my ear and provokes the most outrageous outbursts. I can't help but see the world the way he did. And as such, I don't exercise the restraint -- that enlightened self-interest so available to others -- who skirt these dicey episodes without incident.

I eked forward, kicking my carry-on further and further along the line, even as more new brown and black bodies pressed against me. Yesterday I was motoring the empty golden forests of the Ardennes in October. Today at the airport, I was magically transported to a Tunisian wharf, surrounded by a crush of day laborers vying for too few jobs shoveling fish. I was at once overpowered by claustrophobia and xenophobic dread. I couldn't stifle a gag reflex from the body odors wafting from robes and rotting teeth. By the time I reached the counter, my senses were overloaded. If I couldn't stomach the diversity of a Belgian airport terminal, how was I to endure them for 10 - long - hours on an Airbus?

Then I really mucked it. It just came rolling off my tongue to the pantsuit at the counter. What the hell, nobody spoke English anyway

"Where am I? And why am I in this hand-basket?" [She didn't get it] "I'm an American. I can't get on a plane with -- these - these" -- [I turned around and pointed wildly at the other passengers with perspiration stains on their robes and greasy locks of hair peeking out of their head wraps] And then in a semi-hysterical whisper that could be heard all the way to the food court, I hissed, "I'm not getting on a plane with those people. Do you hear me? Am I in the right line? I'm going to Dallas They all CAN'T be going to Dallas, can they? They look like Saddam Hussein, and that's just the WOMEN!"

A reminder - Belgium is home to several insufferably noble institutions -- The Hague -- the World Court. But these self-important rituals pale before that uniquely detestable creation known as the politically correct State Employee. And they're everywhere.

"Why are you being racist?" - asked the detestable creation known as the politically correct State Employee.

"For a few thousand reasons," I snapped back. "This is my first flight since 9/11. I just want to get home without having to share space with people who want to kill me. I dunno, it sounds like a reasonable goal."

"These people did nothing to you," insisted the detestable creation.

"How generous of you," I said with more than a sprinkle of condescension. "Perhaps after they take out your little Space Needle downtown, we'll share another moment together. For now, I need to find a way back to New Mexico that doesn't include the smell of fermenting laundry."

"Ma'am -- This line is for Dallas and Casablanca, so you don't have to be so hateful." snapped the other detestable creation with a supervisory lapel.

"In the good old days, children like you were left to perish on windswept crags," I said in parting, smiling like grandma on a Normal Rockwell calendar.

"Caesar si viveret, ad remum dareris," I whispered to those in line behind me as I made my way to the gate.

But they weren't finished with me yet.

When they fed my ticket through the little machine at the boarding gate, it kept popping back out. Two security guards came and ushered me away to a little room. I was told that I was profiled as a security risk, and that they had notified the captain to see if he would allow me to board. Then a rather large woman of questionable gender arrived, to tell me she was a psychiatrist. She [?] said she needed to find out why I was so angry, and if I was a threat to the other passengers. I exploded; saying the only anger I needed to manage was a seething contempt for self-important cop-wannabees who gravitate to law enforcement to better satisfy their sadistic fantasies.

"Did you threaten other passengers in the check-in?"

"No, actually. I told them if Caesar were alive today, they would be tied to an oar in life. But none of them spoke Latin, so the wisdom was lost on them." Then the captain said, "Let's get outta here."

I gathered my things and said to Nurse Ratchet, "Veni Vedi Visa ---- and Velcro. "


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