Up in the Air Junior Birdman

Anne got up with me at oh-dark-thirty and drove me to the airport on Friday morning. The airport seemed way too crowded for this unseemly hour. The TSA folks were also way too animated for this time of the morning. They had us shuffling along in three parallel lines like cattle headed to the pens, all the while yelling things like, “Take all of your lags out of your bags! Your lags are what we call your liquids, aerosols and gels.” Move along. Keep it moving. Yeah! Yeah! Rawhide. Eventually I reached the head of the line and saw the device. I’m speaking of one of those new full body scanners. What was once the science fiction dream of every pimply thirteen year old boy is now the reality of every pimply thirty year old TSA agent. At work the day before I was asked if I planned on submitting to this the latest element in the continuing process of human debasement that modern air travel has become.

I swear that I have seen the future of air travel and it is Air Al Qaeda. Shortly after 9/11 I recall seeing a photo of captured terrorists being transported from Afghanistan to Gitmo. They were stripped naked, bound, gagged, blindfolded and then thrown into the belly of a C-17. Mark my words this is the future of commercial air travel and it is not a too distant future at that. On that day the terrorists can declare victory and then maybe we can all go home.

I digress though. After I was asked if I planned on submitting to this device, I was told a story about someone who choose not to be scanned. As soon as the traveler balked, the TSA agents immediately began calling out to each other, “Opt out! We have an opt out.” Imagine an experience similar to that of a husband who graciously consents to buy his wife’s feminine hygiene products, gets to the checkout lane and the product won’t scan. The checker gets onto the PA and calls out, “Price check! I need a price check for some guy and his box of tampons.“ So this guy opted for being poked at rather than being peeked at. I lucked out and made it through security via the mundane metal detector. I guess if you are old and dumpy enough, no one wants to get up in your business.

I was wrong yesterday about all of my flying being on just regional jets. The plane from Saint Louis to Phoenix was an Airbus A319, a single aisle, equivalent to a 737. We took off on time and I got the shot of the rising sun off of the wingtip. Then I noticed something peculiar. We stopped climbing and instead began circling Saint Louis. Eventually the pilot addressed us, “Folks, some of you might have noticed by now that we are circling Saint Louis, instead of flying to Phoenix. Ahem. We have a fault in the ah air conditioning system, but don’t worry we are only at 5,000 feet. We’ll need to clear this fault or return to Saint Louis.” The pilot was speaking English, but if he had switched to engineer he might have explained that the fault was in the aircraft’s environmental control system and not in the ahem air conditioner. If we had tried to climb above 10,000 feet the oxygen masks would have likely dropped. Eventually though the sun swung around to the tail and we started climbing. Finally, I was on my way to California.

3 thoughts on “Up in the Air Junior Birdman

  1. well at least you weren’t headed to New Orleans to the House of the Rising Sun. Although it doesn’t sound like you were actually ‘leavin’ on a jet plane.

    as you circled St. Louis did you keep saying “hey – there’s the Arch!”
    “Hey – there’s the Arch again!”
    “Hey – there’s the Arch again!”

  2. My second leg was also “interesting” if also uneventful. After takeoff the pilot warned of the possible need to divert to Oakland, but the fog left and I arrived safely.

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