Travels in Amerika: Part I

Another business trip, another airport complaint – at the airport you can buy a tie, a book, or an inflatable dinosaur; all the perfume, cigarettes, gin and jewelry you can carry, condoms, inflatable toys, and all the daily newspapers except the only Canadian one worth reading: The Globe and Mail.

I always try to read the Globe when I fly. Already cranky from the whole experience of travel before I’ve even come within sight of an airplane, I love to open the ‘Style’ section to the column written by Leah McLaren, whom I can ridicule and berate endlessly in the privacy of my own mind, with only a self-satisfied sneer on my face to betray my hostility. It’s a self-protection measure. My resentment is directed not to those who can arrest me and thrust an un-lubricated glove deep into my unwilling rectum, but to a feather-headed, Gen-x twit that has somehow managed to convince an otherwise intelligent (at least in comparison to much of its competition) daily newspaper to publish her mind-numbing drivel on a weekly basis.

As I jumped through all the hoops today (the line for US customs was mercifully short), I had Leah in mind the whole time. “Good morning!” I smiled to the customs prick. I passed through there quickly – things have been much easier since I got the visa, but even more so since I started travelling with Leah.

The next stop is the secondary customs checkpoint, where they glance at the piece of paper that the first agent stamped. It either says “let this guy in”, or “the rubber gloves are in the third drawer on the left”. Once again, I am waived through.
Normally, the next stop is the metal detector, but this time, I am diverted from the path by a very short woman with a gold badge and teeth to match. She has me open my suitcase which, besides being overstuffed, has a broken zipper. The only way to open it easily is to use a pair of pliers, but of course, as they could be used to hijack the plane (how, exactly?), I don’t have any with me. By the time I get it open, I’ve cut my finger.

She uses what looks like the leg of a barbecue, appended with one of those medicated acne pads, to swipe my laptop, a book, a pair of underwear, and the lining of the suitcase itself. The acne pad is then inserted into a little drawer in a machine that looks like an autoclave. I am declared safe to proceed (perhaps my underwear was found lice-free?), and I am left to repack while she seeks another victim.

Through all of this, I have only been declared safe to allow through the metal detector. As directed, I remove my coat and scarf, all metal from my pockets, take my laptop (once again) out of its case, and deposit all of these items, in preparation for the x-ray tunnel, in a a series of plastic bus trays of the sort that one usually sees full of egg-yolk stained breakfast dishes in “family” restaurants. I wonder what company got the contract for all of these bus tubs? With every airport in North America in possession of hundreds of them, someone must have profited well. Halliburton Plastics, perhaps?

I’d removed my belt before going through the x-ray, knowing from previous experience that it would trigger an orange alert. However, it didn’t help – the bells still rang. I’d already tested my various body piercings, and knew it wasn’t those. The agent pulled out the wand, and had me make like a tree as she prodded the hidden valleys of my person. Everything was find until she reached my shoes. “Sit in the chair and remove your shoes please”. I did so. “Raise your left leg in the air”. I sat there like I was participating in an airport Pilates class while she waved the wand slowly around my elevated foot. The same was done with the other leg. Once it had been proven that I had not sliced open my own feet and secreted box cutters in the wounds, I was allowed to get dressed in the privacy of the conveyor belt discharge area.

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