Wattle Cream

September 6th, 2006  |  Published in etc

Weekend Recap Part 2:

While getting ready to fly out of Indianapolis on Tuesday, we watched a wheelchair-bound elderly lady in a pink business suit and jaunty traveling hat get hassled for trying to bring aboard several sealed, pink boxes full of assorted unguents and potions that seemed to promise, from what I could glimpse, surcease from what I will describe as an age-appropriate number of wrinkles.

She had no idea why all her creams and lotions were being pored over, the guards doing the poring had the good grace to look almost as humiliated with the ritual as she did.

I don’t understand why it is that if I have to get through the gate with a thorough check for bottles of fluids, I can’t go into a shop inside the gate, buy a bottle of water, and take it on the plane with me. Theoretically, the screeners are canny enough to spot a bottle of water in the x-ray machines.

And on none of the four total legs of our trip this weekend were we checked at the boarding gate for smuggled fluid, so the warnings to not have any beverages seemed to be a matter of being on the honor system. I guess producing a rogue bottle of mineral water might constitute proof of criminal intent and serve as just cause to bind and gag you in a converted luggage compartment until TSA chemists could ascertain whether the bubbles were mere fizziness or perhaps the initial stages of a violent explosion waiting only to be mated with an iPod.

On our flight out, I was grateful to get a whole can of soda during the beverage service each time. On the flight back, I was unhappy to get two six oz. cups filled to the brim with ice before having a bit of soda splashed on them. Ben did much better than either Al or I, because we brought an 8 oz. sippy cup along for him and the attendants put no ice in it. 8 whole ounces of juice! At least 3 of which survived through to the second leg of our trip and caused me to wonder what would happen if we got spot-checked at the boarding gate and our smuggled three oz. portion of apple juice combined with Ben’s backwash was found out.

I remember talking to an older person immediately after 9/11/01 and how she expressed a sort of generational apology for the world not working out quite right for my generation. “We licked the commies but we just could stop the terrorists,” was the main drift.

The thing is, we’ve been living under threat of hijacking, getting exploded for doing business at a government building on the wrong day, getting randomly shot or gassed, or getting caught in an exploding math building for a span of time I can only refer to as “super-long” in hopes of taking readers back in their minds’ eyes at least as far as, say, some time in the 19th century, but maybe even to the original Guy Fawkes Day.

People who say “9/11 changed everything” and mean “the nature of the world we live in” when they’re referring to “everything” are dipshits. Nothing changed at all in that regard, and the main thing that really changed is that we learned a well-organized group of kooks could pull off exactly the sort of attack our intelligence services had, you know, warned the president about, or accomplish the exact same goal they’d already taken a stab at a decade earlier.

One other change that occurred, I guess, was in my outlook on what kind of people live in this country. We cringe like whipped dogs every time a loser tries to set his shoe on fire or concocts a wholly implausible plan to weaponize styling mousse. We’re banning bottled water and jumping and screeching if a kid comes on the plane carrying both Play-Doh and a Nintendo with a full charge.

Five years after 9/11, and we’re still cringing, taking off our shoes and keeping our eyes downcast because we don’t even know how much authority the mook behind the x-ray has to just pull us out of line and hassle us in the name of the herd’s safety. Our bumper crop of terror converts cleanly and efficiently into political capital, which is why our leaders can’t find a rhetorical note that involves anything besides telling us to keep shopping and remain fearful. And shake down old ladies for their wattle cream.

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