April 16, 2004

Flying woes of the special security line

Last weekend, when I was flying home, I got pulled into the "special security line" at the airport. Of course. I am always in the special security line, especially when I am already running half an hour late because I left the house wearing only sneakers, but then it's raining, so I have to stand outside my front door for a while, wracked with indecision: Should I go back upstairs to get boots and umbrella? Run for the 55 bus? Weep?

Fortunately for ATA, I am quite often impaled on the horns of such dilemmas, so I am a prime candidate for the special security line. Assuming, of course, that the ultimate goal of the special security line is preventing people from reaching their flights on time. Which it well might be, seeing as ATA overbooks their flights and so needs to come up with the most bureaucratic techniques possible for trimming down the number of passengers on their planes.

It is possible, I suppose, that the special security line exists for purposes other than preventing people from reaching their gates on time. For example, I have a friend who theorizes that the special security line's goal is never, ever, to catch a dangerous individual. This is actually a pretty sensible goal: If you send a criminal through your special security line, and you catch him with a gun or something, then you have to deal with the problem. That sucks. I think this is why the ticket counter agents make a point of handpicking only the most innocuous-looking individuals for the extra security check. They know that, in the long run, this effort will successfully prevent them from ever having to actually deal with a problem.

On a related note, I used to wear pink sneakers and sweaters when I traveled. There was no reason for this; I just happen to like the color pink a whole lot. It reminds me of Tickled Pink, the Color Kid who was in charge of the pink color crystals for all of Rainbowland (a big job!). But, since figuring out airport personnel's devious tricks, I have taken to dressing as frighteningly as possible when I need to take a plane. I wear high-heeled boots and, like, ripped clothing. Oooh. Are you scared yet?

Well, the airports clearly aren't, because they still put me through extra security. Maybe I should rip, I don't know, more things. It's just that, well, most of my knowledge of fashion comes from "Rainbow Brite," and none of the Color Kids ever really ripped their clothing. Although they did wear uni-color jumpsuits with gigantic arm padding.

They also never had to take airplanes (they had flying horses for these purposes), which was lucky for them, because even when I, through some miracle, end up on an airplane and am not forever trapped in the purgatory of airport security, I still have a crappy time. Let us consider, as evidence, last weekend. I actually did have screaming toddlers behind me, snoring man on my right, and coughing lady on my left. I am like a character in my own nightmares.

Coughing woman made me feel guilty because she obviously couldn't help coughing. It was a loud, hacking cough, and I really should have been sympathetic, but it was so loud that I wanted to smack her. And when the flight attendants came around to offer us our complimentary cups of water, this woman didn't even want any, which to me indicated that she reveled in her illness, much like psychotics who believe that they're saints.

I took a pack of cough drops out of my bag and pointedly fondled them for a while, hoping she would ask for one, but she didn't. And, annoyingly, I couldn't offer them to her, because that is on par, rudeness-wise, with turning to a stranger and saying, "Hey, you want some deodorant? I just happen to carry a stick in my purse."

The crying children were somewhat better. They were adorable and toting Easter paraphernalia, so I felt bad that they spent two hours of the flight beating the living daylights out of each other. I kept trying to engage them in conversation, based on the theory that words are better than attempted murder, but they would have none of it. I still wanted to just eat them up, though, which is further proof that I have no standards.

And when we got off the plane and I waved and cooed, "Bye Katie! Bye Lindsey! I'll see you later!" their parents gave me that creeped-out look that you give to strangers who are wearing ripped clothing and threatening to visit your children at some point in the indeterminate future. I wanted to ask them for a written recommendation, like, "Yes, this girl is definitely menacing and we don't want her near our children," so that I could present this letter to airport security on my flight back to Chicago. But they hustled Katie and Lindsey off before I had the chance to talk to them.