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Flying through confusion turbulence at the airport

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Is there any place more worrisome, more anxiety-producing than our modern airports?

There you are, standing just inside the terminal, numbly staring at hundreds and hundreds of people queuing up in dozens of different lines, all zig zag, going every which way. Can there possibly, you think to yourself, be any real logic, any understandable order, to any of this madness?

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What happened to those days when someone behind a counter that only had a couple of people in front of it at any moment smiled at you and gave you your ticket? Then they happily took your suitcase, which you happily let them because there was an excellent chance it would be where you were going when you got there. Have a nice flight. Thank you for flying with us. Happy, happy, happy.

The line we were headed for right now led to a robot machine, which didn't talk much. Nor does it care one whit whether or not you fly the friendly skies, which, the machine seemed to say, we have almost a complete monopoly on so we don't care. Go ahead, it seems to say to you, try and figure me out. Punch a couple of buttons. Feels like a machine at a casino, doesn't it? Try your luck. Feel lucky? No, I'm not going to tell you where to put your credit card. You figure it out. Yes, I know. My engineers have cleverly hidden the swipe slot down there where you don't look for it. That's to see if you're smart enough to fly, you know.

You can't figure me out? Go drive a car. Or ride a bus.

Then you finally hit the winning combination at the slot machine/computer, and you spin off in another direction, looking for that long, winding line in front of the security check. And it is long. This time, it goes back and forth 12 times. You're front to back and side to side with all these people, and all the time you're thinking about that movie about The Next Plague, and how The Upper Japanese River Fever causes you to hemorrhage out in 20 seconds and did that lady just sneeze in your direction don't touch anything and look over there that person has a surgical mask on so she might survive a pandemic biological terrorist attack of anthrax or something. And you won't.

Whew. The line is something, but that's nothing compared to standing on one leg trying to get that damned shoe that won't come untied off your foot while a hundred people behind you see that, of all the socks you had to choose from, this one has a hole in the heel you can see before you even get the shoe off. Grumpy looking officials in dark blue uniforms stare at you suspiciously, while you yank on an uncooperative shoe and do a 360-degree ballet pirouette while hopping around madly on one leg.

Not falling down seems like a victory, and you slam your shoes in the plastic wash basin, dig keys and change our of your pockets, and frisk yourself to make sure there is nothing left on you that will allow the Homeland Security Gestapo to lock you away for the rest of your life. You pat yourself furiously. You look like an addict looking for his last pill, a smoker looking for his last cigarette, a fireman with his shirt on fire, that's what you resemble.

There goes your wash basins, sliding down the roller conveyor, shoes hanging out, and under the radar it goes just as you remember your belt, which you yank out and wave at the blue guard, who flinches visibly, and then tells you to just get another basin. The three people behind you don't seem terribly impressed with the ballet you just did, nor with the fact that your pants now don't want to stay up.

And you shuffle toward The Machine, the one that x-rays you naked, and you step inside, stand on the two foot prints and view the directions inside it that tell you to raise both hands in a surrender pose, which if you do, will allow your pants to fall down around your ankles. You curse yourself for wearing the loose-fitting ones, which are more comfy, really, on long flights, but are looser this time than they ever seemed to be because you haven't really eaten or drank in two days, nervous about this stuff.

You pinch your knees together, scrunch your buttocks in, and let go, and don't look, and then they wave you through but there's a hot spot on your left pocket and have you got anything in there no you don't what seems to be the problem stand over there please.

A man eyes you, and tells you to raise your arms and you say if you do your pants are likely to fall down and at the moment, sir, I cannot for the life of me remember if I put on any underwear this morning all this is so nerve wracking you know.

But they don't, and you did, and then you're through.

You find your gate, but no one is moving. Sorry, the airplane has a hydraulic failure we're trying to find another one thank you for your patience.

I love flying. Just love it.

Say, I want to say to the lady: How about that one just landing. It looks like a good one.

But I don't.

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