Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

Scenes from an airplane

Couple of things to note about Thursday night's red-eye to DC...

I'm not accustomed to being objectified in face-to-face encounters. I'm 5'11" (1,80m) tall, I'm white, I speak unmarked/mainstream US English. Service people perk up when I walk into stores, I don't get run down on the sidewalk by other pedestrians, I am granted a degree of automatic credibility in most encounters -- all the unspoken privileges of being mainstream, white, male and reasonably tall in American society. (Yes, these are occasionally offset by my choice of hairstyle and wardrobe, but those are conscious choices on my part.)

So lillypond and I were at the head of the security line at PDX Thursday night, shoving our belongings into the x-ray machine, when this guy walks past us and tries to go through the metal detector. The TSA gal monitoring the scanner stops him and tells him to put his cell phone, etc. into the x-ray machine, then says, "Also, if you're going to skip ahead in the line, you need to ask the people in front of you."

His reaction bordered on the bizarre. He didn't acknowledge what she'd said verbally, though he did stick his stuff by the machine. He wouldn't look at me or lillypond even though I was trying to catch his eye (at first, to tell him I didn't care). She told him the same thing twice more, and he simply didn't respond. If I hadn't been in the middle of the security zone, I would have grabbed his arm and said, "Am I a real human being to you?" -- his affect wasn't troubled or confused, it was "I'm too important for this line shit."

Mr. Big Time was eventually sent back in the line, where I think they pulled him over to the 'SSSS' line -- that's the latex-gloves, "please hold perfectly still, sir" line. He certainly didn't reappear while we were clearing security. I was absolutely fascinated by how he had utterly depersonalized me and my sister, for the sake of his own convenience.

Sadly, the moral of the story isn't that it's a bad idea to objectify your fellow human beings (what was I going to do about it?), the moral is don't ignore security people who have the power to detain you more or less indefinitely.

On the other side of security, my toothpaste was seized. Turns out the three-ounce rule (which I hadn't thought about because I normally check my toiletries in my main luggage) applies to labelling, not contents. I had a pathetically empty six-ounce tube of Colgate, which was deemed a threat to airline security, though I have to say the TSA guy who appropriated my toothpaste was quite funny about it.

Later, while on final approach to DCA (Washington National Airport), my flight was ordered off while they closed the airspace for about 75 minutes so the USAF Thunderbirds team could practice a Pentagon flyover in connection with the new Air Force memorial being dedicated this weekend. I had well over an hour of looking down at Northern Virginia farmland and suburbs, chatting with my delightfully interesting seatmate Jorge about the boutique hotel business, while lillypond (who'd been on a different flight and arrived just before the closure) and my mom cooled their heels in the airport. I have to say I don't quite understand the logic of shutting down a major airport in the middle of a business day for well over an hour so a few F-16s can hotrod around, but maybe that makes me a Bad American or something.
Tags: personal, travel

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