Security Details

I was overweight. Me and my luggage. The agent behind the airline counter said I should remove something otherwise it would cost me $200 in fees. “Do you do liposuction?” He had no sense of humor. I lugged the bag over to a scale and hoisted it on with all my might. I was only 7 pounds over the permissible 50. “Cut me some slack,” I thought with my heart pounding. I was facing a 14-hour flight. What was a measly 7 pounds? I looked over at him. He pointed to a sign that said, “50 lb. limit.” I pulled out my make-up bag. That did the trick. But now my purse was so heavy it threatened to pull my shoulder out of its socket.

Even with TSA pre-check and an escort from CLEAR, my purse was pulled off the conveyor belt for inspection. No kidding. It overflowed. The agents were looking for a sharp object. They decided it was the camera lens I was carrying for a friend. I knew it was my nail file and dagger attitude. IMG_3973

When I got to the gate, or tried to, there was another security check with pat downs, checking of bags and screening for chemicals on my clothes. I went through that twice. I ran upstairs to buy another purse to divide my overload in two places. Both times I had to go through security. That’s the price you pay to fly to Israel.

It made me ask why we don’t do this in all our airports. Why only on flights to Israel? It’s because Israel demands it. So why don’t we? We’re too lenient and too trusting. TSA isn’t going to catch every bad guy in the first run through. We need two screenings, especially one just before boarding. That way we can x-ray your therapy dog and your neck pillow.

Calvin says, “That would mean I’d get x-rayed again, and that slab of bacon I stole from the fridge would be discovered.” beagle

 

 

 

 

No Dreaming

I recently flew Boeing’s Dreamliner to Israel. The name sounds romantic, doesn’t it? It conjures up visions of comfort and luxury. Fourteen non-stop hours zooming through rainbows and clouds tinged with sunset.

Let me tell you, the Dreamliner is no dream. It must have been a name the design team dreamed up in a space capsule at Disney World.

It might fly like a dream for the pilots, but if you’re in economy class, look out, you’re in for a delusion.

The seats are made of plastic, they’re narrow and uncomfortable. When you pile in 242 passengers, it feels like a flying sardine can.  Image result for dreamliner 787

The wingspan is impressive. It’s almost 198 feet. It sports two enormous Rolls Royce engines. They’re noisy.

There are no shades on the windows. At the press of a button the window dims from light to dark. Magic glass. I wonder what it’s doing to my health.

The flight map is in twelve languages with Arabic getting more prime time than all the others.

My seat mates, both women, put on headsets and fell asleep almost immediately, holding me hostage by the window. The middle seat woman maneuvered herself into a fetal position with legs protruding into my limited space. I had to pour her back into her area.

The toilet lid hit my back as I sat down, flushing every two minutes with that scary sucking sound. I thought my insides would fall out.

The in-flight entertainment was lousy. No good TV shows. The movies were old. I couldn’t find the music stations. Probably weren’t any because people come plugged in these days.

There were four pilots taking shifts flying this metal cylinder at 558 miles an hour through space. The sun at this altitude was neon green and reflecting off the wing and streaming into the window making me look like Shrek. Or maybe it was the plastic tinted window that did that. It was so hot you could have cooked potato pancakes on it.

There were eight flight attendants. Three men and five women. Big people, older. No nonsense. They were probably undercover Mossad.

I gave one of them a bag of treats and thanked him for serving us and got a lukewarm response. He was probably suspicious of the contents.

I finally woke up the two sleeping beauties and walked to the back of the plane for a stretch and a bathroom break. In front of the galley a rabbi shrouded in prayer shawl regalia was praying like men do at the Western Wall. Then a group of young Israelis came looking for food and drinks. Two Jewish mamas came in next inspecting the trays of sandwiches in the same manner as in their own kitchens.

There was also a slew of pre-orders of kosher, vegetarian, you name it food trays. Flight attendants walked up and down the aisles with flashlights in search of the right passenger in the correct seat in a darkened plane.

I walked to another section where I met two women from Cincinnati who had been up for more than 24-hours. Their flight from Cincinnati to New Jersey to Tel Aviv was cancelled, so they were re-routed to Denver, then San Francisco to catch this flight. They were delirious.

An hour out, we were instructed to stay in our seats until we landed. This was Israeli law. All the men lined up to the bathroom.

Thirty minutes before landing, as I looked out the window, there were no outside lights on the plane. I wondered if that was Israeli law, too. That we must land in a shroud of darkness like a bat.

Calvin says, “Any dogs in the cabin? We could have been given a crew bed to chew our kosher chicken bones there.”  beagle

Tag You’re It

“How could you have lost a plunger?” the clerk at the hardware store asked on the phone. “What did you do with it?”

Clearly this was a repeat customer. Her tone of voice gave her away.

Was he asking for a replacement or help in finding it? I didn’t stick around to find out, but it did make me curious.

How could you lose a plunger? How could you lose any plumbing tool for that matter? They’re large enough to trip over. photo (34)

I’ve lost rings down bathroom drains, wallets at the check-out stand in supermarkets. I even lost Calvin once on a walk. He gave me signs that he was sufficiently trained to obey me, so I let him off leash. I blinked and he was gone. The next thing I heard him baying like a coyote in heat. He found a hole in the fence and wiggled through to run after a hare. I called him, but he was deaf. He was camouflaged in a thicket of bushes. I called louder. Nothing. I couldn’t climb the fence without tearing my body into pieces. I kept calling louder, but I was getting nowhere. By then I was hoarse. Finally I found a gate, unlocked it and ran through it. I spent an hour running all over the park calling for him. A park ranger drove by and stopped. I told him I was looking for my beagle. Had he seen him? The ranger laughed. I wanted to swat him. He said he’d keep an eye out. Did I want a lift back to my car? Yes, please. I was exhausted and ready to sob. How was I going to tell my son that I lost his dog?

When we pulled up to my car, the ranger laughed again. There was Calvin sitting on his haunches waiting for me.

Calvin says, “I remember that episode. And you thought I was the idiot.”beagle

Wildlife in the City

Riding the subway sometimes feels like a wildlife journey. This morning as I waited for the train to arrive on the outdoor platform, I heard the quacking of ducks. The sun hadn’t risen yet. It was dark. I couldn’t see the birds, but I heard them  quacking to each other incessantly. They had a lot to say and were passionate about it. Finally they took a breath and that’s when the geese started in with their honking. They were loud and vociferous. The ducks couldn’t take it and flew over my head with jet-engine speed.  FullSizeRender (23)

Yesterday as I boarded the train to go home a woman told me not to sit down. “Why?” I asked. “There’s a rat in here!” she said horrified. I look behind me and sure enough the rodent was zig-sagging across the aisle. The passengers were screaming, men and women alike, jumping out of the way. The rat scampered as fast as his little legs could take him in and out of the rows of seats. Women were lifting their legs. The screams got louder. It ran past me and onto two seats by the door. It found a hole in the back of one of them and disappeared.

We stopped at another station. People got on. The seats were filling up. The only two empty ones had the rat in residence. “Don’t sit there!” a man said to people who wanted to sit down. “There’s a rat in the seat,” he said. The riders walked to another car.

At another stop a woman got on and sat down. The same man warned her, but this time in Spanish. He just knew she was Hispanic. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “No me da miedo.” She was right. There was nothing to be afraid of. The rat was in its hidey-hole with a palpitating heart hoping nobody would rip the seat out and extinguish it. The rodent had nothing to fear. There wasn’t a soul on board with the courage to do that. Even the men, some in hard hats and fluorescent vests, big burly construction guys with tool belts around their middles, might as well have been ballerinas in tutus for all the help they provided.

It showed me I better be my own warrior.

It also occurred to me that the easiest way to hold a group of people hostage would be to unleash a few rats on a subway system. The entire system would be paralyzed in no time. 

Calvin says, “You humans. What’s a stupid rat going to do to you? Now snakes, there’s a thought.”  beagle

Spice It Up

I’m writing this on the subway on my way home. Two women, about the same age, complete strangers, sit in front with their backs to me. I notice both have the same shade of blonde on their heads, out of the same tube, probably the same store and shelf where all the other hair dyes live, where a spectrum from black to almost silver beckon to female customers. Boxes and boxes with faces of models half their age. I wonder what shade they picked. Bubbly Blonde or Gold Nugget. One is trying to camouflage the Earl(y) grey. The other had highlighted the mouse(y) in her head. At any rate, it doesn’t work. I would have chosen a warm brown with flecks of red cardinal to make their complexions come alive.  unnamed (2)

I say if you’re going to change your color, go for broke. You can always paint over it if you hate it. Or live like another woman for a while. It’s your opportunity to go Bohemian, paint a canvas, go belly dancing or hug a stranger, your husband. He’d think he walked into the wrong house. You might come home looking ten years younger and then the adventure begins.

Calvin says, “So when’s your next appointment at the hair dresser’s? I could use a little excitement around here.” beagle

Walking is Better

Once upon a time in a world long ago flying was a pleasure. From the moment you got to the airport to when you put your tush in your seat you were treated with respect and hospitality.

I was on my way to becoming a flight attendant for PanAm when all of a sudden it went belly-up. I wanted to see the world while hosting travelers on their planes. To this day there’s nothing I’d rather do than travel, that is until I get to security. Then it’s all out war. I refuse to go into the scanners. I’m convinced they’re a health hazard. New York TSA agents are the worse. They’re bullies. Well, I bully back, which throws them off their game. That’s when they threaten me with harsh pat downs. “Bring them on,” I say standing my ground and glowering back.

It seems to me airline travel is a burden to the airlines. I think they’d rather be transporting chickens than humans. At least chickens wouldn’t be a threat on board or try to commandeer a plane into mass destruction.  You’d just have to clean up a lot of feathers after every trip, but then you could diversify and go into making pillows.photo (90)

Flight attendants are tired and irritated with the long hours of the work day. Pilots no longer just fly the planes, they also do cabin clean-up in between stops. There’s no time for lunch. I’ve seen crews grab granola bars and wilted salads at the airports. They’re probably dehydrated, which explains their impatience with the public.  And the hours of cabin pressure I’m sure is stressing out their hearts and lungs. No wonder they’re angry. Nobody is taking care of anybody and it trickles down to the traveler who only wants a beer, a movie and a smooth trip home.

None of this, however excuses United from the abominable treatment of its passenger on the flight out of Chicago. I noticed that neither pilots or crew were involved in the incident, which was good otherwise if I had been on board I would have bolted off the flight, realizing I was in a horror movie. And then the airline would have had its empty seat.

Calvin says, “The friendly skies look troubled these days. Stick to walking.”  beagle

Third Time

After driving to Tulsa and leaving off my friend there, I flew back to California. It was on the flight from Dallas that I got the adventure I didn’t get on the road trip.

We were late in pushing back from the gate because there was a technical glitch in the cockpit that needed investigating and fixing.

We finally got clearance for take-off. We were strapped in and ready. The engines were revved up and we flew down the runway, but then the pilot slammed on the brakes. He revved up again, we gathered speed, and he slammed on the brakes again.

At that point I was going to raise my hand and say I wanted off the flight. taking off

The captain aborted the flight and we taxied back to the gate where we sat for another half hour as a tech worked on the indicator light that insisted on blinking its beady little head.

I was grateful our captain wasn’t taking any chances with the flight, so that calmed me down.

The third attempt at take-off was successful since I’m writing this. The flight itself was uneventful and the landing was smooth without any hard bounces.

I thanked the captain as I got off for another day of life. He was madly writing notes on a clipboard.

Calvin says, “Woa. If I had been under the seat I’d had bayed my head off.”