Over 50, Still Kickin'

A slightly skewed perspective on life in The Middle Ages

Lee Ann Rubsam

The Peru Chronicles

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Leavin' on a Jet Plane

"All my bags are packed and ready to go .... I'm leavin' ... on a jet plane!" If you're my age, you'll remember the song. We are in the final countdown hours until the big triperoo. Tomorrow morning we are on our way.

I will never understand why some folks start packing weeks in advance. If I did that, I would have nothing to wear in-between-times. But it always makes me nervous when others talk about packing that far in advance, because I feel like I must not know something I really ought to know. I fret that there must be some mystery about packing, something I'm not doing right.

(It was this way when our first child was born, too. All the other expectant moms were going to childcare classes and reading lengthy books about how to care for the new baby. I thought, "How hard can it really be? I know how to take a bath, so I will know how to give the baby a bath." But everybody else made it sound so mysteriously hard, and I was right -- it wasn't.)

Anyway, I figured I could get the whole packing job done in 1 1/2 hours, no sweat. Well, it took me two. Big deal. But I didn't wait until the final hours to do it -- just because of that nagging notion that maybe the only proper way to pack for an overseas trip IS to do it weeks in advance. So I did it a whole day before take-off.

This afternoon I had to drop off our daughter at the airport so she could go live with her sister for a few weeks. We had never done such a thing before, and I innocently figured the airport people would help us through the "unaccompanied minor" gyrations we would have to perform. We did well with the ticket window people, but getting through the security folks wasn't the greatest fun I've had in a fortnight. They didn't quite know what to do with us. You would have thought they had never had to deal with the unaccompanied minor situation before. Our first contact person couldn't figure out why I was there. I explained my presence. He had to get his buddies -- two prune-faced fellas that didn't know what we were trying to pull either, but they decided whatever it was must be suspicious. Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!

"We have one 'selection,'" one of them dourly intoned. "We have two 'selections,'" another one corrected. The three of them looked at us hungrily, like big old buzzards who hadn't had a meal in awhile. I was still feeling innocent, thinking maybe we were such nice-looking ladies that we were going to be treated special or something.

Oh, we were treated special all right. They had us step off to one side. "Wait here, and when your things are done getting scanned, Don't TOUCH anything until we tell you to!" OK, wouldn't think of touching anything until they tell us to.

Our belongings made it through their scanners without blowing up. (Oops! Sorry! Didn't mean to say that! Airport nerves, you know. Everyone's a little touchy.) They said the shoe tray stuff was ready to go, so we stepped over to retrieve our shoes. "Wait! Get back here! You can't leave this area!" (Oops! Guess I was supposed to know that. Nobody said, and I didn't go through the TSA training school, but I guess I was supposed to know that. Whatever they learned in their training school, everyone else is supposed to know, too.)

They made us stand on a couple of little painted feeties on the floor, and told us to hold out our arms airplane-style (in honor of where we were, no doubt -- a salute to all dedicated pilots, I think). They explained that we were now going to do a pat-down. Suddenly it dawned on me what being a "selection" was all about. At the same moment, I noticed other people were passing through the system without being told not to touchy their things and without having to stand on the painted feeties in the airplane salute. Oh. The pat-down lady ran for her special hazardous materials protective gloves. I was expecting the black executioner's hood next, but I guess they don't do that at this time.

I forgot what I had lectured my husband about. He is pretty jocular most of the time, and the last time we flew I told him not to make any jokes, because the security people have no sense of humor and might take it out on him if he joked. I told him I did not want to make the trip alone while he sat in jail. Well, as I said, I forgot all that. The hyperventilating going on all around us was just too amusing. I decided to be friendly. I was curious. "Do children and their moms tend to pose extra threats over other folks?" I asked laughingly.

The pat-down lady must have been having digestion problems. She had that I-need-a-Pepto-Bismol-tablet look on her face. "Everybody's a threat, ma'am. We're just trying to keep everyone safe." (Picture Joe Friday from Dragnet, sucking on a lemon.) She was polite, but her voice was very tight. I think the TSA people probably live on stress-overload. Or, maybe the ones at our airport hadn't had a single suspicious body come through all day, they were all bored, and when we presented the opportunity in our innocent little rube-ish way, they figured they'd have something to do if they "selectioned" us.

After the pat-down, one of the prune-faced gentlemen rifled through our purses and Beebee's carry-on. She rolled her eyes while he went through the underwear. He swiped a little pad through her shoes and then scanned the pad. (In President Bush's very own words, "No WMD's there!") Oh, TSK! I forgot I had a bottle of anointing oil tucked away in my purse! They found it. But -- THEY MISSED THE VASELINE I KEEP IN A CHILDREN'S CHEWABLE TYLENOL BOTTLE! I suppose they thought there was children's Tylenol in there. Sherlock Holmes would have known something was wrong when it didn't rattle. I didn't inform them of their oversight.

Beebee was perturbed that she had to repack her carry-on when they were done rifling it, but she recovered her humor in a hurry. "Mom, we're just like the aliens in Toy Story! 'We have been c-h-o-s-e-n!'"

We managed to stay out of trouble until she got on the plane. No telling what I've missed from that point on.

Leave it to me to find an adventure waiting around every corner. I can't wait to see what Peru holds. We're supposed to visit a prison. I just hope it's merely a visit, and that I get to leave when the rest of the team does.

© Copyright 2007 by Lee Ann Rubsam. All rights reserved.

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