It was like a WWII newsreel: the endless line of defeated people pushing their baggage, inching towards the inevitable checkpoint.
"Achtung! Achtung!" blared the sound system at peak volume. "Do not leave your baggage unattended. It will be confiscated and destroyed."
The smell of fear was pervasive.
"How long have you been in line?" I asked the weary gent who looked as though he might have slept in his clothes.
"I started my trip two days ago at the Bakersfield airport and last night I slept in my clothes," he said.
Our attention was suddenly drawn to a ruckus at the front of the line. Two uniformed men were struggling to remove a flowered hat from a little old lady’s head.
"They are looking for her hat pin," someone whispered. "A hat pin can be a lethal weapon."
"Remember, hat pins don’t kill. People kill," I smugly countered.
That remark obviously earned respect as everyone in the line stayed clear of me from that point on.
Finally, two hours and ten minutes later it was my turn at the security checkpoint.
"You’re tickling me," I giggled as the electronic wand probed from one sensitive area to another.
The young security agent seemed like an animal trainer putting her charges through their paces.
"I hope you’re in good health," she said. "Earlier today I short circuited an old dude’s pacemaker."
"Good Lord!" I stammered. "What happened to him?"
"Well, after a few scary moments we finally revived him. It was nice that they gave him a free upgrade to first class."
Exhausted, those passengers who survive the security checkpoint enter the peaceful, serene world of the corridors leading to the gates.
It was a San Francisco International Airport never seen before. The few passengers seemed dazed and just going through the motions.
The one dramatic change was the attitude of all airport personnel: from the restroom porter to the counter ticket agents to the food servers to the flight crew. All were beaming, polite and conversational. It’s as if they were atoning for years of cruelty and indifference towards the passenger.
The change is so dramatic that the passenger is bewildered. He is actually being treated like — what’s the word? — like a customer.
The passengers on my Delta Airlines Flight 217 were collecting up near the gate. Now that racial profiling is allowable once again — and all government preferential programs have been set aside for the duration of the war — I can comfortably analyze, without fear, the racial, religious, national origin, age, and political persuasion of each traveler.
Here are some partial results of my survey of the 65 passengers: 37 were white, Christian males (easily identified by the vacant look in their eyes). 32 of this group were married (the vacant look had become resignation).
There was one copper-colored woman who upon eye contact said to me: "I am not a Moslem, I’m a Hindu, and although I’m not a political person, I never was too crazy about Moslems. I happily join you, my Christian cousins, in smashing these unworthy Islamic savages." She ended by humming several bars of "America the Beautiful" and proceeded on to her next eye contact.
The only other non-whites were two young black men magnificently attired in business suits. The other passengers were puzzled why they dribbled basketballs wherever they went, even to the lavs.
One dribbled so poorly I challenged him "one-on one" and easily stole the ball.
"I hate this game," he admitted. "I just want everyone to know I’m an American Black and that I’m cool."
Leroy was as nice a lad as you can find.
"In the late 1980s I changed my name to Mustafa Mohammed, but I recently changed it back to Leroy Johnson. Please don’t let on that you beat me u2018one-on-one.’"
Leroy’s secret was safe with me.
According to any statistical survey, there should have been 2.7 Jews on board the flight. There weren’t even any folks that were borderline, and it finally occurred to me, this was Yom Kippur. A serious day. The highest of holy days for the Jews. They don’t play basketball, and they certainly don’t travel.
Even famous baseball player Sandy Koufax needed rabbinical dispensation to pitch in the World Series against the Yankees on Yom Kippur.
I must admit I began to experience personal guilt at traveling on the Jewish holy day, but it was Lew Rockwell who requested that I come to Auburn, and that comes close to rabbinical dispensation. Well, doesn’t it?
An hour or so into the flight food odors wafted from the rear of the Boeing 767 through the front cabins.
Was it possible that this new accommodating attitude toward the passenger would mean a superb dining experience at 35,000 feet?
In recent years, airline food disintegrated from being inedible to being unidentifiable. As the passengers started up their meal there was some rumbling.
"My spoon won’t penetrate the jello," complained one woman.
"My knife just snapped in two when I tried to cut the butter, " added another.
We all knew the truth: the plastic utensils were fashioned so thin and lightweight that they never could be used as weapons.
I respectfully suggest to future travelers that they add to their travel kits a pair of wooden chopsticks, but be certain they have dull ends.
I write this piece from a windowless room in the bowels beneath the Atlanta airport. They have taken my papers — and I am scheduled to be interrogated by the assistant airport commandant.
The humiliation doesn’t matter as long as I know my flight home will be safe.