I spent last week in Washington D.C. (How do I end a sentence with “D.C.” — with two periods in a row?) I’m entirely too lazy to write a full narrative of my assorted adventures, but I did have the presence of mind to jot down some notes.
I was certain that I was going to be searched repeatedly in Sea-Tac airport. After all, the last time I flown I’d been subjected to more scrutiny than a pretty girl in a bar, and that time I’d been (a) clean shaven, (b) armed with all my necessary documents, and (c) accompanied by The Queen. This time I was a disheveled, unshaven, single male with an “e-ticket,” a new pair of thick-soled boots that had ample room for explosives, and a face full of irritation owing to a lack of morning coffee.
But at the check-in counter they were unfazed by my badly frayed driver’s license, and let me turn in my luggage without having to endure a search. No one glanced at me twice as I waltzed through the metal detectors, even though every third person was getting pulled aside. By the time I actually boarded the plane — again, without attracting any attention whatsoever — I began to wonder if I’d become invisible.
Or maybe … Maybe I didn’t get searched because I had mentally searched myself. So sure was I that I would get patted-down and wand-waved that I had examined myself from head to toe, categorizing everything about my appearance and demeanor that could be interpreted as “suspicious” and preparing appropriate explanations and excuses. Maybe the airport staff could sense that I had done their job for them, and had therefore opted to let me go without comment.
Maybe the FAA had a hidden agenda. Maybe they had taken Socrates dictum “The unexamined life is not worth living” to heart, and all these elaborate “security measures” were, in fact, a covert way of forcing Americans into self-evaluation, giving us the opportunity and motivation to to view ourselves as we are seen by others. Maybe the government, like the Oracle of Delphi, is simply taking the opportunity to say unto us “Man, Know Thyself.”
Or maybe I hadn’t had enough coffee and was borderline delusional. That was also a distinct possibility.
And Back Again
An hour into my return flight a stewardess came over the intercom system. “I’m going to begin the short video feature,” she announced. “We will follow that with the in-flight movie in about an hour or so.”
An hour passed. No video was seen.
Just as a second attendant was asking me what I wanted to drink, the voice of the first stewardess echoed through the cabin again. “Whoops!” she said. “I ran the short feature, but I forgot to lower the video screens. Sorry about that! Anyway, we’ll start the movie in five minutes.”
The stewardess in the aisle rolled her eyes, handed me a Pepsi, and whispered conspiratorially “We just got a pretty face with that one, I tell ya.”