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Curt Slocum

Slowing Down Flying Into Portland
By Curt Slocum
Jul 8, 2004 - 1:41:00 PM

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“Do you want me to take off my wedding band too?” He asked the security guard before going through the metal detector? “It hasn’t been off since 1940 and don’t know if it will come off,” he added tugging at his ring finger. He took coins, coupons and band-aids out of each of his four pockets and a few from his flannel shirt as I waited behind him hoping I wouldn’t miss my flight. “How ‘bout my suspenders? You want my suspenders and my belt too?” He took off his shoes and socks and placed them in the plastic container before going through the X-ray machine adding his watch and bifocals on top in afterthought. He was, in all likelihood, legally blind as the guard instructed himto “Walk that way,” pointing to the detector. “Huh? You want my hearing aid?” This happens every time I’m in a hurry.

Traveling isn’t what it used to be. Remember when they didn’t say, “You have been selected for special screening, follow me?” Back when they didn’t feel elderly men or women carrying tweezers and nose hair removers were international threats. I resent the indignity of having my luggage, shaving kit and clothes frisked, scanned, patted down and “wanded” over – seven times in a row. My laptop computer is tested for explosives and a swab is applied to the outer edges. The guard says, “You have a screw missing.” There is in fact a computer screw missing, making me a highly suspicious character of espionage. I repeat what he says back to him as a question:

“You have a screw missing?”

“Ya, right here.” He points to the battery pack casing.

“So you do.  Keep it if you find it, I’ve got a million of them.” I said. He didn’t think it was a joking matter .. and he’s right!

I curse Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and all the terrorists every time I have to fly. Why the network news refers to these lunatics on a first name basis only adds to my frustration. I don’t remember them ever being on a first name basis with Hitler. My ticket’s departing time says 9:33 AM. My arrival time back in Portland is 11:59 AM. Why can’t they just say 9:30 and 12:00 noon? Why is Portland’s International Airport labeled as PWM and not PIA on my ticket? It’s confusing.

I assume my window seat with the glee of a five year old. Flying into Portland and back home to Maine brings back the joy of flying. Soon I will be looking at the rocky shores, Casco Bay and the islands like old friends greeting me. I’ll see the hospital where my son was born, the Sea Dogs stadium and the winding ribbon like highways that have taken me and millions visiting Vacationland to a lifetime of memories. I open my novel and mentally begin to shut down as the same elderly gentleman is escorted on the plane. His aisle seat is next to me and he wants to talk. He looks through my window in anticipation of seeing something interesting.

In such situations I usually make an insincere welcoming gesture, saying “hello” while pulling a book, newspaper, computer screen or the “in case of a water landing” flight instructions close to my nose hoping the hint “do not disturb” will be taken.

“My grandson flew me out here, to see my new great grandson,” he said. Name is Harrison. Ain’t that something? That’s a big name for a little baby. They call him Harry. I nodded, smiled and pushed the book to my face. “I never left Portland except for the War. I was with Patton before coming home. Haven’t flown since.” I pretended to be reading while he sat silently for a minute during take off when he added, “He’ll never know me. Nope, prob’ly never see him again either.” I snuck a peak at his kindly face as he wiped tears from his eyes. I offered him my window seat which he gladly accepted. He talked a little to himself looking out the window but it didn’t bother anyone.

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