Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Every time I travel, I learn something new.

Turns out San Jose airport, aside from being one of the places on earth where more construction vehicles and dirt-moving apparati run amuck than in, say, a rock quarry (plus, I have never understood the fact that there is no terminal B. What's up with that?), is one of the new homes of these machines. Little blue illuminated "Clear" boxes alert you to the presence of these biometric machines that help you sail through security, with the help of a nominal fee (hah) and an intensive security screening that doubtless requires one to sell his/her soul to the devil...uhhh, to share the details of one's life with a corporate entity and the TSA (sorry, I know it's redundant, that last bit).

I think my father is correct about what is going on with air travel in this country. Mechanical difficulties, inane scheduling and missed connecting flights, the need to charge everybody for every little extra onboard your flight, and the tyranny of government-hired security inspectors are doing their darndest to keep all of us US citizens at home, forget the terrorists. Walk away from a security line with your son's yogurt having been one TSA agent's decision away from confiscation, and one day, you, too, will want to assemble a gun made of a Tampax applicator, a small canister of air, and a teeny magnet from a recalled Mattel toy made in China, in the event that your right to carry certain foodstuffs is challenged due to their liquidity.

Oh, I just ensured that I will never "Fly Clear" by typing that last paragraph. C'est la vie.

Plus, I never thought that I would see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of traveling with the little guy. Since he was nearly three months old, I have been schlepping the young 'un out to No-Cal to see the in-laws. The in-laws have been urging Dan and I to move to Silicon Valley for slightly longer than that, and this trip was no exception ( a big hint along the lines of "The bottom's fallen out of the housing market some around here, which we knew was coming. Good time to buy!"). In past years, I might have capitulated eventually due to the sheer volume and weight of all the stuff I've had to take on the plane. When I got our selves prepared for security yesterday, however, I realized that I no longer had to wrestle a stroller and a car seat onto the conveyor belt. I felt lighter as I removed my shoes and my son's sandals, put our couple of bags on the belt, realized neither of those bags contained diapers, and felt lighter still. I'd have floated all the way through security if it weren't for the yogurt debacle. I am no longer a baby-paraphernalia-toting pack mule. Wow.

We changed planes in Houston, and I took in some CNN airport news on the aforementioned toy recalls. The reporters were describing the effects of swallowed magnets on a child's insides and the fact that lead poisoning isn't something you can see the symptoms of right off. I looked over at my son, who is a happy, engaging, somewhat bossy character of a kid who hasn't chewed on a toy in years, and I had to wonder at the fact that people are still having children in such a world. All of this worry about the next lead-painted toy to come down the pike, the latest disease, the newest studies of child behavior and intelligence and how to curb the behavior and augment the intelligence...even the effects of environment on a child. It can eat you up, or it can melt away in a gorgeous moment.

"Hi!" the little guy greeted our seatmate cheerily. "Where are you going?"

"To Florida," the twelve-year-old kid said. "Where are you going?"

"To New Orleans!" my son exclaimed. "It's our home!"

"Oh," the kid said, a tad glumly. "We're moving to Florida."

"I moved to New Orleans!" the little guy chirped, "from New York. I was born there."

Before any of us knew it, my son had made a new friend. The little guy ended up on the lap of this preteen kid who was heading to the unknown with his family, looking out the window and verbally sparring with the bigger kid about what they were both seeing. "Thanks for putting up with my son," the preteen's mom said from a row or two up.

"Hey, my thanks go to him for putting up with the little guy!" I said, and we both smiled.

Security comes in many guises, and sometimes can't be detected through an X-ray machine. Amazing how a four-year-old can help someone much older feel more secure about something as big as a move. I must alert the TSA. I think they could use some lessons on making everybody feel more at home in their own public spaces.

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