The last time I flew in an airplane, Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp were good friends. In 1998, Microsoft launched Windows 98, women’s hairstyles were bigger, sagging became popular not just among middle-aged women, but also with teenagers who positioned their pant waistlines at their kneecaps, and the average person sent just 0.4 text messages a month.
Times have changed. Regulations have been instilled to keep all of us safe when we travel by airplane and the guy who manufactures three-ounce bottles and quart-sized clear plastic bags recently purchased his own island. While he’s drinking champagne every day for breakfast, the rest of us are worrying about how our hair will look at a business meeting if we can only fit two hair products in our clear, quart-sized bag in our carry-on. As I tried to cram all my tiny bottles in that tiny bag, I felt like I was trying to assemble a 1,000 piece puzzle on a television tray. “Do you think anyone would mind if I didn’t brush my teeth for two days?” I asked my husband.
“Good grief honey,” he answered. “Just take one of the hair products out of the bag!”
“But I need my shampoo, conditioner, gel, mousse, and hairspray,” I replied. “I’m warning you … I will look like Phyllis Diller if I remove even one of these products!” I exclaimed.
He sighed. “You have to take toothpaste. End of story. I don’t want to hear another word about it.”
The next morning, he dropped me off at the airport curb, clutching my 17-inch carry-on bag in one hand and my quart-sized, clear bag full of three-ounce bottles in the other.
“You have 1.5 seconds to drop off your passenger before I have to arrest you!” a policeman yelled to my husband.
There was no time for a kiss. “See you tomorrow night, Phyllis!” my husband shouted as he drove off.
I slowly made my way toward the long line that was forming in front of the security checkpoint area. Ten years ago, airport security officers could have cared less if I had a boarding pass or wore a ring anywhere else other than on my left hand. I tried to prepare in advance by removing my belt as I walked down the hallway. By the time I got to the agent standing at the entrance, I was clutching my pants to hold them up. “Boarding pass and valid driver’s license,” she ordered sternly. I needed to let go of my pants to reach for my license and boarding pass. I did one of those neat maneuvers that all of us do to keep your pants up when they are falling down. I bent over slightly at my waist and used my elbow to hold them up while I passed her the documents she requested. She scrutinized them and passed them back to me and said, “Take off your shoes and coat and put your three-ounce items in a bin.”
I bent over to take my shoes off and my pants slid down further. I’m pretty sure the tourist behind me who was going to view the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia saw a crack they weren’t planning on seeing that early in the vacation. I placed my shoes, purse, three-ounce bottles, and my carry-on bag on the belt. I clutched my pants with one hand again, much to the delight of the people in line behind me, and walked into the little booth. I placed my feet on the Sasquatch-sized footprints on the floor of the booth and waited. Suddenly, short bursts of air shot at me forcefully from every direction. I yelled, “Is this is a glaucoma test, because I just had one of these in July!” I didn’t hear a reply, so I walked out of the little booth.
The security agent came around the corner and shook his head. “Just like a little kid,” he said. “Get back in there and wait until I tell you to come out.”
“Do I have glaucoma?” I asked weakly when he motioned for me to come out. “I have been having blurred vision lately and reddening around my eyes, especially when I drink wine before dinner.”
He didn’t respond as he led me back to the booth. As I endured the blasts of air again, I realized I needed to walk through yet another screening area before I was cleared. I was pretty sure my three-ounce bottles would be in Chicago by the time I got through security.
Thirty minutes later, I boarded my plane and realized I had accidentally booked myself on an “Express Jet” which translates in secret airline language to: a plane with visible propellers and a pilot who wears a scarf and goggles. As I tried to jam my carry-on under the seat in front of me, I felt like I was a size 36DD woman trying to fit my sisters into a size 32A bra. The lone flight attendant aboard offered to check my carry-on. I said edgily, “These three-ounce bottles are not leaving my side!” Together, we managed to fit that suitcase under the seat in front of me. Unfortunately, my legs had to sit in 14F while the rest of me sat in 10A since there was no longer any room for them to fit in my row.
After enduring four flights in 24 hours one of which was a white-knuckle flight through snow, wind, thunderstorms, and a bolt of lightening that came within two feet of hitting the wing of our “Express Jet” and a six-hour delay in the Chicago airport, I’ve decided to take an Amtrak train the next time I have a meeting out-of-town.
I heard they have passenger snack cars and your carry-on bags can weigh up to 50 pounds with no liquid restrictions. My hair is going to look great. Too bad I won’t be able to see it. I think I have glaucoma. Airport security broke the bad news during the screening process on my trip home … right after they asked if anyone had ever told me I look like Phyllis Diller.