Air travel sure is a big old laundry hamper of fun these days. That's what I was thinking as I was removing my clothing in front of hundreds of people at the Denver airport (which is located in Wyoming).
For some reason, my traveling party had been singled out by the security people for a near-proctological level of scrutiny. This surprised me, because my party consisted of me, my wife and our 20-month-old daughter.
I cannot imagine terrorists getting anything done if they were traveling with a baby. Every few steps they'd have to change the baby, feed the baby, snatch lethal objects out of the baby's mouth, etc. They'd have no time for anything else. At the end of the day, they'd be going: "Did you commit the act of terror?" "No! I was wiping chocolate off her Snow White doll! I thought you were going to commit the act of terror!"
Nevertheless, we were singled out. This meant that while the other travelers -- all of whom, frankly, looked suspicious to me -- zipped through security, we were ordered off to the side, where a man told me to remove my shoes, belt and wallet, which he handed to a woman, who, without a word, walked off with them.
I was hoping that these were security personnel, as opposed to wallet thieves who had figured out that, these days, air travelers will do anything they are ordered to do. ("OK, Mr. Smith, I'm going to ask you to put your left hand in, take your left hand out, do the Hokey Pokey and shake it all about.")
Next, the man told me to hold my arms out so he could scan me. This meant I had to let go of my pants, which, being beltless, began to slide down, an occurrence that I am sure had been recorded in my Terrorist Suspect Profile on some computer somewhere ("USE EXTREME CAUTION. KNOWN MOONER.")
While I was performing as the World's Oldest Chippendale Dancer, other security people were insisting that my daughter toddle alone through the metal detector. But first they made her give up her Cow Baby doll, so they could put it through the scanner. I imagine the Cow Baby doll got their attention because it looks like a cow, but when you lift up the head, you see it's actually a baby wearing a cow costume. This is clearly suspicious ("LOOKS LIKE COW, BUT ACTUALLY IS BABY").
They finally let us pass, but when we got to our gate, they called out our names -- only our names -- and ordered us to hold out our arms to be scanned again, while all the other passengers looked on, no doubt wondering what kind of lowlife terrorists we were to be lugging around a baby.
It was embarrassing, but I have to admit that it gave me the security of knowing that if anything remotely suspicious had occurred on the flight, our fellow passengers would have beaten us senseless with their inflight dinner rolls.
Irrelevant Closing Anecdote: We were traveling as part of a tour with a rock band called the Rock Bottom Remainders. This is a group of authors who raise money for a literacy charity called America Scores by playing amplified instruments in such a way as to bring audiences to their feet, shouting: "OK, OK, we'll donate! Stop playing!"
One of our show-stopping songs is "Leader of the Pack," the story of a teen-age romance tragically ended by a motorcycle crash. Amy Tan sings this song, and we do a little routine wherein Amy's husband, Lou DeMattei, dresses up as a motorcycle gang member and simulates the crash by diving onto the stage. Lou prides himself on the realism of his dive, and during one show it was so realistic that he broke his collarbone.
So with the song still going on, Lou, the "corpse," was lying on the stage in agony, but the rest of us did not know this. Unfortunately, this was the night when I -- Mr. Funny Ha-Ha Humor Man -- decided to introduce a new comic element into the act, which was to kick the "corpse" to make sure it was "dead." So I kicked Lou. This was so hilarious that another band member, Stephen King, decided that he would also kick Lou.
Fortunately, Lou was able to stagger off the stage before his wacky bandmates ruptured his spleen. When the show ended, and we found out that Lou had gone to the hospital, we felt awful, and when we saw him again, we apologized profusely. Lou was very gracious about it.
Although, come to think of it, maybe he was the one who gave our names to the Denver security people.
"OK, Mr. Smith, I'm going to ask you to put your left hand in, take your left hand out, do the Hokey Pokey and shake it all about."