Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Great Full Body Scanner Protest

Detroit 2010 11 23 003

As usual, I was off to Detroit this week and as usual I had be out of the house early in the morning before my children woke up. This morning I had a good plan for killing the time before my flight took off though – taking my new wig to get it trimmed at “Top This” in Austin. A TG friend of mine had sent out an email bragging the place up so I thought I’d give it a whirl. I’ll let you know how it turned out when I get it back!

As I entered the place, the owner, Bonnie, looked at me and shook her head.
“You look great! Ask any of the girls that know me and they will tell you that I’m pretty blunt and tell the truth, and I’m telling you that you look terrific!”
“Well thanks!” I told her with a grin. “Of course it’s all about the hair. I learned a long time ago that if there is one place that someone like me should spend the money, it’s on the hair!”
As she looked over the wigs that I had brought, she clearly agreed with me.
“These are nice, really nice. I love the highlights in this one.” She said as she gave them a professional eye.
“Isn’t that neat? I’ve spent over a year looking for a good replacement and this is the closest I’ve come to it yet.” I told her while pointing at the new wig that I wanted her to trim.
She gave me another long look and once again shook her head.
“You look so good. Do you actually work that way?”
“No, but I do most of my traveling this way.”
“And no one knows do they?” she said, phrasing it more as a statement than a question.
“Oh, you would be surprised. A lot of people figure out what I am pretty quick.”
“Well I don’t see how.” She said shaking her head.

Detroit 2010 11 23 001

Having successfully dropped of the hair I needed trimmed, I headed out for the Austin airport to catch my flight. It was kind of a miserable looking morning, with clouds threatening and a very high wind, so I chose to cost my company a little extra and park in the garage instead of the close-in lot where I normally park.

I got all checked in with US Airways and stepped over to a bank of chairs they have along the front wall to take off my jewelry, take out my laptop, and the other odds and ends you do to prepare for the security check point. As I made my way there, I noticed a woman making a huge production out of trying to get in the doorway, and all it took was one quick glance to tell why she was having so much trouble. The poor woman was struggling with two huge roller bags, had another bag across her back, AND was pushing a full sized baby carriage. She could only take one or two steps before something would drop or fall. I thought about offering to help, but airlines and the people traveling on them, are really paranoid about letting people touch other peoples baggage these days. As I was contemplating the issue, she moved another two feet forward before one of the roller bags fell. There was no question in my mind that she couldn’t possibly move all three rolling devices forward at the same time unless she suddenly grew a third arm and so I walked up to her.
“Where are you headed?” I asked the poor woman who was standing there gasping for breath. She just looked at me for a second with a deer-in-the-headlights expression until it struck me that I had not made my intent clear with that question.
“Which counter do you need to go to? I’d be happy to give you a hand if you like?” I clarified.
To my relief, her face lit up like a light bulb as she realized that I was just offering to help her.
“Thank you, but my husband is just parking the car and will be here in a moment.” She said with a grateful smile.
“OK, if your sure?” I said, giving her one more chance.
“It’s OK, I’m just gonna wait here for him, but thank you so much!”
“No worries!” I told her with a wave and headed for the security check point.

As I sat in my isle seat and people filed past me, the man in the seat next to me struck up a conversation.
“Normally I fly American. I have status with them so they treat me pretty well.” He said.
“I know what you mean. I usually fly with Delta myself, and for the same reason. I’m Gold with US Airways and Delta, but Delta almost always upgrades me.”
“I hear ya’!” he said. “I can’t recall the last time I had to fly coach.”

Sitting in an isle seat toward the front of the plane during the boarding process means a lot of leaning to the side and holding your hand out to keep people from clobbering you with the bags they have over their shoulders as they walk by, and at one point the guy next to me starts to laugh.
“So how many times have you been hit so far?” he says with a grin.
“At least half a dozen. I take it you’ve been there and done that too?”
“Oh yeah, that’s why I choose window seats!”
Just then, someone stops at the seat in front of me and tells the woman seated in it that he is in the window seat next to her. As she tries to stand up and get out of his way, there is a loud “Thump” as her head strikes the over head compartment. It was so loud that you hear several people seated around commenting on it.
“Tsk tsk” 
“ Watch your head!”
In a moment they are all seated again, but then she apparently realizes that she has left something in her bag and stands up to get in to the over head compartment.
“THUMP” we all hear as she strikes her head again.
“Owe . . .” the poor woman moans to the laughter of everyone around her.
As she takes something out of her bag and then takes her seat to fiddle with it, I tap her on the shoulder.
“Don’t feel too bad about that. I’ve left plenty of scalp on many planes myself.” I told her with a laugh. Apparently done with what ever it was she got out of the bag, she stood to return it to the over head bin. This time she was careful and didn’t get hurt, so I winked at her when she glanced my way.
“I see you finally got it right!” I told her.
“I know, right?!” she laughed and said.

When I got to my hotel in Canton Michigan, it was almost 8PM, I’d been up since 4AM, and I was looking and feeling pretty worn out as I approached the counter. There is a cute African American woman about my own age behind the counter and she looks up with a professional smile.
“Hi – welcome to the Holiday Inn. Checking in?”
“Yes ma’am.”
“Last Name?”
She goes down the list once, then does it again before convincing herself that I must be the one and only Huddle on her list.
“Great! I see you’re here for two nights?” she asks.
“Yep, sounds about right.”
“OK, we have your platinum priority club status on record so your good there.” She tells me with a smile. “We aren’t very busy, so how about I give you a room upgrade?”
“Upgrades are cool. I like upgrades!” I told her with a grin.
“Well then, let’s get you one! Besides . . . “ she looks both ways to be sure that no one can hear her. “ we’re family!” She says this with a grin and then puts out her hand to high five me. It took me a half a second to realize she meant the GLBT family and then I grinned and high fived her back.
“Cool!” I told her with a smile. She starts hitting lots of keys to change my reservation to a better room and then looks up at me.
“Girl, you look fantastic!” she told me with a bright smile.
“Well thank you. Not too bad for having been at it for over 14 hours huh?” I told her with a smile.
“Your kidding?! Now that’s a long day!”
As she was getting my room key and paper work together, I grabbed a cookie from the box on the shelf.
“Thanks for the cookie and the upgrade!” I told her with a grin.
“Your welcome, and thank you for staying with us.”

As seems to be the norm these days, my next day I just did my job and called it a night. No movies, no clubs, no karaoke. Instead, I sat in my room surfing the internet, and copying my blog posts from Myspace over to blogspot because the new format at Myspace sucks.

Detroit 2010 11 23 005

The following morning it was time to fly home from Detroit to Austin, and oh good-goody, there was supposed to be some big revolt where people were supposed to refuse to go through the new airport scanners. As I made my way to and through the airport, I was really worried that people refusing to go through the body scanner were really going to gum up the works and delay my getting through security. I was talking to the Avis bus driver on the way to the airport about it.
“So do you have any idea if the protest against the full body scanners is slowing things down or not?” I asked him.
“I don’t know if it has been an issue or not, but most of the networks have film crews here just in case.” He told me and pointed out the window toward all of the news vans parked at the airport.
“Oh great, just what I needed! Now watch, some bright reporter is gonna freak – ‘Oh my God! They’re letting drag queens fly’”! I mimicked.  I thought the Avis bus driver was going to have a fit he was laughing so hard.

Detroit 2010 11 23 013

Checking in with the US Airways counter, the man looks up at me.
“Good morning and welcome back. I could be wrong, but I think I’ve checked you in before!” he said with a smile.
“It’s entirely possible. I fly out of here pretty often! So is security going slow today due to the ‘protest’?” I asked him.
“Not at all. In fact I think that people were more irritable yesterday than they are today.” He replied with a smile.
“Oh great – and I showed up three hours early just in case!” I grumbled.

As usual I was one of the first people to board the airplane and so I took my aisle seat in the second row. In a few moments I hear a lot of noise at the door to the aircraft and look up to see what it’s all about. I can’t see anything interesting yet but I can hear a woman breathing like a locomotive making her way up the steps.
“Do they. . . “ gasp, pant “. . . have a jet bridge . . . “ pant, gasp “ . . . at Austin?” I hear the woman on the steps ask the flight attendant.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know. I think so, but I’m not sure.” The flight attendant tells the woman as she enters the cabin. Flying in and out of Austin as often as I do, I know for certain that they always use a jet bridge there, and I resolve to answer the woman’s question as she walks by me. As the woman steps on to the aircraft, I’d swear that I heard the floor groan under her, and as she comes into view, I am nothing short of awe struck. I have never in my life seen a human being that large. She is easily six hundred pounds, and at least four feet wide, and the floor is literally flexing under her as she walks. As she entered the cabin, she had to turn sideways to fit between the bulk heads and I found myself desperately praying ‘Please, oh please, don’t let her be in the seat next to me!’
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the type to poke fun at someone for being overweight, but my being an understanding person doesn’t necessarily mean that I want to spend the next three hours being pressed between the wall and huge woman that I don’t know. My heart sinks a little as she stops next to me while reading the seat number off of the over head bin. I made the effort to give her an inviting smile because I didn’t want her to feel bad or self conscious if she was going to sit next to me. After all, there are probably people that I sat next to that weren’t thrilled to sit next to a cross dresser either, but I didn’t recall any of them treating me badly. Still, I’d have to admit that I started to breath a little easier as she backed up, and with great effort took the seat directly in front of me. As the crowd that had backed up behind her started to file past, I tapped her on the shoulder.
“Yes ma’am, they do have jet bridges in the Austin airport.” I told her.
“I thought they probably do, but do they use them?” she asked.
“They do. I’m a frequent flyer from that airport and I’ve never once had to use the stairs like we did here.” I assured her and she thanked me as relief flooded across her face.
Just about then a young couple entered the aircraft and stop to compare notes as to where they are seated.
“I’m in 1A” he tells her, pointing to the seat next to the over weight woman in front of me.
“And I’m in 2A” his wife replies, looking at the seat next to me. Hearing these comments, the large woman in front of me starts the long process of getting out of her isle seat so that the young man can get past her. As long as she was up, she stepped a few feet forward to ask the flight attendant for a seat belt extender. The couple look almost panic stricken as they realize just how uncomfortable he is going to be for the next three hours. Right about then, the pretty young wife notices my glance in their direction.
“You know, we would really like to sit next to each other. Would you mind trading seats?” She asked nicely. This is normally not an unreasonable request, and one that I have always said yes to in the past, but there was no way in hell I was going to willingly change seats this time. Now the problem was, how to tell her that with out seeming like a complete asshole?! I looked at her, then looked at the back of the large woman still standing forward trying to get a seatbelt extender, looked at the seats, looked at her . . .
After about twenty seconds the young lady gives me a grin making it clear that she has thought it out and realized what she has asked.
“Maybe not huh?” she says with a little laugh.
“I’m so sorry. I’ve never ever said no to that request before, but not this time.” I told her, torn between a frown for the guilt that I felt for not exchanging seats, and the grin I felt for knowing that we both knew it was an unreasonable request under the circumstances. As she took her seat next to me, I glanced up to make sure the over weight woman was still standing forward and engaged with the flight attendant, then I looked at the young couple.
“I’m really sorry guys, I like to think that I am a reasonably nice person, but I’m not about to take that one for the team.” I told them softly. They both laughed and assured me that they understood. As everyone was getting settled, the poor guy kept moving around and shoving his seat back, desperately trying to find some way to be comfortable with the woman extending quite a way in to his seat. I sat there feeling guilty, and feeling sorry for everyone involved, and then I decided to try and get a laugh. On my last flight, I was in first class and they had brought me two of those tiny bottles of Vodka when I ordered a screw driver. One bottle I had used, and the other I had thrown in to my back pack. I reached in to my back pack and handed it to the wife.
“Here, give that to your hubby. It might make his flight a bit more bearable.” I told her with a wink. She looked at it for a second and then bust out laughing while she leaned forward to give it to her squished husband.
“This is from my seat mate.” She said with a grin and a nod in my direction. He turned to get a look at me and mouthed “thanks”, opened the bottle, and downed it all right then and there with no mixer and no chaser. I looked at his wife.
“Ouch! Well that might make his flight a little more tolerable. Looking at the bright side, you two are sure gonna have a story to tell when you get home. . . “


  1. There's no real way around that one. I think everyone understands your not moving. Sucks but there it is.

    I hope you had a great holiday!

  2. you know that happens every time you get the 'Shakespeare seat' (2B or not 2B)

    Happy Thanksgiving...Teree