Sunday, January 08, 2006

thailand 1

Dear Friends,

This is day three or four in Thailand and I am not really counting.
This is the adult version of my travel-log, so delete it now if children are reading.

I flew on Horizon Air from Spokane to Seattle.

I purposefully dressed in inconspicuous and metal free clothing so that I would not be hassled by Homeland Security at the Airport.

I failed. I dumped my duffle bag, Montana Public Radio shoulder bag, shoes and vest on the plastic trays so that some stranger could inspect the contents with the x-ray machine. He or she looked intently at the TV monitor. I am guessing he or she was really watching Sponge Bob Square Pants re-runs on cable, but that is immaterial to the narrative. I step through the high-tech metal detector and it beeped. I complemented the woman screener on the fact that the floor was dry for my stocking feet and that I would not have damp toes for the next 24 hours of travel time.

She asked me to take my change out and put it in a plastic tub. I walked through again and beeped. I was about to remove the watch and belt buckle when she motioned me over to the “special area.” A security guy was running his hands over an elderly woman’s calves. Hmmm. He motions her to go and looks at me.

“I have to check you more closely,” he says. “If you want, you can ask for a private room.” Ouht oh! I say “No, that’s OK, Just don’t get too personal.”

He reaches into a box and pulls out a pair of blue rubber gloves. I haven’t seen a pair like that since my last doctor’s physical. “Ouht OH!”

The TSA (transportation security agency or something) agent is shorter, plumper and more tanned than I am. Maybe 35 to 40 years old and either Native American or Asian ancestry. Kind of a pleasant fellow. He smiled, and not sadistically either. A good sign.

He has me stand on the “special” carpet, the one with two foot prints woven into the design. Reminded me of Arab toilets, the ones with two foot prints to stand on when you squat or stand to pee. The foot prints are about 2 feet apart, so I stand there with legs spread. He asks me to hold my arms out straight with palms up. I stand there in supplication.

I thought he was going to ask me to close my eyes and touch my nose—then recite the alphabet backwards. He wands me and the thing beeps here and there. Then he says I am going to have to pat you down. I looked for a cop car to lean against. He rubs his blue hands all over my chest, arms and legs. I remove my watch and belt.

Hmm not good. Then he is squatting down caressing my ankles. He stands up and says something like, now I have to check your torso. I will be using the back of my hands. He proceeds to perfunctorily and professionally run the tops of his hands near my groin and butt. I start to wonder what a smurff hand job feels like and think I know the answer.
In spite of provocation, I don’t say much. You know how I can say the most inappropriate things at time, but this is the first step in a 7 thousand mile journey. I don’t want to be the subject of a report on CNN so I bite my lip. Besides, there is always the threat of a cavity search and he already has the gloves on. I really, really don’t want to sit on my ass for the next 24 hours with K-Y oozing out of it.

He sends me on my way. Oh thank god. I look out of the airport window at a nice Canadair Regional Jet and think, Wow, they upgraded the equipment.
They announce the flight and the woman at the gate says “please go to the airplane on the right. No luck there, buddy, it really is a turboprop. A nice Dash 8Q-400, but never the less, a turboprop. The cabin was narrow, the seats narrower and there were lots of them. I thought it fortunate that I was sitting behind the propeller line, but my only view was the left engine nacelle. So much for a window seat.

My seat mate was a Mormon salesman. Nice fellow actually. We chatted about Carrier heating and cooling systems that he sold. The pilot said the flight will be a little bumpy, which I understood to mean that we were ridding the roller coaster with no tracks. I looked at my seat mate and almost warned him that I would grab his hand in scarcely controlled terror if we started to nose down toward the Cascades.

But then, why should I make him nervous too? Yes there was a light chop, but nothing that some prayer and butt clenching didn’t cure. Glad, again that I did not get the K-Y at Spokane.

The view of the Cascades was spectacular, and the tops were way too close to the airplanes wheels. We were at 18,000 feet, but I could still see cars and trucks on the highway and lots of snow. I remembered seeing the movie “Alive” about the Argentine rugby team that crashed in the Andes. My seat mate was plumper than I so I had a chance to be chosen last in the musical chair game of “guess who’s coming for dinner?”

Landed in Seattle airport. I looked everywhere to find an envelope and stamp so that I could put my Last Will & Testament in the mail before taking off. This last minute stuff just kills me. I didn’t think it would float if the Northwest Airbus didn’t. You would think you could find an Air Mail stamp at a frigging airport. I guess everyone just e-mails important last messages to loved ones these days.

It is now Beer Thirty in Thailand, so I will write more stuff later.

Love and that stuff