The Greatest Generation?
And today is no different. I'm headed to Dallas to conduct a Q&A with top Diageo executives on stage in front of 500 beer distributors in character as Cliff Claven from Cheers. That's another story...
I wait in line, pulling up my beltless pants, wondering what the hell is taking so damn long. Ah, at the front of the line I see an older woman dressed like my mother. She's sporting casual wear from Chico's that any other person in any other generation other than the self-proclaimed Greatest Generation would call pajamas. Bejeweled pajamas. Sequins glued to a cotton blend in the shape of a playful blue dog, almost like the one in Blues Clues (but not so close as to merit a licensing fee), with the elegant caption, also in sequins: "Wuff!" Greatest generation, indeed.
She is slowly, slowly taking off her pink Croks .... pink and turquoise seem to be favored hues. This is the same generation that insisted their children, us, wear a coat and tie on an airplane because, as they haughtily put it at the time, "we're not riding a Greyhound bus, after all." If only! I can still remember my mother, ten in the morning, a glass of wine on the dresser drawer, a cigarette dangling from the edge of her lips, "Sit still for Pete's sake!" as she knots my tie. "You don't want to look like a low-rent, do you?" as my older sisters sat dutifully in their ill-fitting yellow dresses, ready for our 45 minute flight to Houston. As if a little five year old blonde boy wearing a t-shirt and jeans on an airplane, (an airplane!) would be the equivalent of dropping him right square in the middle of a Dickens novel. The popular air travel look for little boys back then was Little Lord Fauntleroy, even for middle class schmucks like me, unfortunately for me and my friends.
But apparently my mother and those like her have put aside those airs in the ensuing years. Big time. In 1973 they would would beat the tar out of us for whimpering because we were scared of rodeo clowns or, say, the player piano (whole nuther story). But they would stoically endure the tears and tantrums of their children as they squeezed us into a too-small sports coat or frilly dress in order not to scandalize the patrons of Braniff flight 2B from San Antonio to Laredo.
While now, a first class trip to London requires nothing from them beyond comfy pants and a "world's greatest grandma" t-shirt. And from what I've experienced, not even a bath is apparently required. Greatest Generation, eh Tom?
This woman, whom I now imagine in my mind is only faking being old to get special treatment -- probably can beat me hollow on the tennis court -- is now fake fumbling through her gigantic purse for her ID and ticket, as it apparently never occurred to her before now that anybody would ever deem to ask her to present these obscure and hard-to-locate items at the airport. At security. At the front of the line. A full eleven years after 9/11.
When I finally get to the front of the line after what seems an eternity, I kind of expect the TSA agents to compliment me on the way I quickly snap out my ID and ticket on approach, how I place my shoes directly on the conveyor rather than wasting a bin, or the way I collect my toiletries in the perfect-sized ziplock bag, or how I take EVERYTHING, including tissue paper, out of my pockets so they can x-ray me, how I NEVER set off an alarm because, unlike Lulu, I don't forget the ten pounds of jewelry I'm wearing, or how my laptop is neatly symmetric with right corners in the direct center of its plastic bin. Look at me: I never hold anybody up. I am efficient. I know the rules. I should get some sort of recognition for doing this flawlessly, week after week. For the love of God, these agents must recognize me by now.
But no compliments are forthcoming. Not even a "well played dude" nod. In fact, I am treated with shabby disdain while this old bag lady in the dated unlicensed Blues Clues sweatshirt who held up the line for 15 minutes digging around for the six inch steak knife she didn't know she couldn't carry in her suitcase gets accolades for freely and gaily submitting to a TSA patdown. Damn Tom Brokaw and his Greatest Generation propaganda. Probably the best action she's gotten in years.
"I don't like the steak knives they give you at Tavern on the Green, you see," she sweetly explains to the TSA agent as he gropes her. "They're greasy and don't hold an edge -- so I bring my own," she adds. The agent nods his approval, "smart move," and allows it through, while my fingernail clippers get me thrown to the wall with a, "you've always struck me as suspicious, week after week bein' so efficient..."
Afterward, as I walk bow-legged to the area where they have benches where you can attempt to reclaim your dignity as you put belts and shoes back on, I turn to a young Asian guy who is obviously a fellow frequent flyer by the looks of his light-but-functional carry-on bag. Do I see the flash of silver that betrays an American Airlines Platinum tag on that computer bag? We are brothers of another mother. I point my chin at fake Blues Clues lady, who is still gathering her things at the conveyor belt as the bags behind are piling up upon themselves, and give him a knowing glance and roll my eyes, "Ugh, old people, eh?" He looks down red-faced and inches away.
Obviously his mother never put him in a tie to fly Braniff to Laredo.