As faithful followers and drop-ins who came upon my last post will be aware, I was on family-based break in Florida last week. Since I live in New Jersey, this involved flying. I have not flown for nearly two years.
At some point between my last flight and this one, the federal government decided that persons over 75 do not have to take off their shoes when undergoing security checks prior to boarding. It’s a development that’s not posted anywhere. A nice guard at Newark who inspected my driver’s license to be sure I was me noticed my birth date and kindly explained it to me. Very kindly explained it, as if I were in my dotage. (Would I be traveling alone in my dotage? Would I even be driving? Well, maybe.)
I wish I had known this earlier; I would have worn socks. As it is, I omitted socks to make removing sneakers and socks easier. I couldn’t remember if the socks had to come off too, and was taking no chances. Walking in sneakers without socks was a new experience for me, one I may not repeat now I know I don’t have to. (I was in sneakers rather than something more stylish because I anticipated much walking to my designated gate.) On the way back, still sockless, I checked with the Tampa guard to be sure this wasn’t a Newark airport idiosyncrasy; he assured me it was now “a federal regulation” in all United States airports.
While taking the long walk to the designated gate (I wasn’t wrong about that one), I thought about the federal government’s reasoning. What made 75 the cut-off age for the likelihood one would be planting explosives in one’s shoe? Was a 65-year-old more likely to be a shoe bomber? Or was it simple kindness for the presumably arthritic 75-year-old passenger who would hold everyone up while struggling with shoelaces? No, it couldn’t have been kindness; the federal government is not kind. It takes social security income into account when calculating income taxes owed.
On the other hand — over 75 or even 84, I still had to throw away my water bottle before entering security check. What is it that an old person who wanted to blow up a plane could do as well as a young person with a twelve-ounce bottle of Poland Springs water? Be imposed on to carry it aboard? Do I look like someone who can be imposed on after all my years of therapy? I get all hot and bothered about this because on the other side of security check I had to pay $3.00 to replace the identical bottle of water or go thirsty for over three hours.
Moreover, my age failed to exempt me from being patted down nearly everywhere by a woman guard wearing rubber gloves after a tedious explanation of what she was going to do and where she was going to do it. Since her hands went nowhere near my breasts or private parts I’m not sure why we had to go through the explanation, except perhaps that some old ladies might be upset at having their bottoms touched without prior notice. I was not spared from a gunpowder check on both palms either. Me, who hates killing a moth with moth spray?
Finally, I was free to retrieve my one permitted carry-on bag of the approved dimensions plus one “personal item” (meaning handbag), rearrange myself on a bench, and then begin the trudge — on my own elderly two feet — to the designated gate, Once there, and waiting to board after the military, people “needing extra help,” first class passengers, business class passengers, persons who had paid $40 extra to sit in the front part of economy class, I entertained many other thoughts which have nothing to do with age and everything to do with the now bare-faced greed of airlines for squeezing every possible dollar from its helpless passengers in ways that make flying not too uncomfortably for the price one paid for the e-ticket less and less likely. But that’s a post for another time, if I don’t forget about it until I need to fly again, which is entirely likely. How long can you go on aggravating yourself about old stuff when there’s something new coming down the pike every day?