Ciao! The skies may be a little too friendly

BILL KLAUBER

Whatever happened to the friendly skies?

And do you remember the old airline motto that “getting there is half the fun”?

Well, today getting there or getting anywhere by air is no longer much fun.

And to me getting through an airline terminal, especially at holiday time, is no fun at all.

Moving through the beautiful new Southwest Florida International Airport represents a challenge to the most fit and agile passengers. Walking the considerable distance from the airport entrance and ticket counter area to the security stations at the individual concourses and then the actual gate can be a major challenge.

Shockingly, for a new terminal in an area serving a population with so many senior citizens, there is no moving sidewalk, tram or other assistance (except a wheelchair). Even inline skates or a Segway would help. (The police at the airport use them — maybe they could have a Segway with a trailer for passengers — sort of like the tuk-tuk or a rickshaw).

Because of the walk and in anticipation of a long line and delays in passing though security, we allowed an abundance of time. We also took into account the fact that the Thanksgiving holiday traditionally is the busiest travel period of the year.

And this year promised to be the most tumultuous and controversial because heaped on top of the crowds — like an extra helping of stuffing — were the newer tighter airline security measures which could include the highly controversial full body scans and pat downs.

Talk about laying an egg. The idea of being patted down like a — well, like a turkey in a butcher shop — ruffled the feathers of even the most complacent and compliant of passengers.

Until recently, taking off outer garments, shoes and belts were the only required undressing for most passengers. Now we could be faced with all sorts of indignities, including a strip search causing people to hope that nothing more than questions would be raised by these pat downs.

The cry of “don’t touch my junk” no longer pertains only to what is inside our carry-on bags.

And what is this intrusive scanning device where someone in another part of the airport will be watching every crevice for illegal and dangerous weapons? Will these images appear mistakenly on TV screens in waiting areas and airline lounges? Or perhaps sold to the networks for use on the Letterman, Leno and Conan late shows or some grim reality program on Playboy Network. Or worse yet, appear on YouTube.

Once one goes through this procedure, wouldn’t it be nice if we were given a waiver exempting us from future inspections and pat downs.

Certainly a pat down before Thanksgiving was bad enough. But after Thanksgiving is a bit embarrassing. After all, at Thanksgiving dinner in particular it is impolite not to clean your plate and I was very polite. I told myself that as I cleaned my plate of a second (or was it a third) helping of turkey, stuffing and the other trimmings, I also had a second (or was it a third) piece of pumpkin pie.

By the time I left the table, my figure resembled that of a pear. Certainly not an image I would like to see projected on some security screen at an airport. No problem, I told myself, I would lose some of that stuffing before our return trip.

You know what they say about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions? And what’s worse, we were once again changing planes in Atlanta where another old saying is that you can’t go to Hell without changing planes in Atlanta. I was resigned for the worst.

On that return trip, I had promised myself that even with all that additional flab, I still would opt for the body scan. This best laid plan was foiled as our flight departed from the old terminal at Ronald Regan National Airport where the body scan option was unavailable.

So a pat down it would be. As I was subjecting myself to that pat down, I couldn’t resist telling the TSA agent that:

You may pat me down, but too much scrutiny

Can make me mad and lead to mutiny

He didn’t even smile. He was having too much fun.

Ciao!

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