The Long And Winding Tale Of Ice, A Stuffy, And The Beauty Of Getting Older And Wiser

Happy corgi

I took the puppy on his morning walk earlier today while it was snowing. He loves the snow. Loves it. Actually, love might be an understatement. He and his short legs hop through it like a casual rabbit inspecting a yard. He buries his face in it and comes up with his black, button nose covered in white. He flattens himself out into the corgi sploot, the spotted paw pads on his back feet facing the sky, and pulls himself along on his belly as if he is his own sled. His joy in the snow is contagious. And so I love walking him, especially when the snow is still falling and I can revel in his exuberance and the beauty of Mother Nature’s the-sky-is-falling impression.

The snow was powdery and low in moisture. It was so cold that my boots squeaked as I stepped through the snow. About two inches had fallen by the time I got home from carpool and got suited up in my Sorels and my waterproof ski jacket. As we rounded the corner onto the path that runs behind the houses on our side of the street, I noticed an area ahead where it looked like a dog might have rolled around trying to leave a doggy snow angel. When I got closer, though, I noticed there were no dog tracks. Odd, I thought, as I continued on. Next thing I knew my right foot slipped and, before I had the opportunity to save myself, I landed hard on my right side, my elbow and wrist bearing the brunt of the fall. I sat there on the ground a bit dazed for a few moments, and then I noticed there was pain in my shoulder too. Nice. Loki looked at me impatiently. You gonna sit in the snow all day, lady? I have sniffs to get, and we’re not getting any younger. At least now I knew why there had been that impression in the snow. It wasn’t a dog that had rolled but another person who, like me, took a digger. Too bad I hadn’t Sherlock Holmes-ed my way to that conclusion before I discovered there was ice under that snow.

I finished the walk by hobbling along on any grass I could find, hoping to avoid another fall. I made it home without another incident and began packing for my evening flight. Luke and I are flying to Portland for one last college visit. He was accepted into Reed College, but we weren’t able to do an in-person visit there before now because of the school’s Covid restrictions. When they sent Luke his acceptance letter, though, with a copy of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, it felt like Reed might just be a good fit for our fearless reader. So we are on our way to spend a couple hours with a student and see if this is his place.

At any rate, after my fall earlier and in anticipation of developing bruises and pain from my Ice Capades, I decided it might be prudent to add a heat pack to my bag. So I tossed in this eucalyptus-and-peppermint-scented neck wrap I bought off Etsy last year from the Flax of Life shop. The hotel room has a microwave, so I figured better safe than sorry. Getting older can be a bit of a bummer.

The snow stopped in time for our drive to the airport, and with a gorgeous sunset to our west over the Rockies I was feeling pretty confident about our trip. We got a spot in the garage and headed straight for the Clear queue at security. After I did my chalk outline impression in the millimeter wave scanning machine thing, I went to grab my carry on roller bag and noticed it was set off to the side. Well, crap. A TSA employee grabbed the bag and opened it up. She unzipped the portion where the heating pad was and took it out to test it for explosives, I guess, and as she did the stuffed dog I sleep with nightly fell out onto the inspection table. Of course it did. I stared at Elliott (that is his name) on that cold metal table and felt bad that he had been so unceremoniously outed. The residue test on my Etsy purchase came back negative for whatever nefarious crap they were testing it for, so she put it and my dear stuffy back into my bag. No harm, no foul. We were on our way.

There is a beautiful thing about getting older. Eventually you learn not to care. I mean, you still care about the important things, like your family and friends and the health of the planet and maybe the date the next season of Ted Lasso hits Apple TV. But you stop caring about little things you finally understand don’t matter at all and aren’t worth your brain power. I don’t care if the entire TSA line saw my stuffy sitting there (although Elliott might have words for me about it later). I don’t care if I had a heating pad in my bag for an injury I sustained while trying to walk and failing. I don’t care if any of the neighbors saw my less than graceful wipeout. What I do care about anymore is only what my circle of concerns contains. And it definitely does not contain any dignified concern about being exposed as a 53 year old who travels with a stuffed dog.

A friend was telling me today that she is sick of people on hiking web sites complaining about rock piles. I had to ask for clarification about this, but apparently people who are nature purists get quite bent about the rock cairns other people create to help mark a trail. These people feels this is an aberration in the whole “leave no trace” movement. All I have to say about these people is that they haven’t become wise with age. Because if you are lucky, as you age you learn not to give a flying figlet about things that don’t really matter. If you’re lucky, you get old enough to realize that you can only be shamed when your stuffed dog falls onto a TSA table if you decide to give that shaming power to someone else. You learn that there are only so many hours in a day, so righteous indignation about rock cairns might not be the best use of your precious time. You learn not to focus on small things you can’t control (an undignified, painful fall on some hidden ice) and only to focus on what you can control (putting a heating pad in your carry on bag). You learn to say “bless his heart” when an idiot in a lifted truck with truck nuts speeds around you and then cuts you off. You learn to let go.

Life is short. Walk the dog. Fall on ice. Take a trip. Enjoy the relief of a heating pad. Overlook the rock piles. And for holy hell’s sake, stop worrying so damn much. Everything will be fine.

Loki says “Don’t worry, be happy…like me”

I Just Discovered The Job I Was Meant To Do…Airport Security

If you can’t travel for a living, then work where you can torture those who do.

So, all this recent air travel (I’m writing this from a hotel room right now) has prompted me to make an important and potentially life-changing discovery. I have uncovered the job I was meant to do in this life. For most of my adult life, I felt that my introverted orientation would best suit me for a career as a writer or researcher, solitary jobs where I could work with limited human contact. I once even entered library school to pursue a master’s degree in library and information science because libraries, above all else, are quiet places…peaceful places where no one is allowed to yell or run around or disturb anyone else. You see, I don’t generally care for human interaction. It exhausts me and, unfortunately, most jobs require you to interact with other people. Finding a job where you rarely have to deal with people at all is difficult because most of those jobs are already being done by other introverts who got there first. Sigh.

Well, I’ve spent a lot of time in the airport recently and what I’ve realized is that I was meant to be a TSA employee. Yes. I know. Airport TSA agents encounter oodles of people each and every day. But, you know what? They don’t have to be nice to them. Most TSA agents are sarcastic, bossy, and standoffish. You know what? So am I! You know what else? The government pays them to be that way every single day on the job. Have you spent any time watching an airport TSA agent? They have complete and utter disdain for humanity. Why shouldn’t they? Have you met people? Most people are confused. They don’t read signs. They can’t follow directions. They’re completely bewildered in the airport. They’re unwilling and unable to adapt. Even now, nearly 11 years into a post 9/11 world, people still don’t know how to get through this enhanced airport security. They remain unhinged.

Oh. They mean well. They try. But, TSA agents shout so many instructions and there are always newfangled scanning machines and it’s all so darn confusing to the average person who only occasionally travels. The problem is that there are A LOT of those type of travelers in the airports slowing down the screening process and annoying the living crap out of the poor, beleaguered TSA agents. This is why, I believe, they are belligerent. We’re mucking it all up and making it nearly impossible for them to get to their well-earned coffee break.

My mother-in-law who, by all accounts, has traveled a great deal got caught up in the security nightmare last week at the Miami airport as we were going through U.S. screening after returning from Ecuador. They asked her to walk into one of those large millimeter wave scanners where you stand with your feet spread wide and place your hands above your head like you’re being robbed while the machine’s arm scans you down to your birthday suit. Apparently, Marlene did it wrong because the TSA agent yelled at her as she exited the scanner.

“Do you have something in your pockets?” the hefty and thoroughly frustrated agent bellowed.

“Just some Kleenex,” my mother-in-law replied quietly.

“You are supposed to empty your pockets,” the agent reprimanded. Then, in a shrill voice she yelled right over the top of my mother-in-law’s 5′ tall head. “RECALIBRATE!”

This forced another TSA employee to roll their eyes, get up from their stool, and reset the machine that my mother-in-law had obviously disturbed. Now, most of us would not think twice to leave a piece of paper in our pockets because with the traditional metal detectors we’ve been used to for years, a mere piece of paper would not be an issue. “Empty your pockets” used to mean take the metal out of them. Now, it means take everything out…hence, the need for flippant comments when explaining in excruciating and obnoxious detail what the term “empty” means. Having carefully watched this scanning process while waiting in endless lines at the airport, I noted that approximately 1 in every 5 scans may end in a recalibration because someone either touched something or left something in their pockets. That’s a fairly high percentage of people messing with the process and, consequently, a fairly lucrative opportunity for overt sarcasm and disdain for humanity. Where else could I get paid to show how much people annoy me?

So, you see, I might have found a better alternative career for myself. I’d thought about writing some sort of book or something, but a job with the TSA might be more therapeutic and beneficial. I could take out my endless frustrations with clueless humans in a public setting. Then, when I was depressed by the sheer number of perplexed and befuddled individuals wandering through this great nation, I could retire from the TSA and write a book about my experiences. Seems as if I’ve finally found both my calling and my book opportunity. Hallelujah!