Saturday, December 11, 2004

Missing It

There was recently a huge, ideologically bitter fight going down at my alma mater, which is to say that life is carrying on as usual up there. When one graduates from the Saint Mary's College/University of Notre Dame family, one departs with one's philosophical lightsaber sizzling from four years of deflecting such rhetorical laser blasts as "the administration must form a committee to ascertain student input" and "we must demonstrate our Catholic character" and, of course, the Official Ideological Trump Card of the college student ("I thought this was AMERICA.")

It is the mark of a good intellectual to be easily offended, and when the Left-Handed ProLifers of Saint Mary's are riled and the Notre Dame Rodeo Club is affronted, the screams of the wounded commence, largely in the form of screeds in the student newspaper. Editorial content seldom changes; most cries for justice consist of a mishmash of eleventh-century Catholic doctrine, half a semester of philosophy and a selection of Dave Matthews' more ponderous liner notes. Microsoft's thesaurus function is consulted, charges of racism/sexism/capitalism/homophobia are leveled, the First Amendment is called into the arena, and usually at this point a newer, even more offensive crisis appears over the corn of the Indiana horizon. We refer to this as "community dialogue."

Thursday, December 09, 2004


The 9/11 Intelligence Act was passed this week, possibly in response to the following:

On my Thanksgiving departure flight, as all the world is now gratified to know, I rescued my boarding pass from obscurity and moistness in an airport garbage can. That's a tough Act of Blondeness to follow, so on the return flight I broke several international transportation laws.

I am very serious about my carry-on bag. It must contain supplies for all contingencies: Food. Water. Pillow. Toothbrush. Toothpaste. Cash for bribes.

These items, clearly alarming terrorist threats, held me up for a good fifteen minutes at security. Perhaps they were tipped off by the long involved cell phone conversation I had at the brink of the security checkpoint (it was about a potential job offer, in the middle of which I began shrieking “YES YES YES YES I WANT IT” which created at least four seconds of uncomfortable entertainment for the fine citizens in the shoes-off line). When I finally stepped forward to present my (this time) fully dry boarding pass, the agent said, “Miss, could you please step over to Lane 1?”

Ah, Lane 1 at CVG. Lane 1 is for the Very Special Terror Suspects. I stood in line between a hacking seventy-year-old man and a tiny Asian woman who probably couldn't make it through a revolving door without passing out. They glared at me, for it was clearly I, with my reckless cell-phone useage, who had outed us as a recently-activated Hamas cell.

My duffel bag with its Paperback Regency Novel Of Doom slid through the X-ray machine. Not so much with the purse, which was endlessly jimmied back and forth on the conveyor belt. The Pope hasn’t been photographed this much. There was much pointing and squinting at the monitor.

“Miss, can you step over here while we go through your personal property?” yelled one of the agents as I hopped over to the machine—on one shoe, mind you—to pull my carry-on from the belt. Okay, now they’re making us do immunity challenges before we’re allowed to get on the plane.

Go ahead on,” I said, propping my foot against a chair to lace up. I love the awesome folding chairs the airports put by the X-ray machines, because that totally makes up for inhaling the Nike fumes of the entire population of the 7:20 flight to Newark. Who actually sits there? Who’s planting cheeks on a surface the rest of the world has used as, basically, the floor? They have an actual bench in Orlando’s airport, delicately painted with curlique d├ęcor on the sides—the better to slam your crosstrainers against.

They got out the bomb swipes. Have you seen these things? They’re little white disks, and the TSA rubs them all over the item in question to check for traces of explosives. I have throwaway touch-up sheets kind of like this. You dab them against your face to sop up unsightly shininess without smearing your makeup. I have passed many hours deeply reflecting upon both these objects, struggling to determine which better serves humanity.

Then began the Rummage Section of the TSA Official Terrorism Prevention Procedure, which involved looking askance at my YOU ARE IN MARGARITAVILLE AND I AM THE WOMAN TO BLAME keychain, probing a suspicious tube of Bonnie Bell lipgloss (“See, Dave, it’s the Metallic SuperShine. We’ll detain her for questioning, of course”) and verifying that, if the pictures of Jim the Baby Nephew in my wallet were twenties, I could have easily bought my own plane.

They put my purse back together, a task which, really, only the mighty arm of the United States federal government could achieve, seeing as tissues and mirrors and pens and Teddy Grahams and Zach Morris-sized cell phones explode out of there at each unzipping.

Well… that’s fine. You can’t be too careful. Check all day, TSA.

So I’m on the plane, and I’m sitting there, and I sense a need for an Emergency Face Swab. I got out the mighty-mighty carry on, the one that slid riiiiiiiiiiight through security, and opened my makeup bag, in which I had to move my Lady Gillette with all three of its blades in order to get to the face wipes.

But whew am I glad they fully vetted those Kleenex.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Mother's Day

December 8 marks the feast of the Immaculate Conception, when we Catholics put aside our fretting over bingo covers long enough to reflect on the creation of the stainless soul of the Mother of God. Mary is specially graced, but I think it's safe to assume that she doesn't remember this event. If she does, she would likely reflect upon it as a somewhat uncomfortable surprise-- just like everything else in her life.

The Blessed Mother was an everyday peasant woman who was going about her everyday peasant life when a single obedient “okay” to some weird guy with wings changed everything, everywhere.

Nine months before little Jesus arrived, Mary's life was set. She was well-respected in her village. She was engaged to a nice boy. Her life lay before her, a straight and serene desert road.

And just as she adjusted to the idea of becoming a mother without the help of a man, she was forced away from the cozy home birth she probably expected, complete with midwife and her mother at her bedside. Instead she did it in a stable in far-off Bethlehem. There were sheep and cows and a feeding bin—- and an escape to Egypt that meant no return home until her child was almost two years old.

“He’s run off with his friends,” she must have assumed when her Son turned up missing in Jerusalem some years later. Imagine her shock when she found Him zinging the elders in the Temple with wisdom far beyond His twelve years.

“A carpenter, like his father,” she likely thought as watched her Son grow. But suddenly in the place of wagons and fishing boats were throngs of people demanding to be healed; then, a soldier’s cruel whip and a cross.

What did she expect on Easter morning? Did Jesus clarify for His Mother the teachings and predictions that so often escaped the apostles?

Whatever Mary had been steeled for, she was likely knocked sideways by the intense sorrow of the cross and the relieved joy of Easter.

And when her Son was lifted away from her forty days later, she was probably surprised again, only to be amazed once more when the formerly trembling apostles, infused with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, went tumbling into the streets to proclaim that her child was indeed alive.

A mother’s life, turned upside down again and again by her own child.

These things happen, when God is involved.

Sunday, December 05, 2004


Let us speak of airports and how I love them, and how they hate me. I adore an airport environment, as long as I have plenty of reading material and $57,000 in ready cash to buy a bottle of water and nobody touching, or within a ten-mile radius of, my person.

People are going places in an airport: Are they coming or going? Happy or sad? Trying to kill me, or merely attempting to goad me into killing them by sucking up four entire chairs with their carry-on barges? You must observe these things; otherwise, it’s all gate announcements and automatic faucets (“Will waving my hands here turn it on? Here? Here? No? Here? Screw it, I’m washing my hands in the toilet.”)

So I’m sitting there at the gate the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and I’m eating my hot pretzel (net worth: $1.8 billion) and I throw away the napkins and I go to the Little Jaded Traveller’s Room, and when I get back… ummmmmmmm… where’s my boarding pass?

No step-retracing like a frantic step-retracing involving a now-unflushed public toilet, and I couldn’t find it, and now they’re announcing the flight, and oh crap oh crap oh crap, and… awwwwww man, I know where I haven’t looked.

I have suffered many airport indignities, not the least of which involved lying down in the middle of Stapleton Airport in an attempted absolute refusal to leave the state of Colorado, but they all fall dead in the face of dumpster diving for a boarding pass. I don’t know about you, but I like my boarding passes wadded with salty napkins, reclining against a half-eaten tuna roll, slightly moist.

I began to feel horrible about handing this thing off to the gate agent, but when he picked up the gate microphone and said, “It’s time to talk turkey about boarding rows eighteen through twenty-nine!” my heart was filled with gladness.

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