Recent travel experiences have led me to believe that although humanity may not necessarily be doomed by its own social flaws, it is absolutely living on thin ice.
In this tale, I address the problem of Power Cookies. You know them; you just don't know that you know them. I have used the term for decades to describe the change that comes over certain people when they are placed in positions of authority or power over other people. Ever met someone who seemed drunk with power? Someone who brandished their authority over you for no reason other than the ability to do so? Think a little, and you'll come up with someone pretty quickly, I'll bet.
-That security guard in your apartment building who acts as if he was the emperor of the front desk area.
-The guy at the college football stadium who keeps you from bringing your camera bag into the game, because, in his words, "Terrorists can use bags to bring bombs into the stadium."*
-Anyone at an airport who pats you down.
-The snotty maître d' who has at least three open tables but will make you wait an hour anyway.
You get it. They are ubiquitous. These people all have something in common: they have all eaten Power Cookies, the invisible, yet powerful snack of petty dictators and angry people worldwide. They must be delicious, because so many people eat enormous quantities of them. And I met one of the more delirious ones, yesterday.
Remember the childhood story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff? Goats want to cross bridge, evil troll under bridge prevents them from crossing and threatens to eat them. That troll had polished off his appetizer of Power Cookies a few minutes before the goats got to his bridge.
My troll was a Continental Airlines
Perspiring, winded, and a little miffed (yet still smiling because I actually made it in time), I worked my way to seat 29A only to be met halfway by the aforementioned cookie crumb-laden Troll. Apparently, since being acquired by United Airlines, Continental's new greeting for passengers is to make a throat slashing signal with one's forefinger. I kid you not, the Troll's first action upon meeting me in the aisle was to run her finger across her throat, point at me, and say, "There's no room for your roll away bag."
But it wasn't as if she was informing me of a simple fact. With her best "You're late!" expression, and in her most authoritative voice, she made it sound as if I was trying to storm the plane and steal her special cookies. The words she used said one thing, but the meaning was clear. "Halt, you villainous bastard, or I'll cut your throat and kick your body out of one the three approved emergency exits!"
What the hell do you say to that? Between gasps for air, I tried to explain the situation to her briefly. Her reaction? "Well, sir. I am trying to help you! She wouldn't let me pass so I could at least put my computer bag down on my seat. So I simply asked her where the bag could be placed (at which time I'm sure both of us thought of pretty much the same thing). She had me trudge back to the front of the plane and try to find an overhead bin, which I did.
To shorten this long tale, she did what all flight attendants are trained to do, which is to raise human suffering to a new level, and to assert a certain bitter authority over us puny sardines whom the airlines pack into their winged tins.
Travel. The antithesis of what it should be, thanks to Power Cookies and a Norwegian folk tale.
* I swear on a stack of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life that these are the exact words that were spoken to me by some jerkoff at a Penn State football game when he refused me access to the stadium. My photographer friend and I both had the same cameras with us, but I had mine in its protective bag because it was raining at the time. My friend was allowed in, and I was refused entry because, in addition to my camera, I apparently could have been carrying Fat Man** in my small bag. The result: a half mile walk back to the car, in the rain, to put my camera bag back, and another walk back to the stadium. And I payed for the privilege.
**Look it up yourself, slackers. Respect mah Authority-Tay!