Saturday, August 12, 2006

Flying on day 3

It's day three of the Great Liquid Scare, and I have a flight to catch. I arrive at the airport one hour and 40 minutes early, that is, one hour and ten minutes before boarding, fearing that I'll miss my flight because of the long lines.

Most people are checking their bags, slowing down the check-in line, which is, indeed, very, very long. After about five minutes, however, a person comes to direct me to an unused self-serve kiosk for people with no bags to check. This is a nice pay-off for my earlier decision to throw away my toothpaste, deodorant and sunscreen.

With an hour and five minutes to go until boarding, I reach the security check, hoping that I have enough time. (Waits of up to four hours were reported on Thursday.)

I find three people ahead of me, and by the time I put my wallet, cell phone and ipod in my bag, take out the laptop, and take off my shoes, I am holding up the line. There is a woman with two small children behind me, and she is too kind to complain. After we collect our bags, she and the small children are detained for further inspection, and I am free to go, with an hour to wait until boarding.

I browse the "bookstore." I notice two books, one that explains women to men, and one that explains men to women. The subtitles are different in a subtly sexist way. "All you need to know about the inner lives of men" versus "A straightforward guide to the inner lives of women." Women are needy, I understand, while men need directions. There is also a book on how to change your life in 24 hours. I have 55 minutes to kill and perhaps browsing through the book will change that. One chapter is devoted to changing your appearence. It relates the story of a person who, at an airport, walks up to a complete stranger and asks "what do you think is wrong with my appearence?" The stranger criticizes the other guy's eyewear and sideburns, and the fellow makes an appointment with a barber and an optician after returning home. The lesson, I suppose, is that a stranger can judge us with more impartiality than we can judge ourselves. Who buys these books? I fantasize about trying this approach, but the fear of being arrested for disorderly conduct (the loudspeakers invite to "report suspicious behavior") is too strong. Besides, I don't see anybody of trustworthy fashion sense. And I surely can judge them impartially.

Moving along, there is a book about the Rapture, and a book with Anderson Cooper's face on the cover. As I am warming up to the prospect of reading the in-flight magazine, I find Barbara Ehrenreich's latest book Bait and Switch. You may remember her from her book Nickel and Dimed, where she goes undercover to report on the lives of minimum-wage workers, or from the time she took over Maureen Dowd's column in The New York Times, and we had the rare experience of reading brilliant woman-authored op-eds in the Times. In Bait and Switch she goes undercover as an unemployed white-collar middle-aged woman looking for a corporate job.

The book makes for a fascinating reading on the downward mobility of the American middle class. Unfortunately (spoilers ahead!), after an almost year-long search, she is unable to land a job, and so the book is devoid of what might have been the most interesting part.

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