Thursday, April 3, 2014

Del Does Security

He looked like Colonel Sanders in his beige linen suit and banana colored Windsor golf cap. Well, the cap threw off the KFC look, and Del did not have a goatee. But he had the white hair and the ease of an elder. I noticed that strangers smiled at the sight of him.

He was losing some of his memory, his ability to cope with stressful situations, like airport security, which, by the way, was where we were at the time. My 92 year-old father-in-law was navigating Sky Harbor on his way back to his summer home near Portland, Oregon.

This trip has gotten more and more stressful as the years have passed. He and Stella needed a bit more help with the labyrinth that flying is in the post 9 - 11 era. Their decline adds poignancy to the moment; I don't know whether or not this will be the last time we will help them get to their flight.

Megan and I drove them up from Tucson and were shepherding them to the gate. I could see bewilderment in his otherwise incisive, playful, confident gaze. He likes to laugh, but couldn't find the humor in laser scans, long lines, and metal detectors.

I held Stella's passport and boarding pass, just in case. We had made it past the ID check and had moved on to the X-ray station. We loaded his bag on the conveyor belt, along with his keys, glasses and belt.

He smiled and joked with the security officers. A few of them smiled back. Others looked at him suspiciously.

Why so friendly, you could see as they lowered their eyes. You never know who will try to mess with the system, to pull a fast one in the baggage lane.

That's when Del got busted. The metal detector went off when he walked through. The suspicious types jumped into action. See, I knew it, was all over them.

They wanded Del and found nothing. Very suspicious. Then they got to the shoes. Aha! Beep. Beep.

Del looked confused. The rest of us had made it through, no problem. But we wore shoes made in the late 20th or early 21st century. Del was wearing shoes with metal shanks -- Hush Puppies -- from the 50s. They made 'em well back then.

The security guys marveled over the wearable artifact from another era. Have you ever seen anything like these, they asked each other.

Just as the shoe mystery was solved, Del's suitcase was pulled over for further inspection.

A dangerous character knows to throw us off the scent with something like Hush Puppies, they thought. 

"Sir, could you step this way?" a big security woman half asked, half ordered.

Del did as instructed, a little rattled.

I was told to stand back, that they wanted to talk to him alone.

"Sir, is this your suitcase?" another uniformed official asked.

"Yes, that's my bag," Del answered, smiling, hoping to relieve some of the tension.

"Sir, stand back. Don't touch the bag. I'm going to open it and point to objects. You will then identify and explain those objects. Do you understand?"

Del nodded, with just a moment of hesitation.



"That will have to be confiscated," the officer said, as he set it on the shelf of liquids non-grata.

"How about this?"

"Soap on a rope."

"Hmmmm." You some kind of clean freak or what, went unsaid, but written in a look.

He dug into the case, carefully, with gloves on.

As he lifted the hem of a perfectly folded pair of trousers, he saw the plastic container. He pulled back his head like he had just seen a snake.

"This?" he asked, pointing.

"That's my Dulcolax," Del answered, relieved to know the correct answer.

"You are traveling in possession of Dulcolax? Trying to get through security checks carrying a large quantity of the stuff?"


"I thought age came with wisdom," the officer asked laughing.

"We could pull you over just for possession, but we want to monitor you to see if you plan to deal once you pass security. We will have cameras ahead, even in the bathrooms. So watch yourself."

"Can I go now?"

"You can go, but let this be a lesson for the next time you fly."

"That it will," said Del, giving me a wink, as he cinched up his Hush Puppies and pulled down his golf cap. 

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