White-Knuckles and High-Fives

This has been a tough week for someone who is quasi-retired and spending his early a.m post-run hours as a pajama-clad citizen journalist. Yesterday I wrote one of the greatest blog posts since Al Gore invented the Internet. But for the second time in two weeks, when I hit the WordPress publish button, the digital words vanished into the black hole of cyberspace. Just like Nancy Pelosi’s commitment to the health care public option.

Oh well. As Jimmy Carter opined — life isn’t fair. And sometimes it’s more of a struggle than it should be.

Take my return trip from D.C. to Cleveland Wednesday night as both an example and as a cautionary tale about how situations beyond most anyone’s control can alter behavior. It was white-knuckle time at both the airport and on the airplane.

When I head to D.C. these days, I go via plane from Cleveland or Akron-Canton to Reagan National and back. And generally no major issues. I’ve learned to go through security barefoot like one of the Hare Krishnas who used to greet travelers with flowers and inspiration during the 70s. And I’ll admit it. At my age the occasional strip search is, well, kind of exhilarating. It’s like being invited to join a live performance of Hair.

Yet when I made my way to Reagan National late Wednesday afternoon I wasn’t prepared to wait in the security queue for almost an hour. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Would I make the flight? Would I have time for a couple of Yuenglings at the National Airport Grill?

And what might the problem be? Well, apparently the security folks were being extra cautious following the revelation that some Transportation Safety Officials managed to let the agency’s security screening procedures get posted on a blog. Here’s from a BBC News report:

The document revealed which passengers should always be given extra screening unless specifically exempted, including people with passports from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Somalia and other countries.

It said prosthetic devices, medical dressings, wheelchairs, scooters and surgical footwear may be exempt from screening for explosives at certain times.

It also said that at busy travel periods, screening procedures could at times be reduced to 25% of normal levels and that properly accredited flight crew were not subject to restrictions on carrying liquids and gels on to aircraft.

Certain US politicians and members of the military were exempt from additional screening, it said.

Whoa. I can’t take a loaf of cranberry bread through security but the congressional pooh-bahs and gasbags can go unchecked? I digress.

OK. I made it to both the National Airport Grill and the airplane on time. Then the real fun started.

The flight should have been renamed the White-Knuckle Express. We came into Cleveland facing 40 to 5o mph wind — and no bronco rider in the rodeo had a tougher mount. Woot.

And think of the landing much like the description of the new roller coaster at Kennywood Park near Pittsburgh.

Kennywood’s new launch coaster will feature many exciting and unique features including three inversions and a 0-50mph launch in three seconds! After the high-speed launch, riders will experience a vertical ascent to 95ft before a brief cliffhanger pause at the top and a 90-degree drop into a maximum G-force pullout. The riders then enjoy extended airtime as the train races into an inverted top hat element, passes into a barrel roll and goes vertical again through a twist up leading to another pause.

Riders experience a second vertical free fall followed by another maximum G-force pullout on the way into a highly banked fan curve. After a traditional corkscrew, a curve to a zero gravity hill, and a series of wave turns, riders finally return to the station.

Ah, barf bag anyone? But we made it. And in all the years I’ve been on airplanes, this was the first time that the passengers cheered and applauded wildly on landing — and saluted one another with a high-five or two. It was like the good old days. When the Steelers manhandled the Browns.

Like I said. Tough week.


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