(Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport — Ten minutes ago) I couldn’t tell if the family in front of us was Amish, Mennonite, or some funk southern combination of the two. The wife was dressed in traditional garb, but the husband had dolled himself up in the blue jeans, button-up, and windbreaker worn by most unfashionable middle aged travelers. He carried a laptop and a half-smile that made me think he was on his way to crazy or had gotten there long ago and had found his funky new religion just in time to keep him from going off the deep end.
Remarkable, I thought, was how well their 28 kids behaved. Twenty-eight was an early morning approximation. Through 6am eyes I couldn’t make out how many little feet stood in the security line. I only knew the kids were all standing and doing it quietly. My son–four years old, up earlier than even he liked to be, and clutching a hard plastic Brett Farve action figure–was on the carpet in his socks. When asked, he would stand up for 30 seconds, then collapse back to the floor. It was frustrating, especially in light of the 2,000 well-behaved robots in front of me. If not-so-crazy windbreaker man said to do something, they nodded in unison, said something akin to “Yes, Master,” and obeyed.
My kid was lamenting–and loudly–about what might happen to Favre when he went through the x-ray machine. I didn’t say, “Nothing worse than what will probably happen to him this Sunday.” Instead, I said, “The x-ray machine is just going to take a picture of his bones and make him safe.”
“He doesn’t have bones,” the kid said matter-of-factly and went back to his long lament. His ability to commiserate with the whole city of New York was admirable. His rolling around on the carpet was a little more than frustrating. I was conflicted.
“Yes, Master,” the robots mumbled as they took off their shoes, took off their coats, and marched one-by-one through the metal detector.
“I don’t want him to go through there!” my boy said above it all, and put a tighter hold around Favre’s #4 Jets jersey. I didn’t say, “Now you know how half of Green Bay felt last fall.”
And so there I stood with a barely-behaving boy and a perfect example of robot-control in front of me. There had to be a happy medium.
Ahead of the robot family stood a father and son. Father looked weary, tired, and generally unsure. Son looked…well, son was punk. The back of his messy black denim jacket said so in bright pink letters. “Punk,” it read. He took off the jacket as ordered to reveal a white t-shirt that was ripped in way I haven’t seen in 20 years. That is to say, it had fashionable razor-blade induced rips a’la Debbie Harry circa 1983.
“He’s wearing 38 belts,” my wife said.
He had red shoes, black jeans, his ripped white shirt, and a mop-top of skater hair. He had a dozen pins on his jacket, one of which read MISFITS. And the safety pins. For the love of all that’s punk, the safety pins. He took off a mountain of jewelry and prepared to go through security. He was maybe 15 years old.
“You’re going to have to take off the chains,” a security agent said.
The kid had giant metal links around his neck. He grabbed them and pulled tight. Though we couldn’t hear what he said, what he was implying was clear. The chain was welded around his neck. [I looked later on the plane: it wasn’t welded…it was padlocked.]
My wife said something about how that could be us one day. I said something about how it would be a cold day in Tuscon. She said something about a blow torch. By the time we were through security, the punk kid was still getting wanded down. His dad looked like he was worrying about a cavity search. My son grabbed Favre and ran for the escalator.
Now, our plane is delayed. The robot kids are winding down and making a ton of noise. My son has put Favre in the bag and has pulled out nine members of the New York Giants Superbowl offense. Manning took a nasty leg break coming out of the packaging. Shaun O’Hara…well, let’s just say he will never be the same. Remarkably, Plaxico Burris looks great and isn’t carrying a gun.
Most remarkable of all, my kid is being quiet and still, at least for the moment.
There may be hope yet.