It says much about how far we’ve traveled from those heady days of flying on Pan-Am, Braniff and Allegeny Airlines, that a curling iron or Alexander Graham Bell’s less attached cousin could be mistaken for a “suspicious object” and cause such a fright.
The Imposters were on their way to hitch a ride to their last engagement of 2011, only to find that upon landing in Columbus, the plane taxied to a remote corner of the airfield and was immediately attended by fire engines and people wearing a variety of uniforms and Hazmat suits.
Now, if you ever happen to be involved in an evacuation such as this, I suspect that being asked to stand for forty minutes, in blazing sun of the mosquito-infested grass at the edge of the tarmac, just two hundred yards from a large metal tube full of petrol is going to be about as much use as being told to “duck and cover” during a nuclear attack.
Fortunately, help was on the way, it just didn’t have a very loud voice or a terribly clear message.
After a short scenic drive and a very nice massage from some uniformed people in rubber gloves, our happy band of travelers was welcomed to Ohio with a generous feast of stale chocolate and warm Dasani, water with all the unpleasant water taste taken out.
For the next three and a half hours we got to watch the competing authorities from the airline, the TSA and local law officers, all the way up to FBI, as they sprang into action like previously-caged panthers.
Several passengers were now reading aloud from their mobile devices. The local news was quoting an airport authority spokesman as stating that the “alert” was over, the runways back open and everything was under control.
So it was never very clear what was to be achieved in holding us in this secure transit lounge, cooled by a faulty air-conditioning unit, most effective in drowning out the low murmur of incoherent explanations and lowering expectations.
The passengers in the vicinity of Row 17 had apparently walked the short distance from being customers to being suspects and were being taken off for questioning in groups of four or five.
People will tell you these are the times in which we live and that it is better to be safe than sorry but that is an awful lot easier to believe when those providing this flimsy, discourteous, sometimes belligerent illusion of security are using common sense and not just checking off the steps of a laminated agenda. In this case it was enough to make you want to grab someone and shake them, although that would probably not be the thing to do in the circumstances.
That those who least need to feel threatened or anxious are those who have just been, or are about to be, catapulted into the sky often seems to get lost.
As the third hour slipped into the fourth, any thought of the band reaching a soundcheck evaporated along with one young woman’s plan to attend a wedding. People missed their connections and a couple of them required medical attention. A few folks even started to get a little testy at being held against their will.
I suspect that if we’d been there another forty five minutes we might have all been painting our faces green and roasting that courtesy can of chicken salad over a roaring campfire of discarded boarding passes, like the kids in “Lord Of The Flies”.
Then all at once, a law officer with an immaculate coiffure announced that our personal belongings would be arriving along a small conveyor belt.
We made the show in Huntington with twenty minutes to spare.