tremble clef

Friday, January 26, 2007

Alesha Dixon, "Lipstick" (2006)

The worst thing about all those Ziploc-sponsored security measures, currently in place for international travel, lies in how much they completely uman me. Fancying myself a seasoned traveler, I'd like to think that I had gotten the activity down to an art. I have my one carry-on; it's perfectly sized, and I'm able to fit into it my laptop, my iPod, a book, a magazine, my travel documents, and a mini-toiletry bag (not to be confused with the full scale bag, containing a more extensive range of hair and skincare products, from which I can just about bear to be separated for a travel day). After I get to the airport, I can further chuck my keys and coin-filled wallet, and whatever sweater or jacket I may be wearing, into the bag. The result is that I go through checkpoints with just that one bag, which really cuts down to zero the risk of leaving something behind.

Nowadays, such efforts at compactness and intactness is doomed to defeat. The shoes have to come off, needless to say; the belt, too. The computer needs to be out of the bag, sometimes turned on, the better to expose the embarrassing wallpaper you have up. The lotions and liquids and jellies should be in a clear plastic bag, which perhaps can then stay inside the toiletry bag, or maybe needs to come out and sit in the tray by itself for maximum prodding and sniffing. We're not consistent about this; we like to keep you on your toes.

As a result, by the time I pass through the detectors, I'm half undressed. People can see the holes in my socks, my pants are falling down (you're supposed to fly in baggy, unrestrictive clothes, after all), the hand that's not hanging on to the trousers have to remember to grab the bag, but also the now unmooored computer, and there's the random Ziploc bag of fluids, and do keep your boarding pass with you at all times, and it's all TOO MUCH, GOD.

On my recent December/January travels, the public undressing wasn't even the most bizarre or shameful thing I had to endure. A year ago, as I've detailed in these pages, I found out how flying can dry up your skin so much that your fingerprints disappear, resulting in you needing to come perilously close to muttering words like "lubricate" in front of authority figures. True to form, this time I once again had no identifying marks on my limbs. But the officer was no longer surprised. A swarthy man with a proud Selleck of a moustache, he waved away my suggestion to get out the moisturizer. "No," he said, fixing me with a forthright look, "just do this." And then he swiped his own finger across his forehead, following the line formed by his magnificent eyebrows.

I guess I should have been offended by the suggestion that I had an oily T-zone, but...I do everyone does after twenty hours in the air. At any rate, it did the trick. And it provided me with the unique spectacle of a customs officer caressing himself, which was strangely arousing.

But even this would be topped in the strangeness and humiliation quotient. At one of umpteen security checkpoints, I am frisked by a man who is arrested by a lump in my pants. (Get your mind out of the gutter.) He reacts to this in an oddly silent way, pointing to it, without a word. Just like one of my dates, really. (It actually crosses my mind that he may be a mute.) (Friend to whom I later tell this story: "You know, that would actually be an awesome job for someone with that disability.") I say, "It's my lip gloss." "My lip balm," I correct myself, not wanting to sound like a bigger girl than I already was. He points to my pockets again, still without a word. "Take it out?" I wondered out loud. He nods, and so I do. And then he mimes holding the chapstick up to his lips. Of course, the hilarious Borscht Belt thing to do would have been for me to act dumb and smear his lips with the stick, but I hear that the airport is a famously humor-free zone. So, finally comprehending what was wanted of me -- proof I wasn't Sydney Bristow, armed with poison chapstick that I was going to cunningly use to corrode the pilot's face after I knock him out with a karate chop -- I uncap the chapstick, and hold it up to my lips. There, in the middle of the airport, surrounded by all and sundry, I, feeling never more exposed, slowly, deliberately, to the security officer's wordless satisfaction, put on lip balm.


  • As if I didn't hate flying enough. Keep me way from the US of A! I thought having your manicure set taken away was bad. Now this.

    By Blogger harvey molloy, at 4:21 PM  

  • HA! Now all I can think of is drag queens in a heavy-metal band called Poison Chapstick.

    By Anonymous esque, at 9:32 PM  

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