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By Staff | Mar 25, 2016

My wife and I recently got reacquainted with the slings and arrows of modern air travel.

I am married to a nervous flyer. Whenever we board an airliner, my wife will say something such as, “The passengers on the Hindenburg were told that air travel is safe and look how things turned out for them.”

As experienced sky trekkers know, the misery of air travel begins long before you set foot on the plane, specifically, at the airport security checkpoint.

I totally understand the need for stringent security. I understand that there are bad guys who have nothing better to do than sit around and dream up new ways to do bad things.

They are like the rowdies who sat at the back of the room in junior high, making fart noises whenever the teacher turned his back.

Yet it seems like this obsession with security has gotten out of hand. I wouldn’t be surprised if the TSA simply began to order air travelers to strip naked and run down a long, narrow chute like cattle at branding time.

Besides, I already feel naked whenever I’m forced to part with my smart phone.

It had been some years since we’d flown, so we’d forgotten how intrusive airport security can be. Off with the belt, off with the shoes, put your phone in the tray.

I stepped into the X-ray scanner thingy and held up my hands like I was being accosted by a gunman. The machine whirred and I was told that I needed to hold still and that there was something suspicious in my front pocket.

The offending substance was a stick of gum. How was that a threat?

“Take this plane to Havana or I’ll mush this gum into this lady’s hair.”

“Do what he wants!” cries the hostage. “He’s chewing Hubba Bubba bubble gum!”

After my second shot of X-rays – I think they were examining the fillings in my teeth – the TSA guy said, “Step this way, Skippy. There’s some sagginess in your waistband area.”

I wanted to yell “Of course there is! You made me take off my belt!”

But I knew better than to argue with someone who thinks that a forgotten wadded-up paper napkin in a pocket constitutes a national security risk.

Once we made it through security, we thought the worst was over. But no! I immediately got a text from the airline saying that our flight would be nearly two hours late.

I went to the ticket agent to complain and was told that there was nothing they could do other than to put us on a flight that was leaving shortly. There are very few decisions in life that are unbelievably easy and this was one of them.

Half an hour later we were sitting on our plane, awaiting our turn for takeoff. Flying is uncomfortable for me because my wife tends to grip my hand tighter than the bite of a starving crocodile.

As we began our takeoff roll, my wife groaned, “This is just like being aboard the Titanic.”

“But the Titanic was a ship.”

“Makes no difference. Going down is going down.”

We arrived safely and on time and deplaned (“deplane” makes me think of Tattoo on Fantasy Island) and staggered into the cavernous maw of the airport terminal.

Such buildings are aptly named because they stretch on interminably. The number of things available in major airports never ceases to amaze.

You can get a massage or do a workout or dine or buy clothing. You can even purchase kitchenware in case you tend to be seized by the urge to whip up a midflight omelet.

All the airport needs is a birthing center and a funeral parlor and a person could live an entire life within the confines of the terminal.

As we stood in one of the endless hallways trying to determine where the exits might be, my wife espied a pair of familiar faces. They belonged to a dairy farmer couple who are friends of ours.

We chatted with them and marveled over the fact that we live only 20 minutes apart, yet fate caused us to bump into each other in an airport corridor hundreds of miles from home.

We were carless, so my wife and I took a taxi to our hotel. The driver yakked with us incessantly as he threaded his cab through the traffic at breakneck speeds.

He would change lanes if there was so much as a gnat’s eyelash worth of space available.

My wife squeezed my hand, a look of anxiety on her face.

“This is how it began to go south for Dale Earnhardt,” she whispered.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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