Thursday, April 24, 2008

HIGH ALERT: Rivertrout Antiterrorism Initiative

The other day, I was in the airport on my way to somewhere far too important to share with the likes of the Reader, when I was pulled into a dark room, beaten, and questioned for four days about my love for America.

Just kidding. That doesn't happen to pasty dudes like me. Plus, I always make sure to wear a "flag pin" on my collar--especially when I fly. (Hey, don't knock it--I gained three "superdelegates" in rural Mississippi just today.)

That said, I did have a few minutes to sit and watch our guardians of the sky profile hapless passengers as they boarded airplanes bound for their grandmothers' homes. I began to wonder about the trivial things that seemed to raise the antennae of the TSA. This is not a unique observation; we've all seen and wondered about these things. But it's a Friday, and I'm tired, and this is my blog, and I get to write what I want (and it's password protected, I think), so too bad.

Realizing that the TSA lives by a code of rules and reg'lations--and with genuine, honest-to-God (or Allah) respect and appreciation for their role in keeping all of us safe--when you see some of the things that set them off, you sometimes have to stop and ask: What's the point?

National security. That is the point. How dare you ask, you miserable communist. To learn more about the important security measures taken by the TSA, I decided to do some research. (Not "Michael Moore research"--but actual research.) Fortunately, our system of transparent government By The People affords the common citizen like me ready access to all State Secrets. You know: checks and balances (my balance: near zero). Anyway, the gentlemen with whom I spoke were very forthcoming and eager to enlighten me. Seventeen FOIA requests, two interrogations, and one water boarding later, here is what I was able to learn about the National Security Directives at work in our nation's airports:

National Security Directive No. 1: Removal of laptop computer from carry-on for inspection.
Official Rationale: Terrorists tend to be "Mac people."

National Security Directive No. 2: Seizure of bottle of Evian water (16 oz.) at security checkpoint.
Official Rationale: Terrorists cannot effectively wage Jihad if they are dehydrated.

National Security Directive No. 3: Seizure of tube of lip balm at security checkpoint.
Official Rationale: Nothing causes a terrorist to lose his cool and blow his cover like f---ing with his Carmex.

National Security Directive No. 4: Pat-down of 89-year-old man in wheelchair.
Official Rationale: Fits the profile for "cranky, chair-bound terrorist with a lazy eye yelling about all the goddamn terrorists and where's my Cheez Whiz."

National Security Directive No. 5: Pat-down of thin, attractive, 27-year-old woman.
Official Rationale: National Security is a serious matter. We can't AFFORD to take any chances . . . .

National Security Directive No. 6: Picking of TSA "specialist's" nose.
Official Rationale: Next on President Bush's "hot list" of places WMDs might be hidden.

National Security Directive No. 7: Waving of metal-detecting wand over toddler at security checkpoint.
Official Rationale: They do this on the set of Sesame Street all the time, kid. Don't screw with me, or you and that bag of Cheerios will be off to Guantanamo so fast it'll make your head spin.

As you can see, there is a perfectly sound explanation for everything. Nothing to worry about.

[River Trout's disclaimer: All smart-assery aside, I truly do appreciate and thank all who work hard to keep us and our airways safe.]

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Cantaloupe of Sports

Mrs., Kid and I recently returned from a vacation to Hawai'i. (Only Hawai'ians and snobs get to spell Hawai'i with the '.) As is customary during our vacations, my wife and I engaged in that sacred ritual that has occurred once every year (sometimes twice) since our wedding day. I know I don't have to tell you what I'm talking about.

No, not that.

I am speaking of the annual "Wife Kicks My Ass-athon," whereby she finally succeeds in dragging me out of bed in the morning to go running with (behind) her. When at home, I usually avoid this event by asserting that I have to "go to work," "wash the car," "tend to the cat," or "have excess teeth removed through my nasal passage." On other occasions, I simply cite unfavorable environmental circumstances:

Seattle: "Goddamn tree-huggers; running sucks because of them."

Central Park: "These hostile New Yorkers; it's their fault that running sucks." [New Yorker: "Hey, f--- you, f--- ball!"]

This time, though, we are on an island--not an office or New Yorker in sight. So unfortunately, none of the traditional alternatives (excuses) are available to me. What am I to I do? Blame the coconuts?

No. It's time to rationalize. I have some time on my hands anyway, because we are not yet at Mile 1, and I am already passed out on the sidewalk with a colorful tropical bird pecking at my liver. It goes a little something like this:

In the beginning, Man had nothing better to do, and he was being chased by mastodons and sabre-toothed tigers most of the time anyway, so he ran. Because he had to. But then, Man discovered fire and beer, and the mastodons and tigers decided that they would all be happier and much more buzzed if they just partied with Man instead of chasing, killing and eating him. So, there was no need for Man to run. (Also, during one intense drinking session, Man had a moment of self-actualization, where he realized that it was really his own insecurity that he had been running from all along--and there was peace.) Back to the story. With the mastodons and tigers off his ass, Man finally had a moment to sit down and invent real sports. Like cycling. And badminton. And roooowing (say it slowly, with your nose in the air--no, higher). Somewhere along the line, the horseless carriage was invented. Then came McDonald's. You get the point: With these quality diversions, running was no longer necessary to get from Point A to Point B. It had become, rightly, obsolete.

[Aside: Sometimes, I ask the runners why they do what they do:
Me: "Hi *gasp gasp*. Where are you going?"
Avid Runner: "Over there."
Me: "Really? What about after that?"
Avid Runner: "Probably come back here."
Me: "Why not just stay here now and save yourself the trip?"
Avid Runner: "Would you please get your car off my foot, A--hole?"]

With the advent of real sports, running became superfluous. A means of inflicting pain on people as punishment for sucking at other sports. A filler. In short, running became the Cantaloupe of Sports.

You have probably been to a "Carrow's" or "Denny's" at some point in your life. If you live in the Midwest, you have probably seen a commercial on T.V. for "Perkins'" between episodes of "Monster Truck Extravaganza" and the advertisements for personal injury lawyers. (Call me. I can do better than those guys. I promise. I take 30%. If I don't win, YOU DON'T PAY!) Anyway, these eateries are all essentially the same insofar as the "side of fruit" that comes with the pancake meal is a lie. If you have been there--and I know you have--you know very well that there IS no "side of fruit." If you request one, you will instead receive a small bowl full of . . . cantaloupe. Or "honeydew melon." And buried somewhere beneath these faux fruits, you will find a genetically-questionable purple table grape the size of a dinosaur egg. (It's a trick! The grape is a trick!! Don't buy into it!!!)

Running is to sports as the cantaloupe is to the fruit salad--a fraud! A fallacy! A farce! Other words that start with "f"! Many attempt to justify their affliction with this senseless activity by saying that the beauty in running is in its "simplicity." It needs no equipment (except a $169 pair of shoes, astronaut socks, drywick ultra-shirt, neon shoelaces, and a strap-on iPod), and there is no specialized training. You need nobody else to pull you through. But why does such a simple sport need three or four monthly magazines devoted to it? [See titles such as Runner's World, Running, Running Fast, Still Running.] What do these magazines say about such a "simple" sport to fill their pages? "Running: Put one foot in front of the other, real fast-like. Repeat." How do advertising agencies sell that?

Some might say that my beef is really that I suck at running. That is a true statement. At this point, though, it doesn't really matter. The best thing to do is, in my own way, duck the issue: "Honey, I'll stop here and 'do some push-ups.' I'm cross-training. Pick me up on the way back (as you rocket through another six miles, then return to help me limp the last 1/2 mile back to the hotel)." [Note: The Kid will also rocket through the six-mile loop, because at 27 inches tall, she, too, is faster than me.]

Eventually, my annual run will be over. I will have succeeded in transporting myself from Point A to Point B, then back to Point A again, no doubt experiencing a great sense of accomplishment along the way. And then it will be time for the boat drinks (see photo above).