Sunday, March 27, 2011
♫ I'm Leaving On A Jet Plane..Don't Know If I'll Be Back Again ♫
As I have told in many of my stories before, I am the Purchasing Manager for Quincy Joist Company. We are a bar joist/roof joist fabricator. If you have ever been to a Lowes, a Petsmart or Toys R Us, and happened to look up, and saw those exposed metal bars in the top, that is us, that is what we do. I buy the metal angle and rod that is used to fabricate those joist.
From time to time, we like to go and visit the Steel Mills that produce those angle and rod that I purchase. See their operations, the melt shops, take tours of the burn furnaces, and meet the people I talk to on a pretty much every day basis. One of those Mill's is located in Laplace, Louisiana, about 30 miles below New Orleans.
It was November of 2001, about two months after 9/11. Certainly a day in American history, no one will ever forget. Sam and I had scheduled our flights, made our hotel accommodations and were ready to depart from Quincy. We would drive to the Tallahassee airport and our flight from there would head to Atlanta for an exchange of flights, then on to our destination of Louisiana.
Anybody who flew on any kind of airplane after 9/11 will remember the stringent requirements to actually board the airplane. As a matter of fact, the inspection/interrogation would begin immediately upon checking your baggage and would not stop until you were about to board the plane.
Boarding in Tallahassee that day was quite the experience. It actually began in the parking lot. Our vehicle was inspected inside and out. Trunk had to be popped, and rummaged through. Our back and front seat was peered into and our identification was requested and inspected before we could proceed on to park. Once inside, our bags were put through the ringer. We were "wanded" from head to toe, allowed to move forward, and shortly thereafter, boarded the plane for our destination. It was more than I had ever been through to fly before, but considering recent events, I did not mind in the least.
Our flight to Atlanta was uneventful. We had a bit of a layover. We boarded again, and were off for our final landing in Louisiana. We arrived sometime after lunch that same day, as we had left Tallahassee very early that morning. We were scheduled to take our tour of the Mill around 2pm. We grabbed some lunch, discussed our plan of action, and headed out to the mill.
The tour was as interesting as they always are, as I am fascinated by how things work, and how anything and everything comes to pass. We met all kinds of people, from the inside sales department to the guy that runs the floor furnace. Good day all around. Tour over, we head out to find our hotel. The plan from that point forward, was to get a good night's sleep and fly out early the next morning. Our destination this time, home, Quincy Florida.
Up until this point, everything went pretty much as I expected. That was all about to change. Evidently, the employees of the great state of Louisiana and the New Orleans Airport, took their jobs a little more seriously than those in Florida. In the Tallahassee Airport. From the time we entered the doors to the airport, the inspection began.
As most of you who fly already know, or have heard, in most airport inspections, every fifth person or so gets the full body "shakedown" inspection. You know, not just walk through the machine that beeps for your pennies and ear rings, but the full pat down, search and seizure look out, for any and all foreign objects.
For you to completely understand exactly what is about to happen, I probably need to tell you all that a very important part of this story is that my boss, Sam "Siad" Mahdavi, is full blood Iranian. And he looks like it. So, walking into this all out, full court, head to toe, body inspection is me, Michelle "Whitebread" Mims, and Sam "Turban" Mahdavi. He of course, does not actually ever wear a turban, but there is no mistaking his Iranian descent, anymore than there is any mistaking my Redneck descent.
If you had any doubt before, I am sure you have none now. We, Whitebread and Turban, ARE going to be, the "shakedown" couple. Yes, yes we were. Immediately upon casting their eyes upon us, the oddsome twosome, it was on. We were asked to step aside. All the way to the side. We were going to be asked individually, to step behind a canvas curtain. So that the shakedown could begin.
I went first. The wand/metal detector begins to go off. I take off my earrings and my watch. The second sweep of my body begins. The detector goes off again. I take off my sandals. They are leather, but I do what I am told. The detector goes off again.
I am standing there. Feeling very invaded. Then the very large, big boned woman who looked like someone who would be called Hilda, asked me, did I have any other metals on my person that she could not see. Belly rings, etc. I said no. She is still looking at me with all the suspicions of a woman on a mission, and asks me the loaded question. She wants to know, if I have a bra on that has under wire. CRAP! I laughed, (because it was hilarious to me) and said , "Oh yeah, I do, I didn't think about that." She, however, is not. Laughing. In fact, she is looking at me as if she is considering asking me to remove it.
I'll tell you right now, several laws would have been broken that day had she asked me to remove my under wire bra. Mainly the law of gravity. I wear that bra because it is NECESSARY. She didn't look extremely happy about it, but she allowed me keep it on. She tells me to step to the side, the male guard version of Hilda, Hercules, appears and calls my counterpart so that his inspection can begin.
Turban removes all change from his pockets, keys, and lastly, his POCKET KNIFE. Which we were asked to NOT bring with us to begin with...and which he OBVIOUSLY made it through the Tallahassee airport with on our prior flight! Scary..right??!!! Good job Tallahassee.
After they have removed his "weapon" from his possession, the wand search begins. They wave it up and down, and it begins to beep. Of course it does. They ask him to set his briefcase on the floor. He checked his baggage, but still had his briefcase on his person. They begin to wand him again. He beeps again. They ask him to remove his belt. He does. The wand begins it's third sweep. He is no longer beeping. He is told he can gather his change, keys, and belt on the other side of the walk through scanner. He picks up his briefcase, walks through the scanner, and begins to go off again. All eyes scan to the briefcase. He is asked by the male security guard, in a very terse tone, to set the briefcase down, and step away from it. He does.
Hilda and Hercules, now working together, pick up his briefcase and set it down on top of the table and stare at it. They stare at it so long, I am wondering, when they will start rock, paper, scissors to see who is going to open it. Hercules evidently lost the silent fight, as he is the one who begins to gingerly open the briefcase. He lifts the lid slowly. Nothing but paper, a few notebooks and pens are staring back at him. He waves the wand over the opening, and it begins to beep. Again. Now Hilda and Hercules begin to tear through the pockets, and search underneath the paper and notebooks. As they are scrambling, they find it. It appears to be, what looks like, a very small cuticle wand. One that is used to push your cuticle back and clean out from under your nails.
Now I cannot tell you the times, I have walked into his office, to discuss some major piece of business with this man, and he is sitting at his desk, "doing his nails". His nail maintenance. Sam (Turban) stands there looking confused and disbelieving, that such a small thing has now caused us almost 15 minutes of a delay. Hercules and Hilda advise Turban, he cannot keep his nail paraphernalia. Turban looking very dismayed is just stunned. And says so. He proceeds to ask Hercules and Hilda, what possible harm could be done with his METAL cuticle paraphernalia. Neither answer him, as they seem to take great pleasure in throwing it into the garbage in front of him.
We are finally allowed to board the plane. Everyone who is already on board, are hyper aware that we are the two people who were delayed in search and seizure for more than 20 minutes. They are doing their own personal examination of both of us, and very possibly, staging in their heads, a plan of action should anything go down, later into the flight.
As we find our seats, belt up and get ready for take off, Turban begins to gripe and grouch. Yes, gripe and grouch about his damned cuticle cleaner. And has the audacity to bring up the fact that I was "allowed" to keep my metal object with me. I swiveled around in my seat enough so that I was dead on, face to face, with this crazy S.O.B. who almost had us LOCKED up in LOUISIANA...and said, " I want you to sit back in your seat, and be quiet. Do not say a word until we get home. And I promise you, next week, I will purchase from Walgreens, another cuticle cleaner for you. But please, do NOT try to compare the importance of my $50 bra, to your .50 cents cuticle cleaner."
I would not fly with Sam "Turban" Mahdavi again for the better part of a year. It was just as well. It took me, Michelle "Whitebread" Mims, that long to get over my flight to the Bayou.