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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Column: “Oh my dildo!”

It’s amazing the funny things you’ll notice in an airport if you’re open to observation.

For example, because it was more fun to enjoy the benefit of the doubt, I assumed the people in front of me were right when one said to the other, “Did you know that the French word for ‘god’ is our word for ‘dildo’?”

I was in line at an airport waiting to board my flight, so I didn’t have a way to check the information. Which made it better, actually. I didn’t care if it was true. More interesting was revisiting the mornings I spent in Sunday school and adjusting my memory accordingly.

Instead of pointed reminders about God’s undying love, they became suggestive idioms that lent themselves to my new appreciation of humor in the Bible. “Dildo loves you, don’t ever forget that, and you should love Dildo too,” etcetera.

Then, when I got on that airplane, I found a paper vomit bag that had “Do not place back in seat pouch once used,” written in bold on one side. I realized a long while ago that shoving a bag of sick into the back of a chair almost always ended in catastrophe. So, instead, I thought of the person for whom the tip might actually be helpful.

I imagine him or her as someone who holds the paper bag delicately in one hand, careful to avoid touching the moist, distended bottom. Someone will press the button to summon a flight attendant, “ding!” and say, “I was going to stuff it back in the seat, but then I read the note. Here, you take it.”

Then, of course, comes the flight attendant. If a job requires formal attire and there’s still a chance it’ll involve carrying a sack of puke to a garbage can, it seems hard to say that person hasn’t failed in a relatively major way.

It would be unfair to say that TSA agents, too, are failures, I suppose. However, it seems to be a wide-ranging consensus among travelers that they are instead a miserable group of loveless individuals.

In another instance, a friend of mine told me recently about a flight she made from Texas into LAX, with a suitcase full of homemade ceramic dishes. “They ran them through,” she said, “and the TSA guy stopped me. I figured it’d be fine when he saw that it was just cups and tiny plates and stuff.”

Apparently the man was anything but fine. Actually, he was so un-fine that he grabbed a mug out of the suitcase and held it up in the air exclaiming, without reserve, that it was a C-4 explosive.

She said she told him it wasn’t C-4 and that he said it probably was. So she responded, “Where the hell would I get C-4?” to which he said, “Are you asking me?” So then when he said there was no way to be sure it wasn’t, she grabbed the mug and threw it against the wall.

This type of story almost always ends with concession, though. The prospective passenger would give in, relinquishing the damned item to the guards. Or, in the case of the grapes, smash them on the floor with their feet before proceeding to the gate.

There was something to my friend’s story about the mug, however, that stuck with me; something that made this man remain in my mind long after I heard the story.

I’ve seen homemade ceramic dishes in thrift stores before. Though, even regarding the ugliest of them, not once did I think to myself, “Everyone here is going to die if that serving platter touches fire.”

But clearly TSA agent had. So, what was the harm of giving him the benefit of the doubt? Wasn’t the alternative potentially much, much worse? What if in the future I didn’t notice an old lady holding a cigarette off to the side of a thrift store? What if I ignored her as she picked up an earthenware platter, only moments before an impromptu explosion?

How magnificent would it be to say I’d been the one to throw myself at her, knocking the cigarette out of her hand and saving everyone? How wonderful to admit later, to news crews and reporters when they ask how I had known, that, well, I just had a hunch …

EVAN WHITE can be reached at emwhite@ucdavis.edu. Though he responds to yelling as well.

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