Barry Smith: A felonious wit
August 15, 2002
Washtub Jerry thinks that the classic George Carlin routine “Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television” should be updated to the “Seven Words You Can’t Say in the Airport.”
Here’s the reason: Washtub Jerry is a musician who plays, dig it, the washtub. He has a special crate that he built to transport his #6 Mexican washtub on airplanes. If someone at the ticket counter were to ask him what it is that he does with that thing, and he were to explain that he attaches a clutch cable for a Porsche 914 to the center of the tub via a screw eye, affixes the other end to a pole and, using the pressure of his shoulder, makes music with it, the next obvious question would be: “What does it sound like?”
His honest reply would result in him being escorted into the back room: “Bom, bom, bom bom, bom bom.”
And if, while standing at the ticket counter next to Washtub Jerry, you were telling your rambunctious son not to yank at your frail daughter’s bracelets because he might “tear her wrists,” well, thanks for flying the friendly skies, now drop ’em.
I tell you this not only as an intro to today’s column, which is loosely based around airports, but also as a way to point out that I actually know someone named “Washtub Jerry” who actually travels with a washtub. Look for more of him in future columns.
Long before 9/11 took all the fun out of it, I have been fascinated by the fact that while you are standing there at the airport ticket counter you are in a situation where sarcasm is actually a felony.
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If someone were to ask you an incredibly obvious question anywhere else in life, like “What’s the difference between the regular drink and the large drink?” then you are practically obliged to answer “The regular one has a higher fiber intake.” Sarcasm, in certain incidences, is necessary to keep the human race advancing.
But at the airport, when you get fed a gaping straight line like, “Has anyone unknown to you asked you to carry anything aboard the plane?” and every cell in your body tells you to reply, “Well, just the guy in the turban who wanted me to take the alarm clock taped to the Roman candles,” or “They did, but I had all this heroin in my bag and couldn’t fit anything else in it” or any number of federally outlawed smarty-pants remarks, well … so far I’ve been able to control myself.
Or: “Have your bags been in your control since you packed them?”
Illegal sarcastic reply: “They were a little feisty during the cab ride over, but I managed to reign them back in.”
Proper reply: “Yes, sir/ma’am.”
It’s worth repeating: Sarcasm is a felony.
I’ve been in a few airports over the past few weeks, and I have seen the future of air travel loom hazily before me. It is not pretty, nor is it in any way convenient. It is, dare I say it … Orwellian. I don’t mean George Orwell, but Rudy Orwell, this kid I went to fourth grade with, ate a lot of sugar, runny nose most of the time. Ughhh.
As I watched the woman get pulled aside and instructed to remove her cheap flip flops so they could be given the once-over with the magic detector wand I thought, as anyone would think – flip flops? Fugitive footwear? If there is some concern that cheap plastic shoes are capable of bringing down a 777, then shouldn’t everything be feared? I mean, couldn’t one, theoretically, hijack a plane using only their personality as a weapon?
SECURITY: Excuse me, sir. Could you please step over here for a moment?
TRAVELER: Uh, sure. Have I done something wrong?
SECURITY: Not yet, sir. This is just part of the random screening process that keeps potential wrongdoers at bay.
TRAVELER: Should I take off my shoes?
SECURITY: Please don’t. I’m just going to ask you a few questions. Was your father a good man?
TRAVELER: Well, mostly. But he wasn’t quick to show his love.
SECURITY: Withheld his affection, huh? And were you able to get that affection from your mother?
TRAVELER: Not really. She was working at the tire plant most of the time.
SECURITY: Do you have any hobbies?
TRAVELER: I like Star Wars memorabilia. And “Friends.” If they made “Friends” memorabilia like they do for “Star Wars,” that would be so cool. Even action figures would be a start. A little Chandler doll with movable arms and maybe a string that you can pull so he can say something witty. A friend of mine was telling me that on the Internet you can find action figures of almost anything, but that because of licensing reasons the “Friends” cast is unavailable, at least in the U.S. market. But in Japan they are making …
SECURITY: Has anyone unknown to you asked you to attempt to discuss your pathetically mundane life with the pilot or any of the stewardesses in an attempt to bore them into submission and thereby take over control of the aircraft?
TRAVELER: Golly, no sir.
SECURITY: Enjoy your flight. Please accept this complementary pair of flip flops for your inconvenience.
TRAVELER: (under his breath) Sucker.
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