LAGUARDIA AIRPORT—I am in a line a mile long. Actually, it’s not a mile. I’m exaggerating for literary value. In truth, the line is three hundred thousand kilometers long.
There are two women having a conversation behind me:
The woman says, “So I just says to him, ‘Lou, I’m not gonna take it anymore.’”
“Good for you,” says the other.
“That’s what I told him.”
“You really said it?”
“I just opened my mouth and said ‘Lou, I’m not doing it, I’m not gonna take it.’”
“You go, girl.”
We’re all waiting to get through the TSA checkpoint, which is a lot like checking in to federal prison. You have to remove your clothes, take off your shoes, get frisked, and say your ABC’s backward.
The man herding people through security looks like he starred in the movie “My Cousin Vinny.”
And he only knows two words: “Quickly, please.”
Vinny is working hard, scanning people with an electronic wand, barking at children, and demanding that elderly people remove their insulin pumps and dental fillings before going through the scanner.
I remove my boots and place my backpack onto a conveyor belt.
The talking women behind me never quit.
“That’s exactly how I told it to him, ‘I’m done, Lou.’”
“You really said it like that?”
“I told him.”
On my first attempt walking through the X-ray machine, I set off the alarm. I try a second time, it beeps again.
“Sir,” says Vinny. “Please remove your belt.”
This belt buckle always gets me into trouble with metal detectors. But it is a special buckle I bought when I visited my father’s grave. I wear it every day because it reminds me of him.
It also holds my pants up.
We try the scanner again. The alarm dings.
Vinny sighs. “Come back this way, sir.”
“What’s wrong now?” I say.
He inspects me. “Sir, is there anything metal in your pockets?”
“Just a bunch of loose change.”
“Put it in the plastic bin.”
“It’s only a few pennies.”
I place my change into the bin. Then I pat my pockets to be sure I didn’t forget anything. My pants are falling off. A child wearing a New York Mets hat points at me and giggles at the full moon over New York.
Vinny folds his hands across his lap. “Take all the time you need, sir. Please, we’re in no rush.”
I walk through the scanner once more.
“So how’d you tell Lou again?”
“Well, I said flat-out, ‘Lou, I’ve been taking it, and taking it, and I’m not anymore.’”
“Bet that was hard.”
“You have no idea.”
“Sounds really hard.”
“Oh, it was.”
“Had to be.”
I set the alarm off yet again. Vinny is rubbing his face. We are becoming awfully familiar with each other. I am holding my waistband around my sternum.
“If we keep this up,” I tell Vinny, “you’ll have to invite me to your kids’ wedding.”
“Sir,” he says. “Listen to me. Is there any more change in your pockets?”
“No, I just emptied them, you saw me.”
“How about your shirt pockets?”
I pat my chest. “Well, how about that?”
In my pocket is a lapel pin that was given to me by my good friend Bill. There’s actually a funny story behind this pin—which Cousin Vinny doesn’t have time for. Because Vinny wears no emotion. Vinny is Rambo.
He scans me, and this time because of TSA regulation, he is obligated to pat me down. He asks verbal permission before inspecting my inner thighs.
“My inner what?” I say. “Aren’t you at least gonna buy me dinner first?”
“Are you seriously about to—”
I overhear the woman say, “So then Lou was all like, ‘Whaddya mean you’re done? You can’t be done, we’re not done. No way…”
“So what’d you say to Lou?”
“What’d I say?”
“To Lou, what’d you say?”
“What’d I say?”
“I said, ‘Lou, I am NOT, and I mean NOT gonna take it anymore…’”
Once Vinny has patted me down, he gives me the all-clear. I gather my things and waddle through LaGuardia like a penguin. I am trying to forget about how Vinny tried to get to second base with me.
“You deserve better than Lou.”
“I know, Lou’s crazy. I’m not taking it anymore.”
“Good for you.”
“Just not gonna do it.”
“You go, girl.”
I am several yards away, walking to my gate. I am ready to be home, and I am hungry. I hear someone hollering behind me. It’s Vinny.
“Excuse me sir!” he says, calling after me. “Sir! You forgot your belt buckle!”
And I am touched by this. This man works hard at his job, screening hundreds, maybe thousands of passengers, and he gets little thanks. Furthermore, he has no idea how special this belt buckle is to me.
I would shake his hand, but he is wearing surgical gloves.
Before he gives it back, he inspects it and admires it. “Hey this is a nice belt, you know, once I had a—”
“Sir,” I interrupt, holding out my hand. “Quickly, please.”
He does not find this funny.
Sorry, Lou. But she is not going to take it anymore.