means you cannot fly, period. You will be declared an
enemy combatant and assigned to a bunk at Guantanamo Bay,
Mel Coulter, Public Affairs Specialist (Opinion)
Idaho Transportation Department
Can you picture it?
A gentle breeze sweeps in from the Atlantic, adding a briny
flavor to your Starbucks espresso. A crowd gathers on a nearby
bluff, and many individuals sport camera cell phones, MP3
players and laptop computers.
There is a spirit of anticipation not to mention seagulls
in the air.
The long-awaited arrival of Orville and Wilbur Wright should
be just moments away. The gathering throng has no idea, however,
that the ambitious brothers had run into unexpected turbulence.
No one noticed under the bluff a black sign flashing, in florescent
green letters, Flight Delayed.
And they werent aware of the interrogation that was
taking place in the bowels of a nearby air terminal.
Has any person unknown to you asked you to carry baggage
or packages onto the plane today? asked a 325-pound
Transportation Security Administration screener. She recently
traded her job as a federal prison matron for the higher paying
and more prestigious TSA position.
No, ma'am, a confident Orville said.
Have your flight jacket and goggles been in your possession
at all times?
Yes, ma'am, Wilbur echoed.
Are you carrying any sticks of dynamite, Bowie knives
or six-shooters? Rocket-propelled grenades, shoulder-launched
missiles or tank-busters?
No, ma'am, both reply in unison.
Next, the screener barked without looking up.
Surprisingly, there was no one else waiting in line for a
The Wright brothers proceeded to a nearby closet that was
lit by a solitary gas lamp. From the wallet in their hip pockets
they both produce a drivers license, Social Security
card, American Express card, hunting license, marriage license,
ATM card and military draft notice.
References, please, demanded a 78-year old gatekeeper,
recently retired from the Internal Revenue Service audit division.
References? asked a bewildered Orville.
We need three personal references, two professional
references and a letter from your rabbi or pastor who will
attest to your moral character. By the way, have you been
through profiling yet?
We thought that line was only for undocumented aliens
who have no green card or proof of residency, Wilbur
replied. Like Libyans or Assyrians.
Nope. Gotta have a profile. Thats the rule.
Fill out this Myers-Briggs Personality Trait Inventory
and then come back. After our staff psychologists review the
results you will be assigned a risk factor. Scarlet means
you cannot fly, period. You will be declared an enemy combatant
and assigned to a bunk at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Canary means
we will allow you to fly only after a full body search
down to your birthday suit and 48 hours in quarantine.
Emerald means you can advance to finger printing, voice printing
and an optical scan.
Thats it. Then well be able to begin our
flight? asked an energized Orville.
Not exactly, the screener replied. Once
we complete the background check and verify your identity
you will be permitted move on to the last screening station.
Hope springs eternal.
Where is that? Wilbur questioned.
Through those steel reinforced doors, past the drug-sniffing
Dobermans, past the woman with the iceberg hands and magic
wand, and onto the tarmac. Take a left to the shuttle bus
departure area. You will be taken to a remote part of the
airport for the final pre-boarding exam. Its conducted
in a large red, barn-shaped building. Cant miss it.
What happens there? Wilbur wondered aloud. He
envisioned handing over the deed to his condo on Lake Tahoe
and power of attorney papers that relinquish guardianship
of his first-born daughter.
Oh, its nothing, really, the screener said
in a calm, reassuring manner. You just have to sit in
a wooden apple crate to make sure you will fit into the peasant-class
airplane seats. After that, we weigh you and check your cholesterol
and body fat levels, and then youre done.
Meanwhile, the sands at Kittyhawk were strangely quiet.
The crowd that had gathered earlier for this monumental first
flight dissipated like a morning fog. Satellite camera trucks
were packed and headed back to the network studios. Politicians
abandoned the beach and retreated to a nearby golf clubhouse.
Even family and friends had given up, agreeing instead to
reconvene their reunion at the local IHOP.
In the distance, two lone figures aged beyond their
years by preflight tribulation struggled to reach the
top of a hill at Kittyhawk. They paused near the wingtip of
their experimental aircraft and gazed in momentary silence,
scanning the deserted beach.
A forlorn Wilbur turned to his brother.
You know, this powered flight thing is really overrated,
Know what you mean, Orville replied, nodding
his head in agreement.
Flyin just ain't what it used to be.