A few months ago I was trying to sort out whether I was going to continue doing my occasional Lucky 13 interviews or not and I decided on a new idea. I have a number of friends whose brains tend to work like mine; that is to say that we wander and bounce between topics and ideas in a chaotic and seemingly random manner.
I wanted to try to capture the sort of conversations I have with these people in reality, but in a readable form.
So came this format. Geraldine of The Everywhereist is one of my favorite online friends. Smart, funny, interesting, odd, self-deprecating (a trait I find universal in any truly humorous person), and just plain cool.
Over the past of couple months, as we have both been traveling all over the world, we sent a half-dozen or so emails back and forth to each other with the only rule being “type as you would talk.” This is the unedited back and forth conversation we had. I hope you enjoy it.
Let me start with a question: what do you think of the TSA full-body scanners? I have never been through one. Ever. I’ve opted out every time I was selected, and gone for a pat-down. A few times, I’ve had to fight with agents for the privilege of having their colleagues grope me. Interestingly, the ones who usually have to do the pat-down are very pleasant. It’s the people you talk to before then who often offer more resistance.
Which makes sense, if you think about it: they don’t want you to request the pat-down, because it’s a waste of their time and resources, so they try to dissuade you. But once you prove that you aren’t going to go through the machine no matter what they say, their colleagues who do administer the pat-down are very pleasant, because the TSA doesn’t actually want to get sued. I mean, probably.
What do you think? Am I crazy for always opting out?
Whoa, slow down there cowboy. We dive right into full-body pat-downs? Too many jokes running through my head.
And since you have already written so movingly and humorously about your recent brush with death via your brain tumor… and yes, I am going to go there… can’t you pull the “Hey TSA a-hole…just overcame the honors of a brain tumor! What’s up with you trying to kill me now??!!”
Doesn’t that pretty much just get you immediately out of all sorts of possible scanner issues?
Hmmmmmm…. as an idea for causing a serious ruckus starts forming in my head…
So on your actual question, I usually just roll through the scanner. I’m not much into pat-downs from overweight, underworked, badly-attired TSA workers.
Quick story (as if I can do that): My brother and I each got a nice, old-style, wind clock from our mother the Christmas right after 9/11. His didn’t fit in his carry-on bag, so he put it in mine. As we approached the X-ray machine, I realized what these clocks would look like in my bag, turned to him and said “this is going to be ugly.”
What was even worse than the full body cavity search that I should have received? That they didn’t say a single word to me.
Non sequitur: how do you like your coffee?
Funny thing – I’ve mentioned the tumor a few times, jokingly (“Well, I already have a brain tumor, so I’d rather not blast the sucker with any more radiation.”) but the response is always blank stares. They just look at me and wrinkle their monobrow, at which point I politely request a patdown.
One gentleman in Milwaukee was a total ass about it. When I mentioned I didn’t want to go through (without giving a reason why, because WHY SHOULD I?) he started lecturing me – and he was seriously hostile about it.
“Is it the radiation? I don’t know what you’ve heard, but there’s hardly any. If you are afraid of the radiation from that machine, then you shouldn’t even fly.”
He kept beating the point into me, and it was clear he wasn’t going to listen to anything I said. So when he started telling me how awful and miserable the patdown was going to be, I just leaned in and whispered, “What if I like the patdown?”
And then I shimmied my hips a little bit and winked.
That got him to shut the hell up.
The folks who pat me down, I will note, are often incredibly gracious, especially when I mention that I have a hole in my skull (true story) in reply to their inquiry about sensitive areas. They’re often ask if I’m doing okay, and one woman even congratulated me on my recovery. It was really lovely.
In response to your non-sequitor: I don’t drink coffee. Or booze. Sadly, when my tumor got yanked out, my headaches remained, so I avoid a lot of headache triggers. Which include most fun drinks (fruity, boozy, caffeinated, or any combination therein). I AM BASICALLY 90.
Now it’s my turn to digress! Have you even flown out of San Diego? It takes YEARS to get through security. It’s absolutely amazing. Last time we were there, Rand turned to me and hissed, “The TSA here is on island time.”
“I don’t drink coffee. Or booze.”
Fortunately, I know you are married to a completely fabulous guy and you may have the most annoyingly, sickeningly, happy marriage of anyone I know, because… I’m sorry, I have to call off any possibility of a future crush based on those two sentences.
At some point in the future, I will be the guy at the A.A. meeting who says, “hey, my name is Michael. I’m an alcoholic, but I’m sorry folks, just not going to give up the red wine.”
I like the grape. Fermented hops and barley doesn’t suck too much either.
Funny you mention San Diego. I am actually only about 50 miles from there right now. My folks live in Temecula, a nice little town of 100,000 souls that has absolutely no purpose in the world, other than as a commuter town for both Los Angeles and San Diego. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Southern California weather and such, but they’ve packed way too many damn people in here.
And… you have a hole in your head? An actual hole? Like… I can insult you with the classic from about a century ago “do you have a frickin’ hole in your head?” And you’ve have to say yes?
How cool is that. What happens when it rains? Do you wear hats?
Speaking of hats, can’t we do something to bring them back? How great does a woman look in a nice hat? Why don’t women wear hats more often? And a good fedora?
JFK seemed like a nice enough guy, but I’ll never forgive him for single-handedly killing the hat wearing culture.
Okay. Ahem. Sorry for the, um, two week delay in getting back to you. I had to head down to California, where I was able to gather even further evidence that my family is … well …
You know, I have trouble describing them. They’re amazing. And strange. One Christmas, my mother gave my brother and I copies of Twilight: The Board Game. It was a little befuddling, as neither my brother nor I have ever expressed any interest in the canon. Also, we aren’t 12 years old.
That was it. No other clue as to what was going on there. She’s a quirky one.
This year, she gave me a very lovely bracelet (which I kept) as well as a neck pillow that had a massage device attached to it. Sadly, the pillow did not make it on the plane ride back with us, because it looked like an explosive device.
I swear, I think my mother is trying to get me strip-searched by the TSA. Perhaps she’s convinced my life isn’t interesting enough as it is, and that’s her way of spicing it up.
As for the hole in my head, I suppose a better way of describing it would be a hole in my skull (and yes, I occasionally do use the phrase “I need that like I need another hole in my head” – but I don’t say it nearly as much as you’d think). Scar tissue has grown in, so it’s not really a soft spot anymore, and my neurosurgeon says that eventually the bone will fuse back together in that spot. But, rather interestingly, I’ll always have a dent right there.
So even long after my hair grows back (I still have a bald spot), you’ll be able to find the spot where I had surgery.
My aunt and mother were horrified by the fact that I had a hole in my skull. Their suggestion was that I start wearing elaborate hats so that people wouldn’t touch my head (which is interesting, because I found that there wasn’t much of a risk of that. People aren’t too keen to press on your skull, and they aren’t more likely to do when they’ve found out you’ve had brain surgery).
But maybe I will start wearing them, because I’m rather fond of hats. And I have a great collection amassed (people tend to buy you hats when you’ve had surgery on you head. It’s grand). And I’d argue that they are making a comeback. At least among hipsters.
How was your holiday?
Hats really need to make a comeback. But I’m not sure I trust the hipsters to lead the charge. In any topic, frankly. But I digress…
Holidays and the joys of family. Let me say this at the top, because my folks tend to find everything I write anywhere on the interwebs – love my family. Love. Can’t imagine having more supportive and cool parents. Get along great with my brother and sister and her husband and kids.
That being said, I just got back from a dentist appointment that my father set up while I was home for the holidays. Wouldn’t take no for an answer. I don’t want to do a whole biography for you, so “let me sum up.” I’m 45 years old. I was a pretty successful attorney for about 10 years. I circled the world without getting on an airplane. I’ve managed to permanently be on the road since 2008 with nary a major problem.
But my parents felt it necessary to set up a dentist appointment for me. Visions of high school abounded in my head.
And its not just the dentist appointment. I borrowed my mother’s car to drive to Los Angeles to have lunch with a friend.
“Do you know where the SOS button is in the car?”
“No, Mom, I think I’ll be ok.”
“But if you have a problem, you can just hit the button and someone will come help you.”
“Mom, you do know that I somehow managed to go around the world without a cell phone, right?”
“OK…. but here, take my cell phone, in case you have a problem.”
How have I managed to survive on my own so far?
You have a dent in your head? Like an actual dent? Do you have a series of ready jokes when people ask about it?
- Hail damage.
- Sonny Bono and I went skiing one day…
- My warranty had JUST expired. Those corporate flunkies know how to time those things, don’t they?
- I knew I should have ordered the Skull Pro, but I cheaped out with the regular version.
- Its not a dent, its a divot. I’m a golfer. Get it?
So let me leave you on this note. The dentist somehow convinced me to replace one of my old fillings and do some sort of laser thing on parts of my gums. You know the worst thing about going to the dentist for me?
Not the sound (or smell) of the drill biting into your teeth. Not the taste or crunchy feel of the tooth polish they use. Not the inane banter they expect you to engage in, while your mouth is half-numbed and they have both hands, a drill, and that spit-scooper-upper thing inside it. No, none of that.
It’s when the dentist is flossing my teeth and says, “well, as long as you are flossing daily, things are looking pretty good for you.”
Dudette, they might as well call my annual dentist appointment “my annual flossing.” I can never get up the courage to confess.
“Yep. Sounds good. I’ll knock that out every day.”
Lying, lazy bastard.
I owe you some parting words on all of this, don’t I?
I’m actually amazed – and somewhat still endeared – by how much my family babies me. Don’t get me wrong – it’s positively infuriating at times, but it’s born of love, so I usually keep my mouth shut, grit my teeth, and at the end of the day, I realize it’s not the worst thing in the world.
Plus, if they knew all the trouble I got into when I’m off on my own, exploring a city? They would probably all have synchronized coronaries.
Strangely, the brain tumor kind of helped with all of that. It let them know that there are some things that I can handle. And yes, I have a dent in my head, from where they removed my skull. Even if and when the skull grows back, I should the dent should remain; a souvenir from that one time I had brain surgery.
Sometimes, when I’m stressed, I run my fingers over it. It’s a subtle reminder that whatever I’m dealing with is not such a big deal.
And really, why should my family, why should anyone, waste their time worrying about me? I’m doing just fine. Hell, I even floss nightly. If there’s a better sign of having your shit together, I can’t think of one.
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