Being an Adult is Hard; Being a Grown-up is Harder

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comBack in 2013 when we were dealing with my mother’s end-of-life issues, Kim said, “Aren’t the grown-ups supposed to handle this?”

I’m not sure I ever heard anything that rang more true.

We had been adults for a long time. But the circumstances surrounding that difficult situation were merely some of many experiences that added to our continual evolution into grown-ups.

Adult is just a legal term. It happens automatically when we turn 18. Being a grown-up, however, is much more figurative. It’s an upshot of life experiences and heart-wrenching decisions combined with a changing perspective on the way we see the world in general. It happens to everyone.

The term “adulting’ gets a lot of attention these days. In fact, I wrote about it a few months ago. Adulting is the term young adults use when they are forced to start doing adult things like paying the electric bill and remembering to change the AC filter.

Just yesterday, though, it was brought to my attention again how being an adult and being a grown-up are two different things when one of my few remaining relatives in my parents’ generation passed away.

The adults in the family know they have to attend the funeral. The grown-ups will ponder their own mortality during it.

Being an adult means going to funerals. Being a grown-up means being a pallbearer.

Being an adult means wanting to have kids. Being a grown-up means wishing they could stay kids forever.

Being an adult means getting off your parents’ health insurance. Being a grown-up means checking the news five or six times a day to make sure you still have health insurance.

Being an adult means learning to appreciate fried okra. Being a grown-up means learning how to fry it.

Being an adult means getting a mortgage. Being a grown-up means hoping you won’t have to get a reverse mortgage.

Being an adult means getting your own pet. Being a grown-up means making a real tough phone call to your child at college.

Being an adult means finding a life partner. Being a grown-up means praying you’ll pass first, while feeling guilty for really hoping you’ll pass together.

Being an adult means never having to ask permission. Being a grown-up means knowing if you have to ask, you probably don’t have any business doing it in the first place.

Being an adult means loving to hear new music. Being a grown-up means being glad you can still hear anything.

Being an adult means appreciating reading as a hobby. Being a grown-up means appreciating reading glasses.

Not all of these apply to me, by the way. I can still hear perfectly fine; and everyone knows blurry is the new 20-20.

Being an adult means wishing you played in a community basketball league. Being a grown-up means wishing the game on TV started earlier than 9 p.m.

Being an adult means getting a haircut. Being a grown-up means clipping hair from the strangest of places.

Being an adult means pulling a muscle while exercising. Being a grown-up means pulling a muscle getting in the bed.

Being an adult means bragging about the great deal you got on your car. Being a grown-up means bragging about the gas mileage it gets.

Being an adult means buying trick-or-treat candy. Being a grown-up means buying your favorite trick-or-treat candy and hoping it rains on Halloween.

Being an adult is hard. Being a grown-up is harder

At least grown-ups get better candy sometimes.

The Magic of the Warehouse Shopping Club

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comWe went to one of those big-box warehouse stores yesterday.

Every time I walk through the door — which isn’t very often — some kind of force of the universe transforms me into this person who is very unlike my normal self.

For some reason, I can’t stop wanting to put stuff I don’t need in my extra-wide shopping cart.

Yesterday, I actually stopped and picked up a 48-pack of ink pens. Initially, I thought how neat it would be to have 48 new pens that didn’t have the name of a hotel written on the side.

Then, I snapped out of it and put them back on the hook. How could anyone ever need 48 ink pens? Maybe a monk who is transcribing the bible, but other than that, I don’t know.

We needed marinara sauce. We didn’t, however, need a skid of marinara sauce. No one needs that much of any kind of sauce. Nevertheless, I was tempted.

I could make some kind of a joke about the size and/or quantity of everything in there, but that’s been done to death.

I have never, however, heard much about how being in a store like that changes people’s behavior in general. Everyone seems to become transformed into shopping zombies when they walk through the door.

We get a faraway look in our eyes, we don’t talk, we walk methodically up and down all 400 aisles doing mental math to figure out if 128 ounces of niblet corn at $8.95 makes more sense than just buying a regular-size can or two at the grocery store.

Yesterday, one woman had a radio blaring from her diaper bag. It wasn’t offensively loud, but it was annoying. Plus, it was reggae music, which upped the annoyance factor just a smidgen more.

As you can imagine, it was like she was chasing me around the store. Every time I rounded the corner, there she was — jamming away as she loaded down her cart with stuff she certainly didn’t need either.

Every time I go to any store, there is always one person who manages to get in my way on every aisle, then beat me to the register before cutting me off in the parking lot on the way out.

Yesterday, she managed to do all three with the Bob Marley cranked up.

One thing we were actually looking for was 8-ounce bottled waters for vacation bible school. Our 200-mile trek in search of something I thought was pretty common ended in defeat, however.

They had all sizes of bottles: huge, even more huge and titanically-enormous. But they had no 8-ounce bottles.

Doesn’t that just figure? I guess we’re becoming even more of a super-sized society.

In the end, though, what started out as a shopping trip for only a couple of things ended up costing a mere $178.

If you need to borrow a can of mushrooms, just let me know.

Of course, in my family no shopping trip is complete without someone in the car on the way home ceremoniously announcing, “I know what we forgot get…”

Yesterday it was eggs.

Maybe it’s a memory thing. The next time I swing by that store, I may have to invest in a pallet of ginkgo biloba.

The Invasion of the Roofers; Quite a Spectacle

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comWe Americans love our summers.

Nineteen sixty-seven gave us the summer of love.

Bryan Adams sang about “The Summer of ’69.”

And if you’re a fan of the“Seinfeld” sitcom, you certainly remember the episode titled “The Summer of George.”

I’ve had lots of great summers. One of my favorites was my senior year of college when I moved off campus into an apartment. My two courses that summer were history of rock and roll and some kind of a geography class, which meant I had lots of time to hang out with Kim at the apartment pool.

This summer, however, has not made the top 40 list of favorites.

Allow me to describe to you The Summer of the Roofers.

Back on March 21, we had a historically catastrophic hailstorm. It affected a large part of town. My neighborhood was especially hard hit.

It lasted 20 minutes, and many of the hailstones were as big as tennis balls.

Cars were determined to be total losses, trees were mangled, and everyone’s roof was damaged.

When it was all over, the yard looked like a polar ice cap.

As soon as the ice cap melted, the roofers invaded.

Most came from out of town — if not out of state — driving fancy pickups with their toll-free-800 numbers painted on the side.

They were ruthless. They stuck temporary signs at every entrance to the neighborhood. They stole each other’s signs.

We had to wear camouflage anytime we were in the front yard and dive behind the shrubbery when we saw one coming.

The entire month of April was like a Jehovah’s Witness training camp.

One evening the doorbell rang while I was sitting in the living room, and without looking I yelled “we already have a roofer” through the door.

I had no idea a girl scout loaded down with Thin Mints could run so fast.

The next step in the roofing process is the ceremonial arrival of the shingles.

This is a procession where a truck pulls a flatbed trailer full of shingles with a forklift hanging off the back through the neighborhood at 4 mph while looking for the house where he has been dispatched.

This normally happens when I am trying to get somewhere in a hurry, which is most of the time.

Then, the truck stops in the middle of the road and the guy blocks the other lane with the forklift while unloading the shingles.

When the roofing crew arrives, they take their direction from the guy who brought the shingles and park in the middle of the road as well.

And heaven forbid anyone ever ride together, because if they did, there wouldn’t be seven vehicles at each job site.

Between the roofers and the mowing crews — who park exactly the same way — every time I leave the house I have to slalom out of the neighborhood hoping I don’t smash into a forklift parked crossways in the road.

The hammering and banging is a daily ritual from dawn until dark.

It’s seven days a week. It’s been going on so long I still hear it even after it stops.

The other day, a crew had mariachi music blaring from the radio.

After a couple of hours, I couldn’t take it anymore. So, just like Pavlov’s dog, I loaded up the family and had Mexican for lunch.

We’re now four months after the storm, and I would say not even half of the houses have been done. Ours hasn’t.

I told our guy not to hurry though, because when I get my new insurance premium, it’s just going to go through the roof anyway.

My Trusty Old Shoes; the Final Chapter

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comIf you read this column every week, first and foremost, bless you. I appreciate it.

And if you read it last week, you’ll recall I told about how I mistakenly left my trusty old backyard shoes out in the rain. I talked about how they had persevered for years and continued to serve their purpose well — even though they both were full of holes.

At the end, I even managed to twist the story into a metaphor for not taking things for granted.

I received a few nice comments and an email or two after it was published. I was all proud of myself.

And apparently, in the process of creating a literary gem which will surely become a classic and delight generations to come, I jinxed my shoes.

Now they’re in the garbage can in the garage.

I won’t go into detail about what happened beyond saying I stepped off the bottom step into a dark cellar of an old house, and what I thought was a solid floor wasn’t a solid floor at all.

I mentioned the shoes had holes in them, right?

And you know how much rain we’ve had this year, right?

Two plus two equals shoes in the garbage can.

I’m fairly squeamish about some things. I get grossed out, as the expression goes, pretty easily over a wide variety of subjects, sensations, sights and smells.

I don’t care for dealing with the cat’s hairballs or tomato hornworms.

I’m not a big fan of those television shows where the zombies walk around oozing goo from every orifice before getting their heads chopped off by the good guys.

I have a hard time listening to people talk about their medical problems. If you ever want to get rid of me, simply use a couple of words ending in “-oscopy” in the conversation, and I’ll just about guarantee you I’m going to get an important phone call in three, two, one…

I realized just how squeamish I am just the other day when the nurse at the dentist said, “I know this isn’t your favorite place to be.” 

I don’t know why she would say that. It’s not like I’ve ever curled up in the corner in the fetal position or anything.

For the record, it’s primarily the sound of the drill. It hurts my brain. It kills my soul.

Usually, however, I can manage to deal with whatever horrific — in my mind at least — situation the universe throws at me.

That’s what I did after I realized my shoes were beyond the point of no return. Once I was down in the cellar, I even forced myself to stay down there long enough to figure out what was causing the problem.

I did not, however, choose to stay down there long enough to fix it.

That’s what professionals are for. I’m merely creating jobs.

When I got back above ground and outside, I looked down and pronounced my shoes dead on arrival.

Then I proceeded to scoot around in the grass trying to dry my feet the way a dog rolls around on his back when he’s trying to get rid of the smell of shampoo.

I skipped lunch.

The good news is, the professionals have come and gone, and the cellar is once again suitable for human contact.

The bad news is, I’m going to have to go back down there, because I have to finish the job that took me down there in the first place.

Sorry, folks, no metaphors today. It’s just about me and a flashlight.

This is (Pretty Much) About Old Shoes

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comAfter three days, my backyard shoes finally dried.

They got wet because I left them out during one of the numerous deluges over the weekend.

Because of their condition, I very easily could’ve thrown them away. Then again, I very easily could have thrown them away 3 or 4 years ago.

I’m not ready to do that, though. We’ve been through so much together.

They’ve walked up 5th Avenue in Manhattan. They’ve seen a Broadway play.

They’ve been to ballgames — some good, some bad.

They’ve been on vacations, to work, to play. On the other hand, they’ve had lots and lots of mundane moments.

I was probably wearing them when Mama died.

If memory serves me correctly, this was my second pair of this make and model. And I believe I’ve replaced this pair twice with the exact same ones.

The stitching always begins to fail in the same place after 3 or so years, and that’s when I get another pair.

They’re good name-brand shoes. I shy away from cheap shoes, because buying good shoes just seems like money well spent.

The others fell by the wayside. For some reason, I decided to keep these.

They live by the back door.

We know each other so well, I can slip them on at a trot and never break my stride.

One of the insoles is missing.

Nowadays, they take out the dog and the garbage with me. They work in the yard. They don’t do much else. They’ve earned a leisurely retirement.

That little hole in the left one that initially signaled they needed to be taken out of the game has grown exponentially. And now, the right one has matching ventilation.

They’ll be stiff for a while now from being waterlogged. I guess that’s the way leather shoes get back at you for being left out in the rain.

I hope it’s only temporary. They come in pretty handy.

They fill a unique, vital need in my life as much as any other material possession I own that is smaller than a breadbox.

I wear them every day. I would have a hard time doing day-to-day tasks without them, because the dog needs putting out every morning, and the garbage runs every Thursday.

And heaven knows, the rains of 2017 have turned the backyard into a tropical rainforest, so yard work tasks continue to pile on top of each other.

This column was Kim’s idea. I’m not sure if she saw the old shoes in some kind of Mark Twain metaphorical sense, or if she was just tired of looking at them and their one insole drying on the deck rail.

Regardless, I thought it was a good idea. Her ideas are usually good ones.

I decided to write it because I thought we could all relate to it on some level.

I suspect you can relate something like this to your life — maybe a worn-out pair of jeans, an old ball cap, a wallet or a pillow.

Maybe you see the shoes story as a metaphor for something important in your life you unintentionally left out in the rain, so to speak.

Maybe something of yours is sitting out in the rain right now, and you don’t even know it.

Maybe you need to go out back and check.

I suspect we all do from time to time.

And I have just the shoes for it.

Lady Liberty Has Always Had Her Struggles

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comAmerica turns 241 next week.

And the old girl sure looks like she could use a shot of Geritol.

The old expression “rode hard and put up wet,” comes to mind.

Her metaphorical crows feet and gray hair are nothing new, though — despite the way things have seemed lately. She’s been through a lot since the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence back in 1776.

As I started thinking about how to frame this column, I tried to identify a watershed moment when the going got tough for our country.

Was it one of our numerous terror attacks over the past quarter century? No, it was before any of them.

Was it Watergate or the turbulent ‘60s that saw both the violent attempts to suppress the civil rights movement and the beginning of the Vietnam war? It certainly was farther back than that.

Was it one of the world wars or the great depression?

Was it the civil war? Was it slavery? Was it the trail of tears?

I could keep going, but I don’t have to.

It’s fairly obvious that America’s problems started before she was ever born. Upheaval has always been woven into the American fabric. It’s nothing new.

The battles of Lexington and Concord occurred in April, 1775 — more than a year before the Declaration of Independence was even signed. 

Then in July of 1776, Jefferson and company set the bar pretty high when they signed a document proclaiming “all men are created equal” and then lashed out in a long series of grievances at the tyranny imposed on the colonies by the King of England.

The Revolutionary War didn’t end until 1783 — 7 years afterward the signing.

Independence Day has nothing to do with the Constitution, but it’s important to note the law of the land wouldn’t be ratified until 6 years after the end of the war, and the bill of rights wouldn’t become law until 1791.

That’s quite a time span — 16 years between the shot heard ‘round the world and the bill of rights.

I never thought about it in those terms before, but I guess the process took so long because it was such a bold step.

It continues to look bold still today, in my estimation.

Look how we continue to struggle with the whole all-men-are-created-equal thing, for instance.

I shy away from serious columns about holidays because writers far, far better than I have already said what I am trying to say in a far, far more eloquent and effective way.

I will say this, though. 

As we approach Independence Day, I applaud those 56 brave men who took the leap of faith in Philadelphia 241 years ago. They debated and disagreed, but in the end, they compromised and the rest — as they say — is history.

They had no idea their actions would create the most important nation in the world.

They probably did know, though, the going would be tough.

And, they most certainly believed their new country would be forced to endure hardships along the way.

So far, they have been right. Lady Liberty has survived more than her fair share of tests and managed to thrive in spite of them.

She will survive today’s tumult, and I predict she will survive the upheaval after that, whatever it shall be.

Let’s celebrate America as one this Independence Day. Let’s forget the headlines for a few minutes. 

If we’ve learned one thing in 241 years, it should be that liberty is a journey, not a race.

That should be our takeaway this Fourth of July.

The Brown Cow Club, 17 Million Members Strong

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI have excellent news.

According to a recent survey by a trade group for the US dairy industry, 7 percent of American adults think chocolate milk comes from brown cows.

You probably saw this last week, because the news outlets all went nuts over it.

Everyone seemed to be appalled that nearly 17 million grownups don’t know how we get chocolate milk.

I’m not appalled, though. In fact, I feel just the opposite. I think it is fabulous, because this news makes me feel better about myself. It should make us all feel better about ourselves.

We can take heart that we are brighter than at least 17 million people — which is only 2 million shy of the population of New York State.

That is a lot of people. A lot.

Imagine being ranked by intelligence, looking behind you and seeing 17 million people back there. What an ego boost that would be.

I didn’t see the rest of the survey results, but I am curious as to what else these people think.

Maybe milkshakes come from cows in Minnesota in the winter.

Hot chocolate comes from cows in south Georgia.

Heavy cream comes from chubby cows.

Non-dairy creamer comes from fake cows.

White Russians come from cows on their 21st birthday.

Skim milk comes from skinny cows.

Retired cows make Milk of Magnesia in their spare time.

I wonder how long the members of the brown cow club think a cow has to jump on a trampoline in order to make whipping cream?

I also wonder what kind of milk they think those Chick-fil-A cows stuck up on those billboards produce?

“Hey, Myrtle, why does the milk have black spots in it and taste like chicken?”

Coconut milk does come from coconuts, so if that question was on the survey, they might have gotten it right. But I wonder if they think coconut farmers have to get up at 4 a.m., to milk them?

When I was in Future Farmers of America back in high school, I was on the cattle judging team. I had no business being on a cattle judging team, but I studied and tried my best.

To the best of my recollection, the team consisted of four members. We learned about different breeds of cattle, and how their physical features determined their value.

We and similar teams from other schools in the county went to somebody’s farm and observed cows. 

Think of it as a cow beauty contest, minus the questions about world peace.

We didn’t win, but we did better than some of the teams. But even the worst member on the worst team surely didn’t think chocolate milk came from chocolate cows.

I wonder what else these 17 million people believe?

I’ve always thought a few people made it into adulthood still thinking dogs are boys and cats are girls. I’ll bet the brown cow club has a few of these people in its ranks.

The members of the brown cow club walk among us. I think it’s important we identify them.

Here is an easy way to expose them.

The next time you think you may be in the presence of one, tell them you swallowed a watermelon seed last week.

If they automatically manhandle you and begin performing the Heimlich Maneuver on you, they may be trying to dislodge the watermelon that is surely growing in your stomach.

I don’t mean to sound cynical, I really don’t. But, chocolate milk from brown cows?

It’s udderly ridiculous.

The Cat and Dog are Fighting Like…

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comSuddenly, our cat hates our dog.

This should come as no surprise. MacGyver — that’s the cat — hates everything, with one exception.

For some reason, she usually likes me. I don’t understand why she finds me the most tolerable one in the family.

The rest of my family has never been shy about how they really — and I mean really — don’t understand it either.

While MacGyver never befriended Ginger and MaryAnn, she coexisted with the beagles with rarely an incident for more than 13 years. 

MaryAnn passed earlier this year. Ginger, however, is still pretty spry for her age.

This new drama between MacGyver and Ginger started last week. I called Kim on my way home from a meeting, and she was frantic because MacGyver attacked Ginger without provocation. Kim defused the situation from what I understand, and neither the dog nor the cat suffered any wounds.

I figured it was a one-time thing, fueled by some passing primal force we would never understand and quickly forget.

I figured wrong.

The next time they were allowed to come in contact with each other, MacGyver approached Ginger and hissed. That’s when I hit MacGyver between the eyes with water from a squirt bottle. She reluctantly retreated but gave me the same hiss she had given the dog.

The next day, the same thing happened — only this time, I was holding the garden hose.

I’m not saying I enjoyed it, but she had it coming. She’s the aggressor, and the rest of us are the victims.

Naturally, she learned nothing from it.

I have some theories for her change in behavior.

First off, Ginger is going deaf. She really is; that’s not a joke. We started realizing it a couple of months after MaryAnn’s passing. She doesn’t look when we call her, much less come. Yesterday, a half dozen squirrels were square dancing in the tree above her, and she was oblivious the entire time.

We think MacGyver takes offense when Ginger doesn’t respond to being hissed at with the appropriate amount of fear. Maybe MacGyver either is afraid Ginger has become bold, or it irritates her that Ginger no longer shows the respect a feline of her stature deserves.

I’m betting on the irritation theory, for the record.

Here’s another theory. This one isn’t so pleasant.

Beagles will eat anything.

One morning when Ginger was a puppy, we went out to see her convulsing on the ground. It was a horrifying sight. We took her to the vet and received updates all day on the things they were checking her for.

About 4:55 that afternoon, and after $248,994 worth of missed diagnoses, they decided to X-ray her stomach and found 5 pounds of pea gravel.

In the past decade and a half, she has eaten a smorgasbord of inedible things. I won’t go into detail, but you would be astounded.

The other day, I saw her sniffing around the place near the fence where MacGyver goes to do her business.

I have no reason to believe she’s gone past the sniffing stage, but I think MacGyver smells her own scent on Ginger and fears the dog is turning into a cat.

I know it’s a long shot. I tend to over analyze things, and this is no exception.

I don’t know what is going through their minds, but I do know we need to solve this problem in a hurry.

I’ve even thought about trying to find one of those animal therapists — a pet whisperer.

But, of course, Ginger couldn’t hear, and MacGyver would be too stubborn to listen.

Meet the Internet’s Newest Climate Scientist

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comDo you remember the old television commercial where the guy said, “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV?”

If you’ll recall, the line took on a life of its own — kind of like “Where’s the beef?” or, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

This line was unique, because people could put their own spin on it by saying, “I’m not a (fill in the blank), but I play one on TV,” before proceeding to give their opinion on something.

I think it’s time we update this expression to fit the internet age, and I know just how to do it.

People could preface their opinions online by saying, “I’m not a (blank), but I play one on the Internet,” before delivering their opinion on a subject they know absolutely nothing about.

Here’s why I say this.

One of my Facebook friends shared a post about climate change written by someone who obviously has educated himself on the matter. It was intelligent. It wasn’t particularly one-sided, and it certainly wasn’t inflammatory.

It was obvious, however, that he agrees with the 68 percent of Americans who believe human activity is causing climate change. This is a new Gallup poll number, and it’s up 13 percent in 2 years, which is astonishing if you ask me.

After I read the post, I clicked to read the comments, because that was a slightly less painful way to pass the next 5 minutes than slamming my fingers in a door.

To my surprise, though, the vast majority were supportive, which gave me a rare glimmer of hope.

The lone name caller bashed the rest of us as “tree huggers,” which is fine but terribly unoriginal.

This morning, though, I got a notification that someone else had now commented on the post.

It caught my eye because it was a kid I grew up with in my hometown. I found this particularly unusual since I have no idea where he lives, and neither he nor I am even Facebook friends with the author. 

But, thanks to the internet, somehow this guy saw the post and gave us all the gift of his two cents worth.

After his all-caps introductory expletive, he went on to explain the ridiculousness of climate change and inserted a made-up statistic to back up his point. I know it was made up, because I spent 10 minutes researching to prove to myself it was made up.

I sat there with my head cocked sideways like a confused dog on a cartoon with my mouth hanging open, wondering how worlds can collide the way they sometimes do.

I haven’t seen him in decades, but I’m pretty doggone sure he isn’t a climate scientist.

But thanks to the internet, he gets to pretend he is.

Hear the good news! I know a Facebook climate scientist!

The fact that this guy disagrees with what real climate scientists say is immaterial. I wouldn’t have expected any less.

What baffles me is the fact that his lie is sitting out there for impressionable minds to see forever — because that’s how long things last on the internet.

And what disturbs me more are the thousands of myths that the internet will foster and grow today alone from people who simply make stuff up to push their agendas.

And worst of all, the more routine it becomes, the more desensitized we become to it.

If we’re not careful, we will start accepting it if we haven’t already. 

I hope you don’t see that merely as another tree hugger point of view.

Who Can Blame Mad Airline Employees?

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comSeventy percent.

That’s the percentage of Americans who hate their jobs, according to several articles I read on the subject.

That’s pretty extraordinary, if you ask me. Can you imagine getting 70 percent of people to agree on anything beyond what day it is?

I think I know why the percentage of disgruntled workers is so high.

It’s skewed by the airline employees.

Around 10 million Americans work in the air travel industry. Every single one of them must be completely miserable, and I understand why.

Last week I flew for the first time in a few years.

The problems started at the ticket counter.

Even though I was first in line, I wasn’t first in the Priority line, which meant lots of people got to cut in front of me.

This included a woman carrying an infant buried under an avalanche of infant accessories — including a stroller the size of a Volkswagen Beetle — who was checking in for a flight which was leaving in 3 minutes. I got to stand there 10 minutes while the ticket person rebooked her on my flight, which left in 2 hours.

It wasn’t a great way to start the day, but I merely said “that’s okay” when the agent finally got around to me, because I’m sure she gets an earful from passengers all day long. I don’t know how she does it.

The security checkpoint line was fairly short, which was nice on the surface. But it doesn’t make up for the pain involved in making it into the terminal area.

I’ve been through the whole post-9/11 security screening thing several times, so I knew to expect the unexpected. The inconsistency from one airport’s security to another will always baffle me. I know it must baffle the TSA agents as well.

Flying out, I was forced to take my laptop out of its bag and put it in its own tub. Then I put the empty laptop bag in another tub, the contents of my pockets in yet another, and finally my shoes in a fourth.

And there went Barry’s little train of tubs under the X-ray machine.

On my return trip, there were no tubs to make a train. When I started taking my laptop out of the bag, the security guy screamed at me to leave it in there, and then he instructed me to empty my pockets and put my belongings into the bag with the laptop.

“But in Chattanooga —“

“Shut up!”

Okay, he didn’t really say shut up, but he had a shut-up look on his face.

Then I started taking off my shoes, and I can’t even describe the look on Agent Dale Carnegie’s face then.

Why can’t whoever heads up the TSA send out a memo standardizing things such as tubs or no tubs, and shoes on or shoes off?

At the gate, it’s always the same thing. Nobody knows what to do because the rigmarole of actually getting on the plane rarely works the same way twice.

I know the gate agents hate it when they call for the women with giant strollers to pre-board and 200 people jump in line like it’s ice cream time at Miss Mary’s Kindergarten.

It’s a wonder the flight attendants ever get the passengers crammed on the plane. And that’s why I have always felt the sorriest for them. 

Can you imagine saying, “Would you like peanuts, pretzels, cookies or a granola bar” 180 times, only to have to do at least another round or two based on the length of the flight?

Or, how would you like to carry a tray full of hot cups of coffee as the pilot slams into mid-air potholes at 600 mph while trying to remember the Yiddish word for Sweet’N Low?

I know they’re thankless jobs. But the thank yous might be a little more common if we at least knew whether or not we were supposed to wear shoes.

I’ll bet we could get 70 percent of passengers to agree on that. 

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