I just spent a very successful night in Spokane hosting a pledge marathon for KSPS. During six hours of travel shows, the station raised $90,000 — great by any standards in PBS…really great for Spokane.
The pledge producer commented that the money was “two to one from Canadians.” For years, American PBS stations have nurtured a loyal following north of our border and favored their Canadian supporters by promising “par for your dollars” for the various pledge gifts. Now, with the Canadian dollar actually worth more than our dollar, they still offer “par for your dollars”…but don’t bring the subject up.
My theory is that Canadians, who famously support American public television generously all across the northern USA, do so for their own national security interests (believing that a dumbed-down America can be dangerous, and an America open to the world is good for all). I played on that theme during the breaks (along with the fact that my Norwegian grandparents homesteaded in Edmonton, Alberta), and the phones really rang.
Just 45 minutes out of a deep sleep this morning, I’m at the cute little Spokane airport. It’s too early for me even to have a mood. Then it starts to dive.
Before joining the security line, I remember: no liquids. I gulp some of my apple juice and toss the half-full bottle into the bin. The security agent says, “Steve! I love your show.” Then she stares at my license, laboriously comparing the name on it to the name on my boarding pass. She asks, “Any liquids?” I answer, “Only in my bladder.”
Waiting at the second zag in a zigzag of stanchions, I stare at two bins: quart-sized plastic bags offered to hold our “plastic bottles under 3 ounces”; and plastic booties to protect the stocking feet of the travelers. All I can think of is the irony that these are both made of petroleum.
(BTW: All the luggage around me was made of petroleum, too…except mine, which was the hemp version of the Rick Steves Civita Daybag—which I sell at the same price as the normal bags even though the cost of the material is substantially higher for now. The tag reads, “This 100% hemp bag is patriotic — it contains no national-security-skewing petroleum products.”)
At the zig a few minutes later, I pass time by reading the headlines of the paper held by the man a row ahead of me. I see a story of the USA’s $20 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Under it, there’s a small headline about Israel’s response to persistent Palestinian shelling from Gaza: “Gaza Strip in the Dark: Israel halted shipment of diesel required to run the only power plant in Gaza.”
Remembering the frustration in the voice of the Palestinian who once told me that the US government spends more on each Israeli citizen than it does on each American citizen, I imagined how angry the people of Gaza must be — in the dark with their children.
People around me are happy. The woman ahead of me seems to be a walking ad for all the goodies designed to get you through security in a hurry. Her mesh bags are see-through. Her bottles are neatly lined up. The army of TSA people are jovial, as if they just had a huddle and that was the game plan.
It seems like security is becoming an established part of life. Just like when we had to join our neighbors to buy a lockable mail box last year, I reminded myself to accept the reality and don’t be a grump. I struggled to keep my mood up.
I’m a two-bin traveler: one for the laptop and one for the jacket. I take off my jacket…put it in the bin. The TSA sergeant looks at my sweater and says, “Take off your jacket.” The line is moving slowly. Ahead, I see a frail old man helped out of his wheelchair to struggle through the security gate.
My boarding pass is checked again. I play with the idea that all this “security” might be designed not only to keep us safe…but scared and safe.
Walking to the nearest bench to put things back on, it occurs to me that my socks are not only cold…now they’re damp, too.
A little later, my plane tears past the colorful UPS, DHL, and FedEx planes, past the hidden Air Force bunkers, and lifts above the snowy prairie. Like a mood elevator, my plane climbs. I pop open my laptop and start writing this blog entry. And, like express delivery, I’ll soon be back in my office…happy to be working here in the USA.