What has been taken away

For the first time in my air travels since Sept. 11, I was pulled aside for extra-special attention while returning from a business trip to San Diego. I went through the metal detector and I buzzed. My belt and shoes wound up being the culprits. Next time, I will just show up naked. Talk about a danger to homeland security.

I noticed while waiting in line to be debriefed that the brand name of scanners they use — in the San Diego airport, at least — is Rapiscan. I assume that first syllable is supposed to rhyme with the word “wrap,” and indicate the efficiency with which the machine monitors people’s personal belongings.

But I initially read it, instead, as if the first syllable rhymed with the word “rape.” How appropriate, I thought and chuckled. I stopped laughing after I was wanded and my crotch area started beeping (thanks to belt).

I was fortunate enough to have my Mom waiting at Midway Airport to pick me up, but I temporarily forgot that she wouldn’t — couldn’t — wait for me at the gate. It was so dispiriting to walk off the plane to a completely empty terminal, as it was a late flight.

I fondly remember how many times I met family or friends at the airport gate. There were all the times I visited Grandma in Philadelphia, or Aunt Trudy in Dallas. Most of all, I remember the first time I met Karen in person. I walked off the airplane and spied her in the corner of the gate, looking radiant. She says I smiled from ear to ear.

That kind of meeting couldn’t happen today. “I’ll meet you in baggage claim” doesn’t quite bring a flood of warmth to the heart. And it’s hard not to think, every time, I “deplane” to an empty gate about why that gate is empty, and what has been taken away.