Monthly Archives: September 2012

Why I ABHOR, LOATHE and DESPISE the TSA

Sorry, mom. There’s some colorful language in this one.

Originally I wanted to call this post “The TSA Raped Me,” but I didn’t want to lessen the emotional and physiological effects of actual rape. But I certainly feel like the TSA violated us in a MAJOR way.

Last week Team Gwinn took our mecca to Minnesota. Well, for me it’s a mecca. Captain Laser Pants is from Texas, so it was more of a death- defying journey for him (also, he went up for work). For myself, it was a returning to my heritage (think Vikings and the Swiss, not hot dishes and ludefisk) and visiting my family and friends. Mini- Gwinn went with us, of course, and our three dogs were in the incredibly caring hands of the best dog sitter on the planet. Seriously, this woman is amazing. She sent text messages with pictures every day and even vacuumed our house because of the dirt the dogs tracked in. If we ever travel again (which, at least by flight is highly unlikely due to this experience), she will be our go- to dog lover. I digress. So, like all good type A mothers, I started packing a month ago. I froze enough homemade baby food to last a little over a week. I watched the weather for several weeks to plan mini- Gwinn’s outfits and my own accordingly. When I was single, I could pack a week’s worth of clothes and toiletries in a carry on bag. This trip was much trickier. Packing a full size checked bag, a diaper bag, a carry on bag for mini- Gwinn took skill and consideration. I’m like a packing Tetris goddess now. Of course, CLP packed his one carry on and he was done. The Monday before our flight I called our hotel to verify our reservation. There were issues with the room we had booked, so we cancelled our reservation through Priceline, re-booked through the hotel, reserved a pack and play for the baby, and I had peace of mind for our room for the week. The Wednesday before our flight I verified with Delta that we were allowed to bring on liquids for our baby, check our stroller and car seat for free, and that there were special accommodations for families with babies. I talked to my sister, mother of four young boys, who had just flown recently with her family. She gave me peace of mind. I felt good about our trip and was excited to see my family.

So the morning of our flight, which was around 9:30 AM, we packed up our car, made sure the house was clean, did a load of dishes, took extra coffee with us, and headed to the airport. While we were assembling everything to carry from the daily parking area to the check in (which was: two carry on suitcases, one full size suitcase, one jogging stroller, one diaper bag, one baby, two adults), we forgot our car seat, which we had to turn around to retrieve. Are you keeping count of all that CLP and myself were carrying through the airport? Good. After going to the full service curbside check in, we were free of our full size checked bag and our car seat. We stood in line to get molested by the TSA. Now, for all you fliers who are only responsible for yourselves, admit it. Security is a hassle. You have to remove your shoes (if you’re wearing sandals, gals, you get to be barefoot in an airport. EWWWW.), your belt, take your laptop out of your carry on, remove the convenient quart- sized bag full of your tiny bottles of toiletries, and stand in line to have a naked body scan of yourself, get a detection wand waved over your body or an invasive pat down from a TSA employee, or some combination of all of the above. For the record, to be eligible for employment as a TSA “officer” (they are in no way officers- mall cops have more authority and importance), one must:
-be a US citizen
-have a high school diploma or GED equivalent
-pass a background check
-speak English
This is good news! In case you currently work at TACO BELL and want to be a TSA “officer”, you already have the requirements. You can just transfer on over!

I digress. Let’s continue with my experience.

So we are holding our tired baby, two carry on suitcases (because it’s $25 for the first bag and $60 if you check two), a diaper bag, and a stroller. They have a special line for families with strollers, which was significantly shorter, so yay? for that. We had to break down the stroller while holding our baby, remove our shoes, belts, get everything on the table, and stand in line. Once they realize our stroller won’t fit through their security belt screener, we had to reassemble the stroller, push it through the x-ray security scanner, and have someone “hand test” it for ballistics. Or whatever they look for. So, while we’re standing they’re like cattle in the slaughterhouse, they tell me they have to do a hand search of my diaper bag, which is craftily packed to actually hold everything. We oblige, because if we don’t, we get arrested and thrown into Azkaban or whatever prison houses beautiful, all American families who pack water for their baby. The good news in all of this is that the TSA “officers” in Hartsfield- Jackson are quite polite. I had a new bottle of hand sanitizer that had to be confiscated, but he was nice about it. All in all, even though it was a monumental pain in the ass, we made it through mostly unscathed. We barely made it to our flight for pre-boarding, in which the Delta staff assisted greatly.  Mini- Gwinn was wiggly on the plane, but he never sits still, so this was mostly expected. The flight was otherwise great- I really like flying Delta.

In case we weren’t screened enough by the initial TSA screening, my checked bag was also searched. I felt so safe knowing they literally had their paws on everything of mine to make sure I’m not a terrorist (I wish there was a font for sarcasm). What terrorist packs her and her baby’s belongings in a navy blue and white houndstooth Liz Claiborne matching suitcase set? It has hot pink lining, for crying out loud. As an aside, did you know that those awful blue gloves they wear (two by two, hands of blue) are for their protection? Those gloves are filthy. And they had those filthy gloves ALL OVER my baby’s belongings, including his bottles. Just to give you germaphobes a shiver of disgust.

The visit itself was tiring but wonderful. After the first night adjustments of sleeping in a new place, mini- Gwinn did wonderfully well. My grandparents are absolute saints- I adore them- and they loved my little man. I got to see one of my very best friends a few times, feel the glorious weather, see the beautiful Fall foliage, and took my husband to the Mall of America (say it aloud in an announcer voice, it’s fun). Advice for traveling with a baby: if staying in a hotel, always always get a suite so there are two separate rooms. Bring your own sheets for the baby and whatever other comforts s/he needs for sleep. Call ahead. Expect to get raped by the TSA if you’re flying.

We arrived an hour and a half before our flight at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International airport. Atlanta’s airport is the busiest in the world, so they say. I am inclined to believe it- it is always crowded. By comparison, the Minneapolis airport is a ghost town. We thought ninety minutes would be plenty. When we asked a TSA agent for guidance on a line to go through with our stroller, they told us there wasn’t one (our stroller wouldn’t fit through the lines they had sectioned off). So we found the line ourselves, which was blocked off only for airport employees assisting families (thanks for nothing, in that case), and walked through. The TSA agent to whom CLP had spoken literally ninety seconds before about an assistance line acted as if we were brand new faces and waved us through.

This, good readers, is where the real fun begins. By “real fun” I mean ludicrous, proverbial rape.

We pulled mini- Gwinn out of the stroller, left it standing upright because it wouldn’t fit on the belt scanner, removed our shoes, belts, bags, and placed all of it on the belt scanner (all while holding a 25 lb. baby!!). Immediately, the TSA officer asked us to break down the stroller. CLP and I both explained that it was too big to fit through the scanner. The TSA agent pointed to some screws on the base where the wheels are held and told us that “most strollers can come apart here”. I told him, “No, ours was shipped that way. It does not break apart.” Asshat. As if I don’t know the fine, inner workings of my own stroller. ALSO, we already have our hands full. It gets better! Then he tells me I have to remove all liquid and food contents, including diaper creams, applesauce packs, bottles, from my diaper bag. MY HANDS ARE FULL. So, I continue to hold up the line and proceed to remove every item from my diaper bag. As if by ironic courtesy, the “officer” tells me I can “keep the formula in the diaper bag”. Gee, thanks, I can put that one freaking item back in the bag I so carefully packed. It gets even better! CLP and mini- Gwinn go through the x- ray machine together, his ticket and ID are checked, etc. Then they tell me they have to test the contents of the diaper bag. They “hand tested” the stroller and left it to the side, not even telling us (who were very busy with a baby and all of our personal belongings strewn out for God and everyone to see) it was ready to be retrieved. Then one of the “officers” gets out a test kit and tells my husband to open the baby’s bottles so he can test them. He told me this later- if I had seen this, I would have stabbed a ho. My husband told the TSA agent, “Those are for the baby to drink.” Thank God a TSA “officer” who had worked there a week or two longer stepped in and told the moron- agent that the bottles were protected under some rule in their retard- handbook and didn’t have to be tested. He put his gross, blue- gloved grubby hands on my child’s distilled water, boiled- to- kill- the- germs bottle. Then he told me (I had reassembled my outfit at this point) to open the diaper cream for testing. I laughed at him and said, “It’s A&D diaper cream.” Then he tested it and told me, that yes, in fact, it is JUST A&D diaper cream. Look, moron, my hands are already full of taking care of a baby and all the freaking stuff I have to bring along with us for him. I don’t have time to shove microscopic bombs into his diaper cream. Also, that diaper cream goes on his sweet baby butt cheeks. I’m not putting bombs on the butt I worked off my own butt for to make and raise for the past 20 months. Sarcasm font for this paragraph would be great. I just know that now I’m going to get pulled for a rape security screening at the airport the next time we fly. Joke’s on you, TSA, I don’t think I’m going to fly again until you’re dissolved. Want some irony? They FORGOT TO CHECK my ID AND my ticket. HAR HAR.

After the reassembling of our clothes, bags and baby, we made it to our gate with about two and a half minutes before pre-boarding took place. Captain Laser Pants and I were shaking with anger. Literally, absolutely shaking. Fuming. I’m sure there were airport security cameras trained on us the entire walk to our gate. I was ready to get in a fight. I even took off my sweater to show off my biceps, just in case someone wanted to get in my way and I could confront them by She- Hulking out.

When we got home, we were too exhausted to open my checked bag. I waited until this morning. Good news- they searched my bag on the return flight too. Not only was Captain Laser Pants’s $1100 work laptop stashed in there, but they opened both bags of liquids I had in my suitcase and opened the lotion I had locked closed. The lotion (and my toothpaste) were all over my clothes and gorgeous riding boots. If I hadn’t been such a good mom and packed two mattress protectors and two sets of sheets for mini- Gwinn, and if I hadn’t had the forethought to wrap my husband’s laptop in these things, his laptop would have been ruined.

Am I crazy political ranter? Am I a supercharged anti-TSA, angry hater? Yep. More importantly, I care about personal rights. Not just my own, but everyone’s. I want my readers to know that there have been TSA “officers” charged with theft of many travelers’ high dollar items, including iPads, laptops, cell phones, money, and more. Ironically, I saw a major news report on a national news station while in Minnesota about it. Here’s an article covering this as well. If you’re of the belief that, for the safety of all, some must be singled out, you may also be in support of random sobriety tests on the road, which would also include the requirement by law for everyone to have a breathalyzer in their  vehicles, as well as a requirement that before you reach any city or county road, you must pass a sobriety test. Whether or not you drink, you would be subjected to this law, because like flying, we all share the road and are at the mercy of other drivers. What’s good for all must be good for one, right? Wrong.

Our forefathers put our constitution and our laws into place NOT for protecting its’ citizens, but for protecting its’ citizens’ rights. Look it up, folks. Your government is not in place to take care of you, it’s in place to ensure that we have equal rights. The way the TSA treats us is  downright shameful. We are all assumed to be guilty of crimes we aren’t committing, and even when proven innocent, we are still subject to the molestation of “security” in the name of safety.

I abhor, loathe and despise the TSA for the way my family and I were treated. We are great parents who take excellent care of our child, not criminals who pack ballistics into our diaper bag.

Screw you, TSA.

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Ceremonial Meltdown

This morning started pretty much like any morning.

Mini- Gwinn pooped through his pajamas and woke us up at 6:30 AM (he rarely wakes up this early these days). This was followed by a sheet change on the crib mattress, a wipe down of the baby, and a lot of laundry. We were up early, so I made bacon- egg muffins (wrap a piece of bacon around the inside of a muffin tin, fill with eggs. I added cheese, sliced green peppers, and a slice of tomato at the bottom of each cup. They were yummy). After a few cups of coffee and a nap for the kiddo, we went to the gym early. Laundry, cleaning, shower, etc. Nothing out of the norm.

Yesterday I was trying to figure out a way to buy a new Dyson vacuum cleaner without begging for one from Captain Laser Pants. We saw a smaller model at Costco for $299 and we pretty much absolutely need a new vacuum. This came to mind as I was standing in his bathroom, stealing Q- tips. I looked in his closet and saw, in the very back of it, a giant, white dress bag.

The past 365 days have held plenty of surprises, changes and shifts in our group of friends:  a baby (ours), four engagements, and a wedding. There are more of these events to come- with four engagements, we get to attend three more weddings. CLP was fitted for his tuxedo a couple weeks ago for a wedding in November. Before I met CLP, before I ever thought I would actually get married, I really enjoyed weddings. Bring a present, wear a pretty dress, get free food, dance with friends, and celebrate the couple. It’s an awesomely fun party. When CLP and I went to our first wedding together, my view on the event changed. I didn’t have the “bride bug”, per se, but I stopped liking weddings and started to love them. When you’re with the one you truly love, you love love (wow, that’s a lot of “love” going on there.). So, when I was planning our wedding, I was truly excited to celebrate our relationship with everyone. And wear a gorgeous dress.

So, 18ish months later, I’m standing in my husband’s bathroom, Q-tipping my ears, staring at my wedding dress bag, which is hiding in the back of his closet so I don’t have to look at it. The exquisite dress that I never wore hung with sadness. So I called up the bridal consignment store down the road to see if they’d take it off my hands. The potential sale meant a new vacuum, some bills paid, aka, it was a practical swap.

Weddings are hard for me now. I’m torn by my feelings of happiness for the couple and my feelings of sadness for not having a wedding of my own. When this attitude hits me I usually remind myself that I have what everyone (mostly everyone) wants: the happy marriage, beautiful baby, loving home and cooking skilllllllzzzzzzzzzz (that’s right. I said it.). I didn’t need the reminder of the never worn dress every time I wanted to swab my ears. So I took it to the store.

Of course, when I unzipped the dress bag, everyone in the store gasped. This dress is gorgeous, seriously. Here’s a link to it, courtesy of Allure Bridals. My shoulders are broader than my hips, and the shape of the dress isn’t flattering on everyone, but when it’s the right body, holy moly. I don’t think I look good in much, but I guarantee you, this dress is stunning on me. I half- jokingly asked the shop owner if I could visit it before it sold. She, and some of the shoppers in the store, assured me it wouldn’t be there long.

On the drive home it hit me. A year ago today would have been our wedding.

I fought back tears as I pulled into our driveway. Then I sent a text to CLP to remind him of the date. Then I told him I had taken the dress to the consignment store.

When we finally hashed it out, he surprised us both by being upset about the dress no longer being in our home. He said words that finally made the tears spill, “I wanted to see you, beautiful as you are, in the dress you loved so much … I never got to see you wear it.” After mini Gwinn got a good laugh at my crying (he crawled in my lap to giggle at me), I called the store and asked if I could come get my dress. She chuckled and said, “I knew you would have second thoughts. Absolutely, come get it. It’s yours!” She was kind and understood. Even if I never got to wear it, that gorgeous gown was my wedding dress.

Am I crazy for harboring disappointment in never having a wedding? Maybe. But I don’t claim to be sane. Every deserving lady should get to have one day where she wears an incredibly beautiful and expensive dress, gets to eat yummy cake made just for her, and has the opportunity to tell everyone she knows how much she loves her man. I’m still torn about the wedding I never had. It’s a bittersweet feeling- I have all the best things about a wedding in my marriage.

But I really wanted to wear a pretty dress and eat cake.


Would You Marry Yourself?

About a week before Captain Laser Pants popped the question, I was talking to an old acquaintance of mine. After a years- long relationship, his ex had left him because it wasn’t moving forward. He compared all other women to her. At the time of this conversation, he told me he was “casually” dating between three and five women simultaneously and wondered why none of them took him seriously enough to have a real relationship with him. I guffawed and asked him if the situation had been reversed, how he would react. He sighed dramatically and commented on my wisdom (of course) before asking me about my relationship. I told him it was awesome, which was totally true, and he asked me how I was so happy. I told him, “To find the one, you have to be the one. I may not be ‘the one’ yet, but I’m sure working on it.” He told me that I was going to make CLP a very happy man. That was the last time I’ve spoken with him.

Maybe I was too harsh with him, but, let’s be honest- no one wants to settle down with a serial dater. Did he want to date the female version of himself? No way.

It’s a good litmus test, if you’re honest. Would you marry yourself? I sure as heck wouldn’t marry me. Want some reasons why? Here you go!

-I am really forgetful about important stuff (like paying bills or renewing my driver’s license) but have an acute memory for the utterly mundane (“there are four snaps on mini Gwinn’s romper!”)
-I am moody. There, I said it.
-Sometimes my very rational brain goes nuts and shuts down. Much like a robot’s hard drive.
-I’m not really affectionate, but I like to get a hug once in a while.
-I am super critical

I’m working on the critical attitude- being forgiving and emotionally generous will be paramount as my baby grows older. My moodiness is usually as a result of something incredibly petty, like forgetting trash day. Managing my emotions isn’t my partner’s responsibility, it’s my own. There are areas of “me” that I’m working on still (like my thighs). It’s pretty obvious that if I married myself, all the bills would be forgotten, but all clothes would be organized by color and style in each closet. Dinner may be made, but if me and myself are losing the house due to foreclosure, it doesn’t really matter. I need a partner, not a clone.

This is kind of a two- point blog. Not only do we need spouses who complement us, we need to first be the kind of “work in progress” person that “the one” will want to complete. I’m not saying you have to be perfect before you’re going to find your other half. But doing things like hip- checking your own selfishness, for instance, can make or break a good day in a marriage. Sometimes it amazes me with the blatant selfishness I see displayed in marriage, and honestly, it makes me pity the other spouse. It’s always a two way street (believe me I know), but if we laid down the weapons in a relationship and tried empathizing with the other, I can’t help but wonder how much more peacefully resolution can be found as a team, and not two opposing sides.

I asked CLP if he would marry himself, and he responded with, “I’m more likely to marry a Choco Taco”. He wouldn’t marry himself because he and I are two halves to a whole. Would I marry myself? No. But are there traits in my personality that make my marriage great? Absolutely. He and I both have plenty to work on as individuals, but because we empathize with one another and connect on a daily basis, we are so much better together than we are separate.

This is all over the place, really just a stream of consciousness blog. Maybe something more coherent will come up in the future!


BatFletch

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