You might recall I broke a toe a few years ago. I clumped around in one of those awkward boots for six weeks, suffering the indignity of hoots and howls from supposedly close friends. One of the most irritating things was going through airport security on my way to Washington D.C.
“Sir, you have to take the brace off.”
“I took off my other boot.”
“Sir, you have to take the brace off.”
“Take a good look at me. Do I look like any terrorist you’ve ever seen?”
“Sir, you have to…”
“Take the brace off. I get that, but my toe is broken and it hurts to walk without it.”
“Sir, you’re holding up the line.”
“When I walk without the brace, bones grind. It’s a terrible sound, like human bodies being ground up for Soylent Green, and it doesn’t feel very good.”
“You can’t get on the plane without taking your brace off.”
“My sock has a hole in it, too. But back to the damaged appendage. I’m very slow at walking without my boot, and haven’t taken a pain pill today.”
“Are you traveling with pain pills?”
“Yep, and …”
“Are they packaged properly, in a clear plastic bag in the prescription containers listing the contents?”
“Yes, though I threw a few aspirin in with my blood pressure meds.”
“We’ll need to see them after you go through the body scan.”
“I call those metal detectors, and I’ve taken everything off except for my wedding ring, which won’t come off because I broke that knuckle not long after the ceremony.”
“You need to put your hat on the belt, also.”
“It’s a straw hat. It’ll get caught in there. Can you hand scan it?”
“Put it on the belt, please.”
I thumped the boot on the scanner, carefully placed my new straw hat on top, and watched everything disappear into the microwave, along with my briefcase containing the meds.
Limping into the glass tube, I assumed the appropriate position with both hands over my head. Once the machine finished loading me with a healthy dose of radiation, I stepped outside, wincing.
“Sir, are you all right?”
“I was when I had my brace on. Now the broken ends of my toe have come apart and I’ll probably need surgery to repair the half-healed break.”
“You need to stop right here, please. We have to wand you.”
“Because my toe is broken again?”
“Nossir. Do you have anything stuck in the back of your pants?”
“Kind of a personal question, isn’t it? Look, every time I go through security, it shows a dark spot in the small of my back. It’s probably a couple of fused disks not far above my pelvis.”
“Do you have anything tucked in your clothing?”
“I just told you.” I sighed. “Never mind.”
Holding both hands above my head, I stared into the distance as the guard patted my back.
“I don’t feel anything back there.”
“I did. It was a light pat, very professional. Like I said, there’s nothing there.”
“Good. She needs you over there.”
I glanced over at the luggage coming through the scanner.
An agent pointed at my briefcase.
“Sir, Is this your bag?”
“Yep. And that’s what’s left of my new hat. Is there some kind of giant stamp in there that squishes everything flat?”
“I’m going to need to open this bag.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means I packed two loads of stuff in that one case. Be careful, ‘cause when you open it up, it’ll be like opening a can of biscuits.”
While I strapped the brace back on my throbbing foot, he unzipped my briefcase and virtually dumped the contents onto the table. Pawing through the rubble, he picked up the clear plastic bag full with my prescriptions.
“Is this the medication you referred to?”
“You brought it up, but yeah.”
He angled the bottle. “There are two kinds in of pills in here.”
“Right. Those are for my blood pressure, which is rising as we speak, and there are a few aspirin in there.”
“You aren’t supposed to mix them.”
“They’re just aspirin.”
“The ones stamped, Bayer.”
He glared into the case some more.
“You sure have a lot of pens.”
The one thing I didn’t say was that I carry oversize pens, and a giant first grade pencil (which always clears the inspection), because I don’t like to be completely unarmed.
After a long enough period of time that I was afraid I’d miss my plane, they allowed me through. Wires, papers, and books stuck out of every opening in my case, but I was free.
I clumped along the terminal, trying to come up with good lines for when I flew back, but everything else would likely get me put in Airport Prison for a while, so I simply kept my mouth closed.
Truthfully, I’m not sure how I got off on this subject, because I set out to talk about being barefoot in the summer when I was a kid. I came up with that idea because I broke another toe a couple of weeks ago on the same foot, not long after the War Department broke one her toes, a couple of weeks before that.
Oh well. Maybe next week.
Reavis Z. Wortham is an award-winning outdoor writer with family ties to Lamar County. He is the author of “Gold Dust.”