I was recently reminded of how little value I really have in the grand scheme of things. Forget if you will that I served my country (with distinction) for over a decade, that I have been a Deputy Mayor and little league coach, and that I work hard and pay taxes. Those things mean little when you belong to the Cardboard Class.
As I returned from an IT conference recently, my lowly status was brought home to me yet again once I set foot in the airport I was flying out of. You see, I’m not one of those fancy TSA Pre-Check people. I only fly on occasion, and don’t know all of the angles. But as I waited in line to go through the Common Folk Harassment Portal, I could see the royalty that do get Pre-Check, and it was a sight to behold. As those better than me sauntered through the Pre-Check line, TSA agents in smoking jackets showered them with “sir” and “ma’am”, as they hugged each passenger and gave them a smooch on the forehead. There were shoe-shines, massages, and bags of money handed out to each passenger. The sequence was capped with the distribution of the most elegant take-out containers full of Mongolian BBQ and bottles of French champagne to each traveler. High times in that line, I assure you.
As I was lost in all that, the closest TSA agent to me put an electric cattle prod to my buttocks to snap me out of it. She looked all of 18 years old, and lectured me repeatedly in loud voice that I had goddam well better not have any water in my pockets (what does that even mean?). Next I was ordered to half-strip while other agents laughed at my shoes and made fun of the size printed on the back of my belt as I was herded towards The Humiliator. As I stepped into the empty chamber, a deranged John Candy look-alike agent bellowed at me “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING? I HAVE NOT YET ORDERED YOU TO STEP FORWARD INTO THE SACRED CHAMBER! GET OOOOOOUT! NOW COME BACK IN BECAUSE I AM TELLING YOU TO!” After getting all of my belongings back, I proceeded to my gate with my fellow unwashed lemmings.
This is where those of the Cardboard Class really get reminded of their lowly place on the airline travel food chain. For the fifty minutes I had before boarding, I was reminded at least two-hundred times that only special passengers are allowed overhead bin space so I should probably throw my belongings in the nearest waste receptacle, and that people as ugly and unaccomplished as myself at no time were to come near the Special Red Rug.
Then came the actual boarding process. Starting with Shiny Golden Gods, the airline staff worked their way through getting the elite among us seated. I listened as they called out Diamond Members, Platinum Blondes, Snappy Dressers, Chess Champions, Men Named Sterling and Women Named Tatiana, and so on. Oh these dukes and duchesses walked that red carpet with pluck and swagger, and I was privileged just to watch it. Then the grand process made its way closer to me (YOU GET YOUR ASS AWAY FROM THAT RED CARPET YOU ZONE 2 LOSER).
As they worked through Tin Members, The Sawdust Club, and People With an Extra Toe or Finger, it finally came my turn- they called all of the human refuse with no other traveler’s pedigree, and we made our way across the soiled blue carpet with holes in it. The check-in lady used hand-sanitizer every time she so much as made eye-contact with us, and when I said “thank you”, she muttered something that sounded like “just get on the plane before I punch you in the throat”.
But I did make it on and eventually home, and once on board it only cost me $340 dollars for eight minutes of Internet and a Slim Jim. Thankfully, the airlines care enough about even Cardboard Class to provide such amenities.