Monday, March 26, 2007

Planes, Twains, and Liquid Soap

Just back from a weekend trip to Hartford, Connecticut, home of the emptiest airport I've seen in a top-fifty city. If there were 200 people in the entire terminal, including the staff of the pretzels-and-newspapers stand, I'd be amazed. This place is so empty, you have to call for a cab, because there's no taxi stand -- the drivers could lapse into a coma waiting for a fare.

One problem the lack of passengers creates is boredom among the TSA personnel, who seem to fill the time by searching more bags by hand. Naturally, one of those was my wife's. No problems, but it was nice to note that they now do the bag search on a counter with a raised front, so passers-by can't just look over and check out your underwear or other personal items.

The flights there and back were on the Most Uncomfortable Passenger Plane In The World, an Embraer 50-seat regional jet that American Airlines squeezed us onto. This is the only option when flying nonstop from St. Louis (a city that used to be a hub but isn't anymore) to Hartford (a town that used to be a city but isn't anymore). The jet is so small that anyone over 6' tall can't stand up straight -- at 6'4", if I stood up straight my head would be outside the plane -- and the seats are designed so that, regardless of your height, you leave with a backache. I couldn't help but wonder who the pilot of this flying cigar tube had pissed off to get stuck on this route.

While in Hartford, my brother-in-law and I took our daughters to the Mark Twain House. Although I lived in that town for 4 years in the early 80s, I never went, and now know that I didn't miss anything. The woman who took us through the house may be among the worst tour guides on the planet. Oh, she told us about the architecture and furniture, but seemed unsure of every fact she spouted. Worse, she offered us no insight into Twain's work. We could just as easily have been taking a tour of any generic Victorian-era home. At one point, my brother-in-law asked her what which Twain book was his first real breakthrough. She replied, "Gee, that's a good question. I have no idea, but it was probably one of his popular ones." Ya think?

On this trip, I learned a new word: heterosexism. That's the new incredibly-PC term for anti-gay attitudes. It was in the brochure for a private school which also bills itself as "anti-racist," making it markedly different from those schools that promote themselves as "blatantly racist."

One final thing to squawk about. My mother-in-law, in whose house we stayed, has no bar of soap in her shower, preferring to use liquid soap. The problem? There are about seven different bottles filled with fluids of various colors and purposes, but since I don't wear my reading glasses while bathing, I couldn't figure out which one was the liquid soap. Could be the red one, could be the green one, could be the yellow one, could be the chalky-white one.

In the end, I'm pretty sure I cleaned my body with hair conditioner. Fortunately, no one in the family said anything about the nice lavender aroma emanating from my armpits the rest of the day.