“Hips and knees to the left,” instructed the TSA official to our group of travelers trying to get from Washington D.C., to Denver. I was feeling pretty smug, having been assigned the desirable status of “TSA Pre” for the flight. I had even told the airlines employee that there are actually some advantages to being older than the snowboarders and skiers in line to escape to the mountains, at least in how dangerous TSA thinks you are. Large signs directed our lucky crowd past the long lines of more suspect non-TSA Pre folks to the privileged line where you are spared the indignities of taking off your shoes and revealing that you didn’t happen to find matching socks this morning.
Best of all is not having to wrestle out the plastic bag with all of your private toiletries for the world to see.
But just when I thought I was in for smooth sailing, the TSA agent looked at the collective age of our line and realized there had to be metal in many of these bodies.
That’s when he said, “Hips and knees to the left.”
As the proud owner of two metal knees, I lined up with my fellow travelers and we soon were chatting about which body part had been replaced and how it was going. I arrived at the new, improved metal screener designed for bionic ticket-holders and cheerfully announced myself as “knees.”
My most recent experience of seeing people classified according to body parts was when I agreed to accompany a friend for her colonoscopy. As the medical staff were wheeling her out of the preparation room, one said, “She’s just a colon.” This made a big impression on her as she was going under the anesthetic. The first words out of her mouth afterward, when she groggily opened her eyes, were, “They said I’m just a colon.” She seemed very hurt by this casual description. I assured her that really, she is so much more than that, just as I told myself after being directed to the hips and knees crowd.
Back in the airport, I was learning far more than I ever imagined about snowboarders and concussions as the two in line behind me discussed when they wore their helmets. One insisted that his time as a baseball catcher was by far the more dangerous game. He talked about being concussed from bats hitting him and that baseball going 90 miles-an-hour. Who knew baseball could be worse than doing triple somersaults over a frozen hard pipe ledge? By the time the snowboarders are my age, I wonder what body part lines they’ll join. Hips, knees and metal plates in brains?