Time to get naked!

Image from the backscatter advanced imaging technology (AIT) machine used by the TSA to screen passengers. This is what the remote TSA agent would see on their screen. By US Transportation Security Administration part of U.S. Department of Homeland Security [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Image from the backscatter advanced imaging technology (AIT) machine used by the TSA to screen passengers. This is what the remote TSA agent would see on their screen.
By US Transportation Security Administration part of U.S. Department of Homeland Security [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I’m finally in tune with a judgment made about free speech.  Too many times, it’s restricted or otherwise cut in the name of “safety,” especially when it comes to airports.

But on July 19, a man in Oregon was cleared of indecent exposure charges after he’d gotten naked to go through a security checkpoint when a judge decreed that it did, indeed, count as free speech because it was being done as a protest.

The man had been going through security and didn’t want to go through the “nude scanner” so he opted for a pat-down.  The security guard who did the pat-down found traces of nitrates on his gloves after the pat-down.  At that point, the man was so frustrated that he decided that the whole thing had moved beyond absurd and that, since they wanted to see him “naked,” he might as well go whole hog and stripped off and went through the checkpoint.

The judge determined that it was protest, and that the charges would have punished him for “speaking,” so they were dropped.

This is a great reminder that the TSA cannot restrict free speech (as long as it’s not threatening).  If you fly, you’re welcome to wear slogans on shirts or even put them on your bag.  So copying out the Fourth Amendment, as one flier did, is legal, as long as you don’t do it in a threatening way.  Even so, I would personally expect them to try to file charges and need to fight it.


Flying home

Leaving Tampa in just over an hour now. It seems like the past ten days have flown and dragged. It was like an entire semester compressed into those days, with no time to live or breathe. So sitting here and thinking I’ve got four months of work ahead of me is crazy.

Had an excellent experience last night at what bills itself as the oldest restaurant in Florida. Great food, great service, and great flamenco show (which I’d never seen before).

Slept horribly last night, so I can’t wait to get on the plane and take a nap. I made the foolish mistake of checking my alarm before I went to sleep. Or not so foolish since I had set it for 5 pm, not 5 am. I fixed it, but then I woke up all night long, convinced I had missed it and terrified I was waking up at 7 am, far too late to make my 7.35 flight.

But I wasn’t just responsible for my own wake-up. I also had to wake up my travel wife, who sleeps very heavy.

The alarm went off, I jumped, hopped out of bed, and started the coffee brewing. Then I knocked on her bedroom door. “Wakey wakey eggs and bakey!”


Tried it again.

Her TV had been on all night, and I think it was louder than I was. I tried banging on the door one more time, pretty sure I was going to wake up all the neighboring rooms. Then I did It. I went into her room.

And she was toasted out, completely oblivious.

What next? I didn’t want to touch her. I tried calling her name again. No dice. Maybe I should find the remote and turn off the tv? Couldn’t find it, and the tv had no obvious buttons on it in the dark – the curse of modern technology. So I fell back to an old favorite. I hit her with a pillow.

It worked!

Now we’re at the Tampa International Airport, the TSA agent manning the desk gave my id and ticket the stink eye, like they was suddenly going to transform or tell him I wasn’t me, and we’re collapsed at the gate, waiting to board the flight and take a nap.

But I’m almost home!


Taking Tampa by the Tale – Part V

Not Quite Urban Explorer Day!
Not Quite Urban Explorer Day!

So my travel wife, we’ll call her “Alessandra” for the sake of anonymity, decided to come along with me to one of the evening readings.  It was the first time that we’d be driving to the campus with the intention to actually park in the garage.  It was hard to find, and once we’d found it, we then had to fight our way through the rubble of construction and bush-whack from the back end of the campus to find the theatre where we’d get to hear the reading of one very boring presenter book-ended onto one of the most engaging readings of the series. 

When the reading was over, it was time to bush-whack back again, and we discovered the easiest way to get back and avoid the construction was to avoid the sidewalk and instead cut back through the empty residence

And they were creepy!  They didn’t look like anyone was coming back to them.  Bookcases against windows.  Mattresses leaning on walls.  Empty, darkened game rooms and Laundromats with unopened boxes that made it look like everything was in suspended animation.  It made me want to watch Chernobyl Diaries (no spoilers – I haven’t seen it yet!).

The next day, when I was leaving the Books Arts Seminar, I was traveling with a fellow student back past the garage and onto campus.  For her anonymity, I’ll call her “Trusting.”  So Trusting was kind of lost, having never been behind the garage and off campus like that before, and I say, “Hey, let’s cut through this deserted part of campus that’s deserted and spooky!”  And she, not knowing me at all, says, “Sure!”  Because she’s obviously never watched a horror movie.

Well, luckily for Trusting, it wasn’t a horror movie, but at some point between the previous night and that afternoon, someone put up “Caution” and “Restricted” yellow tape in a big X, trying to stop anyone from exiting – but not entering, which was really strange.  We had to cross through the X to get out.

And in that moment, I flashed on the movie I’d seen about urban explorers, and something tripped in my brain, and I was no longer content looking at pictures and videos of urban exploration, I got the urge to do it.  The person in the movie was right – there’s totally something that makes you want to go wherever you aren’t supposed to go.  If I didn’t have a witness with me, and if the security cameras weren’t as blatant as they were, perhaps I would have tried some doors and windows.

Instead, I think that flush of excitement is what led me to agree when the MFA program assistant, let’s call her “Flunkie” for this, pulled up in her golf cart and offered us a ride to the edge of campus, right next to the drawbridge, to help reduce our walk.  It was starting to drizzle.  We both said yes.  Since I had two bags (my computer bag and my purse), I took the back bench that faced outwards.

It was the scariest carnival ride ever.  No, there was no fear of it being old and creaky, but it was fast and felt out of control, hitting every bump of the bricked drives, swerving at the last possible moment, and hopping the curb (“Ooops,” Flunkie said), and missing a turn because she called out and waved to her friend on the porch of Plant Hall, losing track of her driving (“This is fun, kids!” she said, missing – or finding it ironic – that we were both almost twice her age.).

We got off and I won’t bothered with the clichéd weak-kneed, but I did feel like I had just survived a near-death experience, having spent most of the trip picturing myself flying out of the car and into a face plant with maximum injury and maximum bloodshed.

And then it got even more fun.  As we walked across the bridge, it went from a drizzle to a cloud burst.  I walked my mile back to the hotel with squishy sneakers, dripping wet hair, and a waterproof bag that leaked.

Still in Tampa…


Taking Tampa by the Tale – Part I


It started with a massive panic attack, followed by syncope – you know, a fainting spell.  No, not me. 

I was going to Tampa to start my low-residency MFA in creative writing, and my friend and travel wife (we’ll call her “Sandra”)  was coming along to enjoy ten days of rest and relaxation.  But it wasn’t starting out as very restful or relaxed for her.

She began panicking when we got in the security line at the airport and she saw the new 9/11 craziness that now involves a full-body scan and the removal of shoes, belts, coats, and any other potentially scary things we carry, like cell phones, loose change, and car keys. 

Then we got separated at the ID check.  Four lanes open for paper checking, and my line went fast.  Hers went slow.  Too slow. 

I lost track of her, sat down to put my shoes back on, and chatted with the guy next to me who was also putting his shoes back on.  Then I spotted her, waiting to reclaim her stuff, and she seemed a bit off, so I wandered over to help her, and she told me what happened.

She did something – she’s still not sure what – and the security guard began telling her, “To make things easier next time…” and then she pitched forward into the person in front of her in a dead faint.

She woke back up, having wrenched her knee but managed to avoid hurting anyone she crashed into.  The security agent asked if she was okay, and began telling her, “To make things easier next time…”  But she still didn’t focus on what he was saying.

Then it was to the waiting place until we made it to Tampa….