Recently in the security line of an unnamed airport in an unnamed city, we got caught behind Captain Oblivious. The Captain, stalwart voyager of the airways that he was, was a stereotypical Bay area denizen, if indeed one can find something stereotypical in all that counterculture slash capitalism slash old money slash new media. He had long grey hair tied in a pony tail with a floor length duster. Kind of a new-agey hi-tech cowboy if you will.

First off he was on his phone during the entire time in line, and it apparently was a bit distracting, as only a poke in the back from the person behind him in line alerted him to the fact that the TSA agent was ready to review his travel documents. As a matter of fact the TSA agent was ready for a couple of minutes or more and might have been ready for significantly more time if not for the aforementioned poke. Which is, I will note, totally unlike me, I usually refrain from manhandling strangers, and never more so than in San Francisco. But at the then current rate of progress it was apparent that if someone didn’t do some poking and pronto, we’d be here all day. There was of course, some wrestling with phones and searching through various pockets for tickets and drivers licenses, which took a significant amount of time. But finally, the Captain was cleared to proceed to Step 2 – The Disrobing and Unshoeing.

As we watched in somewhat awed fascination, he took one, two, three, four bins and put them on the table. Then he ran into trouble with Bin #5. This was the last bin in the stack, and thus bolted to the trolley that they use to move the bins around. After various attempts to get the bin free including brute force, and a little finesse, he gave up and continued pulling bins from another stack.

So by now he had lined up a total of six bins. What could he do with all of them we all wondered? And there was a bunch of us now, as a crowd built up as the line bunched behind him. Well, Bin #1 was for his laptop. And each of the other bins were apparently dedicated to the contents of an individual pocket. The right pants pocket had a bunch of change, seriously, like four or five dollars in assorted coinage. That went into one bin. The left back pants pocket had a pamphlet, and possibly a notebook. That was Bin #3. Bin #4 was the recipient of the contents of the left front pants pocket which contained a huge clump of keys, on a chain, totaling like three or four pounds of keys. What could all these keys be for, we wondered (we wondered a lot about a lot of things, as we had lots and lots of time to be wondering)? Maybe he was the owner of a chain of coffee houses that served shade tree grown coffee and gluten free snacks and he liked to keep keys from each of the stores on his ring. Or perhaps he was the keeper of the store rooms deep below JPL, and each of the keys could unlock a case hidden away for decades that concealed one of the mysteries of man’s presence on this planet. Or possibly, he was one of those people that liked to keep a copy of every key he ever owned and in idle moments, when he didn’t need to empty his pockets, he’d spin them around the ring and select one, and reflect on that magical summer of 1967 when he was hanging out in the Haight with his girlfriend, getting high and grooving on the mellow.

Moving on from the Summer of Love, Bin #5 contained the contents of right aft pants pocket. Some more paper, and maybe writing utensils too. Bin #6 contained the stuff that had been lurking in the shirt pocket, of which, fortuitously, he only had one.

Bin #7 was the final resting place of the duster and the hat. You know he had a hat, right? And that he went back for more bins, because, much like his key collection, there was an apparent infinite number of pockets to be emptied. And then there were the suspenders, because you know, it’s part of the look. Being a slave to fashion, even if it is hi-tech new-agey cowboy, means you have to wear the suspenders, even though they take forever to take off and then put on again, but the important point is that you think you look cool in them.  Shoes and suspenders were forced to share a bin, Bin #8 by my count, though I will admit that I might have missed a few as was they were starting to go through the X-Ray. There was a couple of minutes of pocket patting, a few small things thrown into the bins that had been previously overlooked, like some pocket lint, nail clippers, a can of suspender polish. And then it was off to the metal detector. Well, no, not the metal detector, because today we were going to get our money’s worth out of these backscatter scanners for which we paid many millions of American taxpayers’ dollars. So, instead everyone got to go through them and receive their doctor’s unapproved daily dose of radiation.

I was intensely interested to see what would happen at this point since the Captain had conscientiously emptied his pockets of everything, including pocket lint, but he’d neglected to take off a watch that was the size of a small dinner plate, not to mention three or four rings, so massive that they had to weigh like three or four ounces apiece. Fortunately for the Captain and probably the large and muttering crowd that had built up behind him, the TSA decided that enough metal to build a mid-size car was no reason to detain the Captain, especially since collecting all his belongings was going to take another fifteen minutes, anyhow.

When last we saw the Captain, he was trying to remember if the contents of Bin #3 went in his right front pants pocket or the left back pants pocket. He might still be there.

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