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The sunny side of shutting it down l Chuck’s World


Last updated 1/16/2019 at Noon

I stood in the airport security line last Friday, aware that this was payday for the TSA employees and that they weren’t looking forward to it. I tried to be extra-compliant, but then I usually take orders well.

I ignore them, often, mostly because I don’t actually hear them (try my right ear), but I do my best.

None of these security folks seemed in a bad mood, considering the federal government isn’t currently paying them.

They were polite and occasionally funny. I stepped out of the X-ray scanner and stood in place quietly, waiting for what always happens next.

For the past few years, every time I fly I transform into a potential security risk. This could be said of any of us, of course, which is the purpose of screening passengers, but in my case it’s personal. I expect to get patted down and wanded and otherwise physically inspected, because it’s now happening every time.

I don’t mind. This is always superficial, always done apologetically, and always focused on my left hip and pocket area. On rare occasions, an officer will have to inspect slightly more sensitive areas, but this is also superficial and doesn’t feel particularly invasive.

Maybe a little nostalgic, but that passes.

My theory is that I’m thinner than I used to be, and one of my hipbones has become suspicious. For all I know, my hip is planning something. It’s just a theory.

Again, I don’t mind any of this. It’s minor and quick, and the TSA agent just shrugs and waves me on. I’m in a good mood, knowing that I can put my shoes on leisurely and my belt carefully, watching for stray loops.

“The most certain sign of wisdom is cheerfulness,” said Michel de Montaigne, or at least according to the internet. I aim for cheerfulness, then. If I’m not wise and not likely to become so, at least I can try to fool the rest of you.

I remain cheerful, even as my country currently seems to be out of order. Trash is piling up in national parks, museums are closed, people who keep an eye on those planes I’ve been flying on recently are now worrying about their mortgage payments and credit ratings, which should make anyone nervous.

Government shutdowns are the new normal, which I know because I’m the old normal. I’ve been alive long enough to remember when deals were cut, compromises made, differences papered over by the necessity and obligation of public servants to do their jobs.

There are always budget fights, and occasionally there were minor, partial closures that lasted hours or weekends, things most of us barely noticed. They were political statements, and as such points were made and then everyone got back to work.

Things began to change around 30 years ago, but you don’t need a history lesson from me and I don’t feel like delivering one. I’m trying to be cheerful here.

The weather is currently dry, and warmer than normal. The Seahawks are no longer playing football, but it was a cheerful season, eventually, and I have no complaints, and one less thing to think about.

My recent experience with those unpaid TSA folks was the result of a quick trip to Arizona to see my mother. My brother called after I returned home, just to discuss my impressions of our mom, who turns 82 this week.

Nearly two years ago, she was diagnosed with a progressive, incurable respiratory illness that seemed ominous. We envisioned a year of multiple trips and inevitable decline.

She seems fine, though. None of us have an explanation, although I’m beginning to suspect it has a lot to do with cheerfulness. She’s generally a happy, upbeat person. She was realistic about her diagnosis. I think maybe she just forgot about it after a while.

I made the trip because my daughter and her family made a spontaneous trip there, a last-minute gig for my son-in-law in Scottsdale and an opportunity for a family road trip, and my daughter wanted to see her grandmother. I came along for the experience, then, never missing a chance to hang out with my daughter and 5-year-old grandson, and enjoying the thought of four generations under one roof.

This is unfair, as spending time with this boy will make anyone cheerful, but it’s not just him. I know American is broken, our politics are divisive and nasty, a sizeable chunk of our elected officials are lining their pockets on the public dime, and the president of the United States is suspected by some of being a Russian agent.

This is a messy time, unlike any other in recent memory, and it’s easy to see how turning the lights off in the Smithsonian is a symbol for the death of optimism.

I know all of this. So do you. I have no special insight, no knowledge of the actual truth in some of this, at least not yet. I have no predictions about the future, either.

Except the lights will come back on. As sure as my left hip is going to look suspicious on X-rays, the gears will begin to grind again. It will likely be ugly, and it might look different at the end, but I think we’re going to be OK.

Cheer up, then. You’ll feel better and appear wiser, at least according to the internet, and who doesn’t trust that?


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