Christmas miracle at the airport

Airport security

I had already taken off my jacket and placed it in the plastic tub for the x-ray machine at the airport when the TSA agent told me I could leave it on. Ok, weird, I always thought I had to take that off, but whatever. Then I started to take off my belt and my shoes and the TSA agent told me that no, I could leave those on, too. All I needed to do was put my suitcase and backpack on the conveyor belt.

“I don’t have to take my laptop out to be scanned separately?” I asked her.

“No, this is pre-check. Just put your bags through the x-ray machine and walk through the metal detector,” as if I was the person acting totally cuckoo here. I wanted to say, “Don’t you want to scan my liquids separately? Don’t you want to check my shoes for explosives? Don’t you want to take naked pictures of me with your backscatter machine?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?! ” But I did not say these things. Instead, I gleefully sent my bags through the machine and then walked through the metal detector and that was that. It was a crazy, beautiful post-Christmas miracle.

As I waited for my flight to depart, I went online and discovered I’d been filtered into one of the new pre-check security lines at approximately 35 airports in the US. I did vaguely recall Delta asking me to check a box authorizing them to share information with the TSA when I’d booked my flight. And I had wondered why the TSA agent who checked my ID also scanned my ticket, something I’d never seen them do before. There was also an agent standing next to the person checking IDs who was asking people in line random personal questions like, “Who were you visiting?” or “Are you in a rush to get home?” which in retrospect was probably a behavior screening technique called SPOT (Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques).

Regardless of what it was, it was TOTALLY AWESOME. It is ridiculous how joyful I was not to be treated like a criminal on my way to my departure gate. I was still buzzing on happy at least 30 minutes later. It was especially nice because in the security line before my flight a few days earlier I had remembered to take off my belt, my jacket, and my coat, to empty my pockets, and to pull out my liquids and laptop for individual scanning, but as I walked toward the nudie-picture machine the TSA agent had to remind me to take off my shoes. D’oh! I’d felt like such an amateur. And this time it didn’t even matter.

I hope this pre-check program gets rolled out everywhere and that I always, always, always qualify for it. It’s kind of sad that I live in a world where not being examined like a bug in a dish before a flight is considered a luxury, but I’ll take my luxuries where I can get them.

Indy Explosion Fallout

Handcuffs

If anyone was wondering what happened in regard to that Indianapolis house explosion I blogged about last month, three people were arrested today for intentionally setting the blast that killed two people and has led to 31 houses having to be demolished due to irreparable damages. The owner of the house had serious financial problems and had recently increased the home insurance policy to $300,000. Then she, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s brother allegedly tampered with the fireplace so it would release gas into the house which was sparked to explode several hours later by a microwave on a timer.

I was relieved that they finally made some arrests. It’s been over a month since the explosion, and it was beginning to feel like no one was going to go down for the crime. Every government agency possible seemed to be involved in the investigation: the police department, the fire department, the Secret Service, the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), and Homeland Security. And those are only the ones I remember. Anyway, it looks like the perpetrators are going to get their asses nailed to the wall for this. It could even qualify as a death penalty case or life without parole because of the two deaths.

A guy who works at the same company as my younger brother lived in the house next door, which has been marked as a crime scene for at least a month. He said he was in the living room when the explosion happened. It blew him all the way into his kitchen where he woke up with a cookie sheet wrapped around his head. Crazy.

Anyway, there’s a lot to be grateful for this holiday season. I’m glad the worse thing my old neighbors did was smoke pot.

Don’t stop the bus

School bus

I’ve only known two people who have been murdered.

The first was Ms. Aqua, my school bus driver. I lived in the suburbs but I attended a magnet high school downtown, so I got there by taking a bus to a middle school across the street from the projects which served as a transfer hub. Then I hopped on Ms. Aqua’s bus for the 5-10 minute ride to my school. Her bus had a sign in the window that said “AQUA” spelled in capital letters, but I didn’t realize that was her last name at first. I thought it was a color guide so the younger kids could find the right bus. What color bus do you ride? I ride the aqua bus! But no, that was actually her last name.

It was her first year as a driver and Ms. Aqua wasn’t quite cut out for it. She got lost on the way to school that first day. We had to give her directions. She seemed overwhelmed, but she was doing her best, and there was something sincere and friendly about her that made us like her. She either quit or was fired after a month or two. But before that someone learned her birthday was coming up, so they secreted a cupcake aboard the bus that day. On the way to school we started shouting, “Fight! Fight! Fight!” to get Ms. Aqua to stop the bus, and then we sang her happy birthday and handed her a cupcake and she cried happy tears.

A few years later I was watching the news and Ms. Aqua’s face appeared on the screen. Her ex-boyfriend had broken into her apartment and shot her to death.

The other person I know who was murdered was Sixfredo, who was my friend Kathy’s younger brother. Kathy and I got summer passes to Kentucky Kingdom one summer during middle school and took lots of trips to ride the roller coasters. Sixfredo sometimes came along, and I’d see him whenever I visited Kathy’s house. He was the typical kid brother, full of energy and occasionally annoying in that kid brother way that you don’t really mind. I attended a birthday party for him or Kathy or their little sister once, and I remember him taking several blindfolded swings at a piñata hanging from a tree in their backyard and bursting it wide open.

A few years ago there was an altercation at someone’s trailer about money or something and Sixfredo was stabbed. He died later at the hospital.

There are a few other people who were murdered that I know of second-hand. In middle school a teacher at a another school that one of my friends knew was killed by her son who then put her body on the curb in a trash bag. My younger brother knew a girl who was murdered by her boyfriend a few years ago, who then cut her body into pieces and left the parts in different dumpsters around town. Right before I moved into my old apartment complex, the maintenance man was shot execution style with the rest of his family during a home invasion. Then there was Quinton, a kid at my high school who was shot at the bus stop on the second day of school for no apparent reason.

I can’t help thinking of these people since the Sandy Grove school shooting that took place last Friday. Everyone has to die eventually, but it seems rather unfair when someone else gets to decide when “eventually” is for you. It’s sad and a little frightening to think that your life could be taken away from you at any time and there’s not necessarily anything you can do to prevent it.

I don’t remember the names of the people who shot Ms. Aqua or stabbed Sixfredo, but I remember that cupcake and that piñata. I think that’s all I can do, is remember the good times and appreciate them as they happen, because you never know when this bus ride will be over.

An explosion heard on Twitter

For two minutes last night it seemed possible that my mother’s apartment complex had exploded. (It didn’t.) It was midnight. I was checking Twitter. An Indianapolis friend said there had been a loud boom on the south side that people had heard from miles away. I clicked the tweet’s hashtag and discovered that there had been an explosion. A neighborhood was on fire. This is when my inner monologue started chanting, Please don’t be my mom’s place. Please don’t be my mom’s place. Please, please, please, don’t be my mom’s place. Then came the two minutes of not-quite-panic, more like very-heightened-alert, during which I searched for the cross streets of the explosion on Google Maps. (Typing on a smartphone is irritably slow at moments like these.) Finally the map came up and I was relieved that my mother’s place was in no immediate danger.Whew.

Unfortunately for a lot of people, a neighborhood six miles away did explode, killing at least two people. In the hours immediately after the tragedy, I found myself getting most of my information from Twitter, which was good in many ways and also bad.

Good
There were first-hand reports, photos, and videos from news reporters, people on the scene, and other reputable sources, as well as links to live streaming broadcasts from the local news stations.

Bad
There were rumors that the explosion had been caused by a meteorite, a gas leak, a meth lab, the earthquake earlier in the day in Kentucky, a military drone strike, and as a result of Obama being re-elected. Seriously. ETA: Tonight I have also seen theories that it was a missile attack or a terrorist bomb maker who didn’t know what he was doing because the FBI and Homeland Security have allegedly been seen investigating the debris.

Good
There was helpful information about where evacuees were being transported and the best ways for you to donate or assist. Seeing the fast response and support from the community was reassuring and heartwarming.

Bad
There was a lot of fighting over what hashtag to use for the event. Because the source of the sound had originally been unknown, the hashtag #indyboom had been started. Once it was discovered that the boom was caused by an explosion that had killed at least two people, this tag did seem rather insensitive. Lots of people were using the hashtag #explosion instead, then later #indyexplosion. Unfortunately, once a hashtag gets started it’s hard to get everyone to agree to change it. If you use the less popular tag your tweet is less likely to be seen, and using two or three hashtags in the same tweet eats up valuable characters. I agree, the hashtag isn’t great, but it seemed rather trivial to be fighting over a hashtag when the world was on fire. #indyBoom is the hashtag we’re stuck with. Sorry.

Even Badder
If you thought using the hashtag #indyboom was bad, the only thing worse is being a spammer who uses that tag to promote their spammy links disguised as news.

Despite all that, I found myself glued to the Twitter feed for at least two hours, absorbing all the information I could as it came in. The same thing happened to me last year when the stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair. Even though I don’t live in Indianapolis, I find myself transfixed by any sort of disaster that takes place there. It makes it seem more real when you know exactly where something horrible happened, when you’ve seen a concert where that stage collapsed or if you’ve driven by that neighborhood on your way to the vet.

I feel sorry for everyone who was harmed or killed during this disaster, and for all the people who no longer have homes. But I’m also thankful that all my people are ok. It’s a lot to be thankful for when we’re still over a week away from Thanksgiving.

Remember, remember, it’s the sixth of November. VOTE!

Voting

It’s been interesting living in a swing state during this presidential election, and by “interesting” I mean awful. My TV has been having nightmares, y’all, and it’s been broadcasting them during every commercial break. Usually the worst digital dreams it has are of poorly produced local car commercials, but those have all been crowded off the air so candidates can trash talk each other like they’re in high school. I don’t watch that much TV, and when I do it’s usually pre-recorded so I fast forward through commercials. Yet even I can’t escape the distant whisper of “I’m so-and-so and I approve this message.” Well, I’m Jennette and I don’t approve of this message. But I do approve of the mute button.

When I lived in Indiana, I was jealous of the swing states because I am a fool. I felt like my state was ignored and my vote wasn’t as important since my state was guaranteed to go one way. (Except in the last election when it didn’t. Drama! Excitement!) It is annoying to be ignored during an election, but it’s even more annoying to get too much attention, particularly since my vote was never up for grabs. The other side can run as many ads as they want, but I know what issues are important to me and which candidate best represents my beliefs, and no 30-second commercial is going to change my mind even if you play it 30,000 times.

The worst is seeing political ads show up in my Facebook feed as promoted posts. I go to Facebook to have fun, not to get mad at the other political party. There isn’t a “Dislike” buttons for those posts, but I did figure out where the “Remove from news feed” button was on the relevant person’s profile page. I wish there were a way just to hide the one post instead of having to remove someone from my feed all together, but damn, that ad was really annoying.

The only real effect these ads have on me is that they make me really, really excited for election day. I finally get to vote! Soon our long national nightmare will be over! Or just beginning, depending on who wins or if one of the multiple nightmare scenarios play out and we don’t know who won. I am optimistic, but if the worst happens I have vodka and rum in the house. I should probably stock up on chocolate too, just in case. I might head out to the an election party happening at one of the local bars, or I might just stay in with my social media. It’s been fun watching Twitter during the debates, so I’m looking forward to seeing what people will be tweeting as the results come in.

If you are eligible to vote, I hope you do. Seriously. Get off your ass and vote. Don’t know where to vote? Look up your polling place on Vote411.org A hundred years ago I wouldn’t have even been able to vote because I have a vagina. A hundred years! We’ve had airplanes longer than women have had the right to vote. And don’t you want a cute little “I voted” sticker?

If you’re on Twitter and want to update you icon temporarily to say “I voted” to remind others to vote, then use the PicSwitch app here.

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Want second helpings? Devour more entries in the archives.

 
 
Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, chronic headache sufferer, (former?) weight-loss inspiration, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She was formerly known as PastaQueen. You can contact her if you promise to be nice.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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