Security Is A Relative Thing
(I wrote this on my AT&T tablet on route to PA last Tuesday, just two weeks after the Paris tragedy and a day before the San Bernardino massacre.)
l decided to take Amtrak this time rather than fly to retrieve my other half from the wilds of a another Pennsylvania winter and drive him back in his Ford Escape with his doggie, Sammy, to sunny South Florida. Yea, it puts a cramp in my philandering lifestyle (hey guys, don’t judge me – after 44 years together what do you expect when he’s no longer interested in sex and l am), but it’s nice to wake up in the morning to have somebody to argue with besides my three dogs.
Picking up Amtrak’s Silver Meteor in Lauderdale last Monday morning, I overnighted to New York City’s Penn Station and got into NYC around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, just a half hour behind schedule. From there I caught the Metro North in Hoboken to Port Jervis, New York, and cabbed it to our home across the state border in PA on my angel of mercy mission.
l chose the train which l’ve done a few times before after I found my last few flights, especially my last one on United, more of a cattle car experience, and splurged this time on a roomette. It was worth every penny for its privacy – and my own toilet, thank you very much.
Instead of being cramped in an airline seat where legroom is disappearing faster than landline phones, all for the sake of profit (less leg room means more seats they can jam in), l was able to spread out in my little isolation booth as I literally watched the world go by. I wonder with Amtrak’s staggering losses and youth’s obsession with speed how long this experience l had will continue.
Funny though, after Paris, especially coming into New York, I expected a hell of a lot of security checks, yet encountered none, zilch, nothin’, zero.
l had bought my Amtrak ticket online, but when the conductor scanned my tix in, he didn’t ask even for my ID. I learned later from a gal sitting with me in the dining car for lunch that ID’s were checked on a random basis. So we’re leaving it to luck a potential crazy is unearthed?
Sure, you can’t take Amtrak from the other side of the world like you can a plane but what’s stopping a terrorist, foreign or homegrown, from carrying a bomb in a duffle bag, much like the Boston Marathon dynamic duo did, to any of the major East Coast cities the train l was on serviced: D.C., Baltimore, Philly, and course, the Big Apple.
In fact, the first time l saw any security presence at all was when we arrived in Baltimore and a trio of cops with police dogs were having their morning coffee bullshitting on the station platform.
If you ask me, this is a big hole in our security system and like we often hear, we have to be right 100% of the time; they only have to be right once. I got an airport level security work over even when l recently visited the Statue of Liberty. And as l often said to my college students when l was still teaching, what’s stopping that nice mommy from having plastic explosives stuck up her ass or her baby’s?
Arriving in Manhattan l expected an armed camp but saw little evidence of that.
I trotted down the main corridor of Penn Station and all l saw were gakunga holiday wreaths hanging from the ceiling and free spirited musicians begging for dollars. Or was one of the guys l ate dinner with on the train right that our protectors were in plain clothes? While it makes you feel that we live in a police state, it’s also somewhat comforting to see cops in plain sight. Complete with their big, badass bomb sniffing canines.
To kill time till my Metro North train to Port Jervis from Hoboken left late that afternoon, and also because it was only a block away from Penn Station, l checked out Macy’s. Its flagship store with all its artsy, over-the-top Christmas decorations was as far away from its suburban outlets l usually frequented as Mars is to Pluto. Hell, customers were taking pix of their automaton owls that flew above the perfume counters. And glossy large screen advertising shouted out at you from every sales nook and cranny. It was as if Macy’s was just one big circus tent for dozens of fashion boutiques from leading clothes designers across the globe.
No surprise: just about every male sales rep in the place was tres gay, their female counterparts tall, thin and trendy, and many of their potential clients metrosexual devotes. After wandering three floors of female apparel, l stumbled on the men’s collection. Most of the clothes were winter wear, something l certainly don’t need where l live, and when l spied a $75 price tag on a polo shirt not much different than one l had recently thrown out, l figured it was time to leave this epitome of consumer overconsumption and its pretentious inhabitants.
About the only time security appeared alive and visible was at the PATH train station at 33rd Street and Sixth Avenue where l finally, after literally two days on the road – or should l say the tracks – picked up the train for Hoboken and my ride to Port Jervis. (From there l would take a cab to our home in PA). A small army of either active military or reserves, all young and humpy and dressed in tight, sexy fatigues stood guard at the turnstiles. They seemed imposing but let us through with nary a glance.
But l got a confession to make.
That’s one frisking l wouldn’t mind at all.
Now do your job, soldier, and feel me up good.