“Thank you, ma’am” the TSA official said as he handed back my ID and boarding pass. I did a double-take and checked my driver’s license to see if I actually had an individual name because way back at curbside, I’d become a cow.
The cow persona settles on a traveler as herds tromp off buses and out of cars. My fellow adventurers and I may mill about the outer food troughs of TGIFridays, or Barnes and Noble, but eventually we respond to the jangle of the food bucket, and join the rest of the herd, ambling toward the TSA corral, towing our carry-ons like a wagon train.
STATION 1: EAR TAG CHECK. This first stop is where our ear tags identify which cow you are, when you’re birthed, and if you’d like to donate any organs. If one of the cattle is missing its plastic ID tag or papers, then he or she is sent down a side chute and searched for a brand. If none is found, they go to a holding pen.
Here’s where the TSA official almost awakened me out of my stupification by smiling and using my name, but not to worry. After several wide-eyed blinks, I was pressed into the chute, the pack pushing me to:
STATION 2: VACCINATION STATION. Here we’re herded through another gate to receive a dose of radiation. If administered at the appropriate level, it can sterilize objects, find cancer, cross-link plastics, and create new strains of seed. Posted signs indicate it will not hurt film. Nothing about what it does to cows. But our bovine brains are freighted with heavier realities: Should I Zip Loc the toothpaste? Why do charts tell us to bag deodorant—my armpit has never exploded? There isn’t much time to ponder these truth because the chutes divide and we are channeled to the:
STATION 3: DIP TANKS. Each doggie clops through the gate bare-hoofed, free of cow bells, harnesses, or jewelry. Animals are sorted into those who make the cow gate bing bong, those whose trappings ding dong, and those who don’t make any noise. Once ejected from the chutes, the cattle mill around trying to find their tails and saddlebags.
There are more lines, but my favorite part of flying is sitting in the hauling containers for hours. Usually a wrangler passes through the aisle, making sure we’re all watered and still conscious.
After being caged in a 2’x5’ seat that doesn’t conform to any mammal’s body angles, it’s easy for the car rental to sell upgrades. “Sure. Lemme have a rig big enough to do jumping jacks and kick my legs in the air.”
I rip from the parking lot with a “MOOOOOOOve.” Soon the hypnotic stupor of cow-ness will fade. I’m headed for open pasture.