Do I Look Like a Terrorist?

Fortunately, the airport security screeners didn’t seem to think so. I didn’t receive any unusual attention, except for the sweeps with the handheld metal detectors after I triggered the walk-throughs on both trips. (Note to self: no more flying in Wranglers. Having every rivet on my jeans carefully checked out might be fun if the screeners were female, but they weren’t). Unfortunately, my encounter with the National Park Police was a little more frustrating.

The trip didn’t provide much time for recreation. But
Tuesday afternoon, when my colleague Victor and I realized we were done and couldn’t fly out before Wednesday morning without paying a ridiculous surcharge, we decided we at least had time to see the Liberty Bell. That plan was thwarted by a Homeland Security policy which barred a law-abiding taxpaying born in the USA citizen from viewing one of the most tangible icons of the freedom this country used to stand for just because I was carrying a common tool of my trade, similar to what one might expect to find in the pocket of any truly prepared Boy Scout.

We had stopped at the hotel after leaving Sungard, and I could have left the “weapon” in my room, but it never occurred to me that it would be considered a danger to the security of the Liberty Bell. I’m not sure whether they thought I was going to carve my initials in the bell (I hear the damn thing’s already cracked anyway), or hold the guards at knifepoint while Victor carried the bell away. As we entered the park, a large sign warned about “weapons, including pocketknives”, but I naively thought they weren’t really serious. As we reached the security checkpoint and saw the metal detectors, I realized they were serious and there was no way I was going to slip through. So I opted for the straightforward approach, showing my “weapon” to the guard and asking if it would be a problem. He was friendly and sympathetic, and handed the knife to someone else and said “see if that’s OK”. When told “you know she’ll say No”, he said “ask anyway”. Sure enough, the unseen “she” who possesed the ultimate authority over my entry said “No.”

Right behind me was another would-be liberty-worshipper with a similar, albeit smaller problem. (You call that thing a knife? I’d be embarrased if mine was that small). I hung around outside the entrance to see if “she” would be any more sympathetic to a man with a smaller tool. Apparently not, because he soon came back out. Then I watched him stash the knife in the ground for later retrieval and go back in, and wished I’d thought of that. Unfortunately, he didn’t get any points for creativity; he was immediately escorted back out by the guards.

Aside from not seeing the Liberty Bell, there’s not much else to say about the trip. But (never being one to shut up just because I don’t have anything to say), I’ll have to admit that wandering around in the Philadelphia Historic District is enough to make even a hard-core country boy admit there are some advantages to urban life. Sunday night, after getting checked into our hotel and having a few drinks in the hotel bar, we decided to venture out in search of more solid nutrition. Consultation with the bar staff sent us on a quest for the Race Street Cafe, which they told us was one of a very few places serving food that late on a Sunday night.

I didn’t have high expectations for a place whose strongest point was that it was open when no place else was. But I’m adventurous and not terribly picky, so I thought that it was worth the hike. I was pleasantly surprised. It turned out to be a wonderful example of a small, friendly neighborhood bar/restaurant. The tempting and varied menu was supplemented by a board listing the daily specials, which included a seafood ravioli that turned out to be as good as it sounded. As I was searching the menu to see if it offered anything even better (lots of tempting choices, but nothing topping the ravioli), Victor criticized my priorities and grabbed the beer list, looking for a good local draft. He wasn’t disappointed; he shoved the list in my face saying “There ya go .. right there at the top … Doggie Style Pale Ale”. Of course we had to try it, and I pronounced that it was the best Doggie Style I’d had all week (remember it was only Sunday).

As we walked back, feeling very philosophical as a result of lots of good Doggie Style, I looked around at the variety of shops, bars, etc., with apartments above them, and admitted that living in one of those apartments, within stumbling distance of ample entertainment and shopping opportunities (Reading Terminal Market is way cool), definitely would have some advantages, even if it meant giving up the peace and solitude and wide open spaces I’ve gotten used to. I’m not completely sure I could adjust to it (the therapeutic value of being able to walk out of your house in the middle of the night and hug a horse is hard to explain to anybody who hasn’t been there), but I can begin to see how some people are attracted to it. Of course, I’d probably choke if I found out what kind of rent people pay to live in that environment.

5 Replies to “Do I Look Like a Terrorist?”

  1. As if you are getting doggy style anyother night of the week <rolling eyes> Or is that why you aren\’t online much anymore? Hmmmmm…..

  2. I have been able to waltz through metal detectors with large quantities of metal…I don\’t know why they don\’t snare me. I used to be able to give my keys to other guards, and they\’d set off the thing…I\’d put them in my pocket, and walk through without so much as a chirp.
    I usually take my pocket knife out of my purse (xray machines) and put it in my pocket to go to the Smithsonian museums with security.
    Had no idea you were on this coast! The appeal of an urban environment is there, which is why I haven\’t moved further away. I am about an hour from good food, and a bit over an hour from bars…but I don\’t usually go to those.
    Mel

  3. Well shux, I’m already less than an hour from good food and bars, and I live in the middle of nowhere. But that’s not the same as being within walking (or stumbling) distance. That would be the major appeal of urban life for me; being able to walk a few minutes and shop for fresh stuff to carry home, or enjoy the atmosphere of a sidewalk pub and not worry about being too impaired to drive home.

  4. See, life in the city ain\’t all bad…
    Of course I don\’t live within walking distance to much other than the grocery store, but $5 cab rides make more things possible 😉

  5. So, how many times a week do you ask \"has the world gone mad\"?
    Pathetic isn\’t it…you\’re (I hopefully assume!) a Good Chap with a very small (meant in the nicest way…) knife…and they don\’t let you through…but how many terrorists get into places with pistols or semtex………in the words of Homer (Simpson…I\’m not that well educated) – Doh!
    It is actually relitively easy to kill some one with a Pencil……..!!!!???
    It\’s also nice to hear that I\’m not the only one (my motto is \"be prepared\"…..) with a \"gadget\"…My husband used to tease me unmercifully about it—until called out to rescue a sinking tug one day…and someone asked \"has anyone got a posi drive ?\"- Yes, it did make my day!
    (Mind you- I also carry a torch, a multi tool (file, pliers, screw drivers, saw etc), a piece of string (looked handy, and came in useful as a temporary dog lead…once…), cable ties (you never know), a tyre pressure guage (got to keep it somewhere….), a tape measure, \’phone (of course),pen, business cards (www.charliefox.co.uk- I write, hopefully?) and lip balm (well…I am a girl….).

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