As you may be able to divine from many of these posts, I’m not really your average chica. Not that there even is such a thing (I don’t think there is), but… I tend to hear my own music and “march to the beat of a different drummer,” as they say.
Time for today’s true confession: I play the accordion. It’s not my only instrument and I’m not really all that good, but it was an interest I picked up fairly young and actually enjoyed. Even if listening to a polka feels like inner-ear surgery without the benefit of anesthesia, playing a polka on the accordion is another experience entirely. It kinda makes you wanna dance. And I’m not a dancer.
Now, if there is anything that would seal my doom in the “absolutely un-cool” sector of modern American society, ‘twould be this. Can I possibly be any more of a nerd? The answer to that would be… “Yes, actually. I can.” As I would so enjoy sharing with you in the following anecdote.
My accordion and I have been together a long time. We met when I was but a wee lass of thirteen and he was a bit older than I. Perhaps twice or thrice my age at that time as he came from a notable family of accordion aficionados. But in the life of a musical instrument, he was still but a babe. His name was Sam. Don’t ask me why I named him that. I couldn’t tell you.
For many years, Sam and I could be seen at talent shows, girls camp, and… well, that’s about it. As we grew older, our act morphed into a stand-up comedy routine that brought down the house… all three times we performed it.
Why did I set him aside? Life got busy with school, work, travel and… just busy I guess; and I left Sam carefully preserved in his red-velvet lined case.
A few years ago, I woke Sam to take him to Arizona with me. I bought a special new travel case for him that I could carry on my back through airport security. I wasn’t about to CHECK my beloved Sam with the rest of the luggage! He fit perfectly into his sleek new case and we headed to the airport.
As requested, I doffed my shoes and put my less-than-3 oz. lotion and toothpaste tubes in a clear plastic bag. Delicately, I laid Sam on the conveyor belt in his case and walked over to the electronic strip-search machine. As I walked out the other side, I saw a yellow flashing light going off. The TSA agents were calling for back-up and a huge linebacker dressed in a TSA uniform stepped up to me invading my apparently non-existent personal space.
“Ma’am, is this yours,” he asked, pointing to Sam? “Yes,” said I, “That’s my accordion.” You’d have thought I’d said it was my alien offspring by the incredulous look this guy gave me.
“My accordion,” I replied with the most innocent face I could manage: puppy-dog eyes and all. “It’s a musical instrument.”
“I’m going to have to have you step over here, please.” He directed me to the wand-search stockyard. This is the place in the TSA cattle drive that is akin to the “Time-out Corner” at school. It’s the place of shame where you get to wear the dunce hat. But instead of the hat, they have you play an absurd game of Twister with two big yellow-marked shoes on the floor while frisking you with their cattle-prod… and beyond. I just look at the ceiling and try to pretend I’m not there. And why they paint the yellow “stand here” marks as shoes is beyond me because they are still in possession of MY shoes, leaving me to stand there in my stocking feet. Fortunately, I learned years ago that you always check for holes in the socks or runs in the stocking before ever entering any airport. You never know when you’ll be caught without your shoes! I think it must be a tactic they use to prevent runaways. It’s much more difficult to make good ground without your shoes providing the much needed traction on that slick floor.
May I just say how very much I truly detest the whole pat-down procedure? Seriously people. You mean that the full-body scan you just ran on me – completely undressing me with sound waves (so sorry for your eyes!) – wasn’t enough? That I must go through this as well is… Why am I going through this? They still haven’t told me what the problem is.
Once I’ve finished playing Twister in the stockyard of shame, I look over to see a mass of blue suited badges gathering around Sam! They’re now located at another table, apart from the flow of other less musically dangerous passengers who are gleefully retrieving their laptops and shoes without any euphonious instruments impeding their progress.
Another TSA agent directs me to my other belongings and finally allows me put on my shoes as he explains that the accordion has set off a chemical alarm in their system. Something INSIDE is causing the screening detector to think that my Sam… is a bomb.
If I weren’t so totally peeved right now, I’d actually think this was funny. But no, this is absolutely ludicrous! I even say so. “I’ve had this accordion for years,” I say to the man. “It hasn’t left my sight since I walked in here today. Perhaps it’s setting something off because it’s old and was manufactured quite a long time ago, but really? I’ll be happy to play it for you to prove that it’s a musical instrument!”
At this, the TSA agent raises his eyebrows and asks me to sit down. “What? You don’t like polka-music,” I ask, a little too tersely. He turns his back to me to revisit the alien-offspring examination table. This is also my cue to shut-up, sit down, and deal with it. Anything I say or do at this point will only magnify the problem. My flight is lo-o-ong gone by now as I sit there, fuming. “Deep breaths,” I tell myself. There is no way in hades they will find anything because there is nothing to find. “What, dear Karma,” I ask into the air, “did I do this time?”
They finally decide to send Sam off to a special x-ray unit to dissect him, layer by layer, to determine the inner-workings of this miraculous musical bomb. Meanwhile, I get to be interrogated by the TSA agent I was just snide to. He gets to learn all about my background, any ties I may have with terrorists organizations – like… oh, I don’t know… the Springville City recycling unit? Or maybe, once I donated to public radio and I’ve never stopped hearing from them. Or,… wait! I know what it must be! It’s my monthly donation to the state food bank! Or the Primary Children’s Hospital, right? I gave to “Pennies by the Inch” and that’s what’s flagged me.
“Come on! I am seriously the most boring, law-abiding person in this whole airport! What the bleepity-bleep-bleep-bleepin’-frakin’-bleep is wrong with you people!” This I only think as I sit quietly waiting: little Mr. Can’t-be-wrong having either run out of questions or is finally satisfied that I’m telling the truth.
Forty-five minutes after they accordion-napped him, they brought Sam back along with a book of pictures of all his internal organs. They showed me the colored sonographs. “We were unable to detect anything dangerous inside. You are free to go.”
That’s it? An hour and a half of my time, a missed flight, and a fireside tale to boot; and that’s all I get?
Oh, I am sorely tempted – oh so-o-o-o tempted – to take Sam out of his case and give them all an earful of the “Beer Barrel Polka” as loud as Sam will wail as a parting remembrance. What d’ya think, Sam?
“Beer Barrel Polka” masterfully performed by Fabrizio Chiarenza.