On the return trip, I was scheduled for three layovers and a total of nearly twelve hours in transit. However, I managed to miss my flight, and as a result flew standby on a one-layover route that was about two and a half hours shorter. So, win!
In fact, if that's what I can expect, I may have to miss my flights more often.
Portland itself was a blast. On top of being able to spend ten days with my sweetie zaiah (and what could top that?), I got an opportunity to meet a bunch of folks I've known for a long time online but never met in person before, and a chance to catch up with the_xtina for a bit, and even made some new friends (waves to gidget23. More on that later.
First, I'd like to take a few minutes to talk about our friends in the TSA.
Now, these folks have an important job. They help calm nervous travelers by providing the illusion of security at airports. Mostly, they do this by sifting through baggage all day long. It's a thankless task; and it's hard to imagine that they don't get cynical about it.
Realistically, the odds of a plane being blown out of the sky by a terrorist bomb are about the same as the odds that your grandmother can beat Mike Tyson in a no-holds-barred steel death match, armed with nothing more than a bent straw and a plastic spoon from Taco Bell. I'm sure there's a grandmother or two out there who can do it, and planes have been brought down by bombs, but seriously...is it going to happen? Really? Don't hold your breath.
These folks have never seen a bomb, they will never see a bomb, and they know it. But they still gotta sit there for eight hours a day anyway.
Alright, alright, yes, I know. Part of the point is deterrence. They don't find bombs in luggage because the fact that they're looking for it means that the folks who might have the urge to blow up airplanes don't put bombs in luggage, 'cause they know it won't work.
But bear with me a minute, here.
These guys have a boring and mostly pointless job (save for the deterrence effect), and they need some way to amuse themselves while they're manhandling checked luggage through oversized X-ray machines. Which they get by putting notices like the one on the left into your baggage to tell you that they've served the national interest by checking your underwear to make sure that it won't blow up or, I don't know, invade France or something.
And I suggest for your humble approval the notion that they do not select the baggage to search at random.
I found the note shown here in my suitcase when i reached Portland. Now, a quick X-ray plainly showed there was nothing in my luggage that could possibly go boom--not that TSA screeners necessarily have the foggiest notion of what a bomb looks like, but still.
They had, however, completely removed every single item from my suitcase. Including, among other things, a pair of handcuffs, all my clothes, a heavily modified Feeldoe, a box of rubber gloves, my entire collection of floggers, ten rolls of vet wrap, my toothbrush, and a box of sterile needles.
Not only that, but they unrolled my flogger case to see what was inside. (I carry them in this nifty case that lays down flat and has slots and elastic tie-downs to hold all the floggers, then rolls up into a cylinder that can be slung over a shoulder.)
Not only that,, but they had removed the floggers from the case. I know all this because the floggers had been replaced in an entirely different order, and my bag had been completely re-packed.
And re-packed quite a bit more neatly than I'd done it to begin with, too, but that's beside the point.
I submit, Gentle Reader, that within seconds of opening my bag, the TSA screeners knew beyond question that there was nothing in there that goes bang, boom, pow, kablooey, or even makes a low but sinister hum. I also submit that they continued to unpack my things anyway, simply because it amused them to do so. As proof of this idea, I propose that it is not necessary to remove a flogger from its carrying case to ascertain that it is not, in fact, a threat to national security, foreign relations, the national budget, or to anything else save perhaps the backsides of certain people who will remain nameless at this time.
I have visions of the TSA employees holding up the various objects in my suitcase and asking "What do you suppose this is for?" or chasing one another around with them (ah, the hilarious hijinks at the airport!) or something. All in the name of national security, of course.
And I can't help but wonder why it is exactly that these guys get paid on my dime.
And how much they make. 'Cause, y'know, if they're going to be doing shit like that, and getting paid for it, I want some of that too. Smart security saves time!