Free Scooter 

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It was disconcerting to land in Atlanta this past Saturday, arriving from Greece, only to learn that there had been a car bombing at the Glasgow, Scotland, airport that same day. We left Greece a couple of hours before that bombing. I wasn’t worried about Athens International (where Greeks claim to be immune from Middle Eastern terrorism, despite their old airport being shot up by Palestinian Liberation Organization sympathizers leaving several dead in the early 1990s)'I was worried about the home turf. After all, if terrorists can hit Glasgow, they most certainly can hit Atlanta'perhaps the most discombobulated airport I’ve ever landed at.

nn

In ways, the terrorists have already hit Atlanta anyway. We arrived on schedule and had a three-hour layover. After checking through customs, showing our tickets at least three more times, finding our baggage, plus a last-minute gate and terminal change later, we barely made our flight home. Baggage handling at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport is a joke, and you can credit terrorism concerns coupled with cost-saving lack of manpower for much of that. When too many planes land at one time (imagine the likelihood of that at perhaps the world’s busiest airport), the system can’t handle the load so, even as you arrive to find your bags, the intercom is playing messages telling you how to proceed if you miss your next flight due to the wait. We figured that, with three hours, we were in good shape. Ha.

nn

We finally found our bags, picked them up and moved them through another long line into a cordoned-off room where hundreds of other bags were stacked to high heaven. Muscular guys picked them up and put them on trolleys as fast as they were laid down while loud women and more muscular guys barked orders for our cattle line to move from this point to that. Put some weaponry in the hands of these folks and you’d think you’re on the set of The Longest Yard. I thought the only thing lacking was a strip search. Then I thought of Paris Hilton. Don’t know why. Uh … yes I do.

nn

Once aboard our plane, we were greeted by a thunderstorm that kept us grounded for another two hours. By the time we took off, we could have been home, and when we got home it was around 1:30 a.m. on Sunday. Except for occasional catnaps during both flights, we’d been awake since 7 a.m. Saturday in Athens. With the time difference, that’s more than 27 hours later. All we needed was our luggage, and we’d soon be home in our own beds. But of six pieces of luggage, only two made the flight with us from Atlanta. You’d think that in those two hours they could have put our luggage on the plane, but no dice. When we finished the bureaucratic paperwork at 3:30 a.m., we made our way out of the airport for home'just in time to be greeted by a drunken maniac speeding and swerving in the wrong direction through the passenger pick-up lanes. I saw his ugly mug up close and personal and thought immediately of Glasgow. That caused me to realize that Salt Lake City’s airport is about as secure as a safety pin holding a bank vault door. The unwelcome hard wiring of my nervous system kept me up another couple of hours.

nn

So now, on Tuesday morning, I remain far too jet-lagged to write about anything but jet lag. And airports. And terrorists. Perhaps Scooter Libby. If I don’t fall asleep at the keyboard, maybe I’ll squeeze in an ad hominem swipe at Mayor Ross “Rocky” Anderson, too. He taught me that piece of Latin, “ad hominem.” By the looks of some letters to the editor in this paper and the dailies, he taught that lawyerly obscure phrase to others, too, who put down their lunch pails and nail files and used it in letters claiming the press is harsh on their favorite superhero. As promised last week, I sent donations to Dave Buhler, Jenny Wilson, Ralph Becker and Keith Christensen, all candidates to be the next Salt Lake City mayor.

nn

All I ask of them, if elected, is that their first order of business be to either record a new message for persons passing through Salt Lake City International Airport or get rid of that message altogether. Rocky complained about former mayor Deedee Corradini’s former big airport sign welcoming people to Salt Lake City. His voice recording does the same thing. I’d rather hear Wilford Brimley, Dick Nourse, Jerry Sloan or Michelle King than a Salt Lake City mayor, if for no other reason than you can play the same tape for decades. I don’t know why we have such announcements. I travel here and there, and I don’t recall them elsewhere (not recently in Athens or Rome, for sure, and in Atlanta all messages were Soylent Green-ominous, not welcoming). Maybe I’ve heard the soft sell but didn’t listen. If so, I’m not alone and such announcements don’t matter to anyone anyway. Except to the messenger, perhaps, particularly one with an ego that burns hotter than the Neola fire, that is.

nn

Oh, yeah: Scooter Libby. What kind of liberal rag would we be if we didn’t predictably weigh in on that one? I long ago came to believe American justice is a self-serving oxymoron, apparently of the type that Bush administration cynically tells us the rest of the world envies and that Iraqis desire. Yep, America'terrorists hate our freedoms and want to kill us all. They’re after us because they admire the Scooter Libby type of justice. Yep. Uh huh.

nn

Now, about that Free Scooter fund-raiser …

nn

View Saltas’ Greek vacation photos at flickr.com/photos/jsaltas.

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