Friday, August 28, 2009

K-A-L-A-M-A-Z-O, Oh What a Gal

Easter Table, 2006

No, this is not a tribute to either the city once described as “the Athens of the upper Midwest” or to Glenn Miller, Tex Beneke or the Nicholas Brothers. (But since I mentioned the latter, watch this and enjoy the athleticism of the Nicholas Brothers.) Rather, it’s another taut drama ripped from the pages of reality, featuring three recurring What I Saw themes: Michigan, silverware and grocery bags.

It was just after the Thanksgiving. I was flying home to Virginia from a business trip to Kalamazoo, Michigan. (For historic sticklers, I was using the “international concourse,” as some of us liked to refer to Gate 2, aka “the other gate.”) This took place after the first World Trade Center bombing, but before 9/11. At that time, the carry-on scanner was located in the gate area.

The gate area was full of people. There was a buzz of conversation. People were anxious to get on with their travel and get home from visiting the folks for the holiday. Seats in the waiting area were hard to find. I was seated right the scanning machine.

A good-looking young couple presented themselves at the gateway to the screening area. They carried knapsacks and two brown grocery bags full of metal stuff that rattled. They probably wouldn’t have been noticed in the crowd had the scanner machine alarm not gone off and the little red light on top started spinning.

They couple had loaded their belongings onto the radar conveyor belt. But it seems their grocery bags were full of silver. There were silver serving trays and ladles, silver flatware and heavy silver carving knives. All of this stuff would have looked normal in someone’s dining room, carefully swaddled in Pacific cloth and nestled in a wooden silver chest.

It did not look normal loosely thrown together in a couple of brown grocery bags.


You have to give it to security guards. They don’t quibble about the provenance of things. They only know what can and cannot go through the scanner and onto the plane. And they were telling the young couple that they’d have to check the carving knives.

Only the young couple didn’t seem to care whether the carving knives got checked, or not. In fact, they seemed conspicuously interested in avoiding a paper trail of any kind. “Oh, that’s okay,” the young girl told the screener. “We’ll leave them here. You could take them home if you want.”

Is that how you’d be with grandma’s heirloom silver? I didn’t think so. And as others in the gate area started paying attention to what was going on, they didn’t seem to think so, either. But being polite Midwesterners, no one intervened. The security guard dropped the silver carving knives into a box on the floor that contained other contraband. Sure, there were whispers. A few ladies wondered out loud if they could buy the carving knives. But when the plane loaded, people gave the couple a few once-over glances, watched them shove the clanking grocery bags into the overhead storage bin and started counting the minutes until we landed in Detroit.

1 comment:

  1. OMG, how funny! I've not seen anything like that yet. What a riot. I've been trying to get Replacements Ltd to find some silver for me--maybe I should just call those guys. Hilarious.