Tuesday, 28 February 2012

More Theatre of the Absurd

Here we go again! I have yet another scene to share with you all in my ongoing one-woman theatre of the absurd piece that I am thinking of titling "Airport Hell: My Life as Suspect". Please note to all of you reading this post who might have ties to or with Customs or Border Patrol, that my tongue is planted firmly in cheek as I write this. I really do respect what these fine people do for a living, keeping the bad people at bay and all, but I just cannot for the life of me figure out why I am constantly being targeted. Also, I need to disclose up front that in this particular case I was technically wrong, but the absurdity is just so acute-well you be the judges.

This evening I am traveling alone on a flight south. I have nothing with me other than my purse and a small backpack which contains a computer, a Kindle, five pair of undergarments (cotton bikini briefs in case you were wondering) and a belt. As is my custom, I use the trusted traveller kiosk. It immediately targets me for secondary screening. The kind agent directs me through ominously frosted double doors where I am forced to relinquish my passport, card, and boarding pass and I am told to wait until called. I sit in the waiting area with two very sketchy looking men, both of whom are schlepping multiple pieces of luggage and gear, and it suddenly dawns on me that maybe I am sketchy looking too. A far too young customs agent calls out my "still-to-me after 49 years" very unfamiliar first name that almost glues me to my seat, believing momentarily that he is barking for somebody else. I approach his desk and have the following exchange.

Him: "Have you ever been arrested?"

Me: (Starting to worry that there might be another with my strange-assed name!) No Sir! (Did you catch the overly solicitous use of the word "sir"? These guys scare the shit out of me!)

Him: "Do you have anything to declare?"

Me: (Trying to figure out the trick question, I answer softly) "No Sir."

Him: "No food?"

Me: (Shit!!! Busted. I forgot about the two throat lozenges that have been collecting lint in the bottom of my purse for the better part of a month due to a lingering cold.) "Oh, I am so sorry. I forgot that I have two Ricolas in my purse." You see-under the trusted traveller program one must declare all food. I swear I forgot that they were there, told him so, and I immediately corrected my error. Not good enough apparently.

Him: (Quite facetiously and snotty) "Do you swallow them? Do they go in your mouth? Therefore they're food. So, why didn't you declare them?" (Every word of this is absolutely verbatim-I couldn't make this up if I tried!!)

Me: "You are right, Sir. I made a mistake."

Him: "So, are you going to lose your card today?"

Me: (With resignation) "I suppose that is up to you."

Him: "Yes it is!!"

He then proceeded to open up my purse and backpack, check every single item, including my bikini briefs, and then made me repack it all. Kind of creepy if you ask me, but really-what dignity was left me? At this point I figured one of two outcomes was before me. Either he sends me home without my card refusing me entry onto the sacred soil, or he makes me eat the offending lozenges right there in front of him and then sends me on my way through, but still without the card. I just couldn't imagine this ending well.

Him: "Consider this your get out of jail free card, young lady! (We have now crossed the line into patronizing.) "You are a trusted traveller, act like it!"

He tried to continue the lecture. I kind of cut him off, figuring that I was screwed anyway.

Me: "I get it. I was wrong. It won't happen again."

Him: "It better not. You have been documented. One more time like this....."

Me: (totally terrified now) "Am I free to go through?"

Him: "On your way."

I qualified this story at the beginning by admitting my guilt. I was technically wrong. I did forget to declare the 2 lozenges, but really.....isn't there a code of logic written somewhere in the customs rules? And are throat lozenges really food? Under his logic if it is put into the mouth and swallowed it meets the definition, but doesn't that make Tylenol food? Medications do not need to be declared under this program. And...how many of you believe that he asked me the declaration question purposefully vague so that I might trip up in the "food" answer? Is it me or did his actions, including feeling up my underwear, cross a line?

I have been targeted too many times to not believe that I am being profiled. I get that they are looking at the swarthy olive skin, the dark eyes, and the Semitic surname. But I am a 4' 11" ,physically unimposing, middle-aged woman who's career is defined as clergy. The profiling loses me there. America-I really like you! Why can't you just once return the love?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 20 February 2012

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

I love the middle of February. I realize that for most of you stuck in the misery of cold, dark, snowy, slushy, grey North America-February out and out bites the big one. But for a handful of us diehard fanatics, the middle of February is the beginning of that most wonderful of seasons-baseball pitchers and catchers are reporting to camps in Florida and Arizona. I could easily wax poetic about the pastoral beauty of the game and this wondrous time of year when all teams are created equal in the sight of the Almighty, but for you heathens-like The Husband-it is lost somewhere in the glassy stares when new Apple technology is announced and the joy you feel when you discover a new offering at the LCBO.

It has been many years since I have attended Spring Training. My dad took us to Clearwater to watch the Phillies way back in the time before the establishment of my beloved Blue Jays. I have always wanted to make the spring pilgrimage to Dunedin, but this year it is first time when I actually have the time and the true excitement to go. I will be in the land of my people (Miami) just as my boys of summer kick off the year and I was hoping to make the short four and half hour trek up the Gulf Coast for a couple of days to watch, witness, and maybe befriend Travis Snider. I have a mother thing going on for the boy! The Husband is instead being his old stubborn curmudgeonly self and is steadfastly refusing his wife this small but necessary life's pleasure. So I have come up with a list with which he can replace a two trip to baseball nirvana.
  • A dog! Almost any dog will do, provided that it is not a chihuahua! Rescue dog, mutt, pure bred. I have love in my heart for most canines. We can start looking Friday morning when I return to TO.
  • That trip to Australia that I have been dreaming about for lo these many years. And I don't mean "soon dear". I mean "this year dear!" Seems to me two days in Dunedin is way more manageable than four weeks down under.
  • We could travel to the Bonnaroo Arts Festival in Tennessee where we can spend a long weekend camping under the stars, using public facilities, and picnicking with hundreds of thousands of our closest friends. Think Woodstock for the new millennium! Fun fun! I know how much you love crowds and camping out of doors. Hey! Our friend's kids will be there. We can hang with them!
  • How about Comic-Con 2012? You could mingle with the trekkies and the "Sheldon clones" like yourself. We could learn to speak Klingon and watch all of the new movie trailers for those superhero movies you love so much. Maybe even arrange a shitach for Older Son?
  • We could spend a wonderfully romantic weekend watching all of the Harry Potter movies, all of the Star Trek movies, all of the Marvel movies, and every Ahhnold movie back to back to back to........
Honestly, Husband. Aren't two days in Dunedin easier than all of that?

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Find Yourself a Teacher

I am quite certain that in the days and weeks ahead, individuals far more eloquent than I will eulogize Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut with beauty, grace, humor, and scholarly intuitiveness. The man was after all one of the giants of our movement and is often spoken of in reverence and with some humour in these parts as the man who "wrote" the Torah in recognition of his great achievement as the editor of the award winning and widely used "The Torah: A Modern Commentary", or more simply known as "The Plaut Commentary." For now though, it seems an absolutely appropriate time for the swapping of memories and stories. Here are mine.

When I was a young child of about 8, my parents became one of the founding families of Temple Har Zion. The original intent in the founding of Har Zion was to establish a satellite congregation in the north end of Toronto for Holy Blossom. It became obvious early on that the families at Har Zion wanted an independent synagogue, but that didn't stop Holy Blossom from becoming one of their staunchest and earliest supporters. Rabbi Plaut, who was the senior rabbi at Holy Blossom at this time, would often offer help, education, and wisdom, and he would make the trek north of Steeles Ave on the occasional Shabbat to pray and sermonize. As a kid, I could not yet appreciate the power of Rabbi Plaut's magnificent bimah presence, nor was I yet able to fully understand his genius. Frankly, to a child of 8 1/2 his legendary twenty minute sermons were boring and squirm inducing. 

Two years later, Har Zion was ready to dedicate its first sacred space on Bayview Ave. The keynote speaker at that service was Rabbi Plaut. He spoke off the cuff without notes for over a half an hour and was absolutely mesmerizing. He spoke of the need to build houses of worship and of the continuity of the Jewish people,and he had the congregation eating up every word. Even at 10 years old, I knew that I was in the presence of a great man.

Over the years it has been impossible to live within the Toronto Reform Jewish community and not be touched by the influence of Rabbi Plaut. He was the spokesman, the scholar, the leader, the sage. He was incredibly giving of his time and one could not help but marvel at his incredible stamina well into his nineties. 

In Pirkei Avot we are instructed to "Go forward and provide ourselves with a teacher and remove ourselves from doubt." We have been enriched by the presence of our teacher Rabbi Plaut. May his memory be forever a blessing.