Monday, October 7, 2013

Fire Breathing Toaster: Relief

by Bill Adler

I'm looking for a word or a few of them to describe this modern day sensation: You go through airport security --the body scanner and the bag x-ray-- and nothing beeps. Everything if fine and you're not for the next few minutes a major security risk.

The sensation you experience at the airport security merry-go-round is not unlike the feeling you get when you see the highway patrol behind you, siren screaming, lights bright. Before you have time to process the equation: "Should I pull over?" the highway patrol passes you by.

It's not too dissimilar to the feeling you get when your computer has aged 25 years in 25 minutes and you wonder, will it turn on? It does turn on! Or when you think you've lost your wallet and do a slow hand move to see if it's still being warmed by your behind...and it is.

"Relief" doesn't fully capture the emotional freedom that you feel after you've escaped airport security through airport security, after seeing the police car continue throttle full open past you, or feeling your wallet's outline against your hand.

It's a strange sensation because you're hoping that something bad --or annoying, unpleasant, or simply a pain-- that shouldn't happen, doesn't happen. All of these situations should be non-events. You should always breeze through airport security. Your wallet should always be glued in your pocket. The sensation experienced here is when nothing bad should happen, and nothing bad actually does.

During the course of a normal day, nothing bad really does happen: Pianos don't fall on our head from fifth floor windows. For that matter, pigeons don't, um, do anything to our heads either. There's no sense of relief that we've made it through the day without getting bird droppings on our head, but there is that feeling of "phew" that we didn't have to have our carry-on bag pawed through.

I don't know if these activities --passing through airport security, seeing angry police cars on the highway, not feeling our wallets for the moment-- are too fleeting to merit their own words. But I do know that I like it when me and my bag make it through airport security as if I'm just an invisible nobody.


Bill Adler is a writer. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys:Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets,", "Outwitting Squirrels,", and a mess of other books. He tweets at @billadler. His Fire Breathing Toaster column is published on Monday and his Tech Column is published on Tuesday.

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