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My Turn: Fly the fumbling skies

If the shoes fit, take them off at

If the shoes fit, take them off at airport security, where you probably will misplace your boarding pass. (Aug. 3, 2011) Credit: AP

At 75, I consider myself a fairly graceful person -- until I get to the airport. There, I turn into a lummox.

Last fall, at LaGuardia Airport, I handed what I thought was my boarding pass to a TSA agent. It wasn't. It was a five-day weather forecast for Chicago, my destination. The forecast had printed with my boarding pass when I checked in online with my airline. Instead of throwing that part away, I kept it.

The TSA lady waited until I found the right piece of paper. "I'm not usually this disorganized," I told her. She gave no sign she believed me, silently studying the picture on my driver's license and my boarding pass before sending me on my way to the X-ray machines.

While waiting to be screened, I took off my shoes and belt and dropped them into a rectangular white basket when I got near the conveyor belt. I then removed my computer from its bag, put it into another white basket and positioned that basket along with my computer bag and knapsack. The next task was to empty all the pockets in my cargo pants. Into a third white basket went coins and bills, wallet, sunglasses, cellphone, pen, small notebook, wristwatch and baseball cap.

Once wanded and cleared, I began gathering my possessions. This is where I always feel rushed. Other baskets were bumping against mine while other folks -- both younger and older -- deftly collected their belongings and moved on.

Inevitably, either during the emptying of or reloading of my pockets, I can't find my boarding pass and my driver's license. A hurried search through my pants begins, again slowing down the people behind me. The missing documents are seldom found in any of the 40 pockets in my cargo pants. That's because I'm clutching them in one of my hands.

On the return trip, I usually underestimate how long it will take to drive to the airport, and I arrive at the check-in area later than I had hoped. The trip to Chicago was no exception. After telling the car rental agent I didn't have time to wait for the paperwork to be completed, I hopped on the bus and kept looking at my watch as we made our way to the terminal for our flight to New York. After the bus stopped at our terminal, I raced over to the check-in area where a friendly baggage handler asked, "Where are you going?"

"Chicago," I bellowed.

"You just made it," he said.

I laughed when I realized my mistake and complimented the man on his quick and funny response.

We were back at LaGuardia a few weeks ago, and again I fumbled my way through the security line. Afterward, when reloading all my stuff in my cargo pants pockets (where did we put everything before we had cargo pants?), I couldn't find the little notebook I always have on me. I went back to the conveyor belt and told a TSA agent I was missing "a notebook, a tablet, a notepad." Although he asked another agent to look for it, they both seemed mystified. Notebook, notepad and tablet are computer-era terms. What I was missing was an old-fashioned paper pad with lines that you write things on with a pen or pencil. Who walks around with such an ancient "device" in 2013? Well, I do. Having written two books, I know that if you think you have a good idea, you'd better write it down or you'll forget it.

We never found the missing notebook. Perhaps I dropped it on the floor, and it never made it into one of those white baskets. The next time I'm at an airport, there's a strong possibility I'll leave something else behind. If I do, I'll be upset and most likely cussing but trying my darnedest to walk away from the security area as gracefully as possible, as though nothing has happened.

--Larry McCoy, Rockville Centre


A novel way to pass the time


I have always been an avid reader. My favorite reading time is about 4 a.m., even before the birds awaken. People often ask me to recommend a book that I have read recently, but it is difficult to recommend only one. I decided to keep a list of all the books I read in 2012 and discovered that I "devoured" more than 100 books -- mostly novels. Most of them I thoroughly enjoyed. When I find an author that I especially enjoy, I read or reread the entire series, by that author.

In the 1990s, when I was still teaching, I stumbled across a wonderful author named Sharan Newman. Her books always included a wonderful combination of history, mystery and romance. Her first novel captured my attention. It was entitled "Death Comes as Epiphany," featuring heroine Catherine Le Vendeur. Then, I read the next two of the series, "The Devil's Door" and "The Wandering Arm." However, I was sidetracked by my children's career goals and new grandchildren, and I had to postpone reading the rest of her series.

Now that I'm retired and have more time, I discovered that Newman has written 10 novels in her series. I have just finished reading (or rereading) eight of them; I know I will be heartbroken when I finish the last one. These well-researched novels are filled with fascinating details of medieval life in 12th century Europe. The heroine's curiosity and passion for justice help her to solve some horrific murders.

I know when I finish Newman's last novel in this series, I have to discover another writer with another great series. I know exactly what I can reread -- "The Thirteenth Night," by Alan Gordon. His series about entertainers of medieval Europe is enchanting. He has a wonderful, wry sense of humor, and his characters are just delightful. What fun!

--Barbara Goldberg, Merrick

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