Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Customs at JFK Airport can be a scary-ass place. The danger isn't people smuggling in illegal substances. It's the powder keg of tension created by throngs of queued-up, jet-lagged, butt-sore tourists, anxious to just get home already.

My family had already stood forever at baggage claim, only to stack our luggage onto one of those carts and wait for the lottery--who would be the lucky one? Who'd get a complete stranger to rifle through their shit? Touch their undergarments and open their toiletry tubes and tinctures?

And was the friggin' line even moving?

My sister eased the cart forward a millimeter and lightly touched the heel of someone in front of us. She apologized, but the elderly reedy woman turned around and scowled.

"Yeah, you're gonna be sorry in a minute," she said with that nasty sourpuss. What the fuck?

My dad chimed in, trying not to sound exasperated when he said it was an accident, we're all just impatient to get outta here, so please turn around and stop snarling at my daughter.

The old shrew turned to her coot husband and started muttering about the lot of us. Regarding my dad, she said, "So rude. Probably from Brooklyn or the Bronx."

So my ol' man's New York accent made him a lesser mortal than these alter cockers. The crone spewed out: "Some people have no class."

Dad couldn't take it anymore. "Lady," he said, "you wouldn't know class if it came up and bit you on your wrinkled ass."

Her coot husband stepped forward. "Hey!" He thrust his bony finger in my father's face.

Bad idea.

I never saw my dad get violent my whole life, but we'd all heard the stories about his misspent youth. The day he and my mom got their marriage license at City Hall, they ran into an old childhood friend of his. The guy spent hours reminiscing about Pops kicking ass down at the pool hall. Mom was concerned--exactly who was she marrying here?

Another thing about my ol' man -- he had two things in common with Cartman from South Park: an occasional foul mouth, and Dad truly wasn't fat, but man, was he big-boned. Wrap your thumb and middle finger around your wrist -- can they touch? My father's forearms were too thick. And his hands were like bear-claws.

So when my dad pointed his finger back, the coot had a giant sausage in his face.

But that's when I said, "Hey, I think that other line is moving," and pulled my dad back. The coot lowered his finger and then we all stepped away. Crisis averted.

See, I played it out the situation in my mind. Pops would deck this little guy, who'd break his hip and sue the shit outta us. Who needed that aggravation? Also, all those legal fees, there goes any chance of Dad helping Mikey out to buy a new car...

But I gotta tell ya: The whole thing seemed kind of funny to me. These two elderly men stabbing their pointers at each other like a senior citizen finger-fencing duel. Another day, I might've liked to see the results of that geezer fight.


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