I was in Pittsburgh, preparing to fly home from a lovely visit with some friends who live in that city. This was Labor Day Weekend 2001, so things were crazy but nowhere near as crazy as they would become the very next week. As I rode the airport escalators down to the security level, my jaw dropped. I have never seen a security line so long. It looked like the security line in a documentary about long security lines.
My little bag in tow, I walked and walked and I thought surely the line had wrapped around completely and I was just endlessly circling the same people. But finally, there it was: The End of the Line!
It took forty-five minutes to inch back to the escalator area. Note that the escalators did not mark the end of our wait, but just the point at which the roped in twisty-line area began. Far, far in the distance we could dimly make out the conveyor belts and metal detectors. In the meantime, the fellow linemates and I became quite friendly. We joked with one another, primarily about the length of the line, and we enjoyed the dawning horror on each new victim's face as he rode the escalator down.
Then descended this nattily dressed fellow with a briefcase. He paused at the foot of the escalator, surveyed the line stretching out to the hinterlands, glanced at his shiny watch, and then stepped in front of me.
My jaw dropped. I could not speak.
Fortunately, I had backup. Behind me, Mr. USMC cleared his throat. "The end of the line is there," he told Mr. Suit in a tone that brooked no discussion.
Mr. Suit was startled at being challenged. "But I came down here," he protested lamely.
"Yes," agreed Mr. USMC, "and the end of the line is THERE."
Mr. Suit didn't give up easily. "But Pittsburgh is the Friendly City!"
"Not," said Mr. USMC, "when we've been waiting in line for forty-five minutes."
Mr. Suit slunk off, although I don't doubt that he cut someone else as soon as he was out of sight of My New Hero.