(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published Dec. 8, 2002.)
I recently spent several weeks on a book tour, flying around the country with a suitcase full of increasingly alarming underwear. I'm pleased to report that airport security remains highly effective, especially as regards the terrorist threat posed by 87-year-old women with the mobility of oak trees. Because these women need extra time to reach their seats, they are -- as instructed by the pre-boarding announcement -- first in line to board the plane, and thus they almost always get picked for ''random'' screening by the security personnel, who need to reach their quota so they can get back to standing around.
We frequent flyers have figured this system out, and lag behind the elderly women, who dodder forward cluelessly, cannon fodder in the War on Terror. They are pulled aside and stand, bewildered, as security personnel wand them and root through their denture adhesive while we able-bodied males stroll onto the plane. Granted, this system is insane, but we must not let sanity stand in the way of airport security.
Speaking of insane: One of my stops on the book tour was New York City, where the publisher put me at an extremely hip hotel. It's so hip that there is no sign outside saying ''HOTEL.'' I walked right past it the first time. Evidently if you're hip, you just know there's a hotel there.
The lobby was full of hip people on stark modernistic furniture, talking into cell phones. They were all 25 years old, and they all wore black. I suspect their underwear is black. I myself was wearing khaki pants. I felt like a pig farmer in town for the big manure-spreader show.
The worst part was that I couldn't see. At some point in recent years, light must have become unhip, because this was the darkest hotel I've ever stayed in. The lobby wasn't so bad -- it was merely gloomy -- but the elevator was so dimly lit that I had to put on my reading glasses, squat, and put my face right next to the buttons to find the one for my floor. I'm sure this amused the hip lobby people. (''Look! A pig farmer squatting in the elevator!'')
My floor was actually scary. Have you ever been in one of those Halloween fun houses, where it's pitch-black and people leap out of the darkness to frighten you? The hotel hallway was like that. It was so dark that I honestly could not see my feet. I initially thought the walls were painted black, although I was later informed that they were very dark purple (a hip color). Sometimes I would encounter other guests in the hallway but, of course, I could not see them, because they were wearing black. I knew they were there only because I could hear their cell phones ringing.
My room had stark modernistic furniture and several modernistic low-wattage lamps, which, when I turned them all on, provided about the same illumination as a radio dial. The only way to read was to turn the TV on and tune it to a program with bright colors. My room was strewn with hip items, many of them for sale, including a hotel T-shirt (black), various herbal substances and an ''Intimacy Kit'' for $12. If they really want to make money, they should sell 100-watt light bulbs; I would have paid $20 for one. They did sell a candle, labeled ''TRAVEL CANDLE,'' for $15; I considered buying it and using it in the elevator, to find the ''Lobby'' button.
My situation improved in California, where I stayed at a swank Beverly Hills hotel that had lights. It also had a swank bar jammed to the walls with 40ish movie executives who all wore (there must have been a memo) black pants, black shirts and black leather jackets. They were talking about film projects with young, gifted blonde women wearing attire that conveyed the message: ''Take a look at THESE gifts!'' Everybody was drinking -- really -- watermelon martinis. So I was still out of place (''Look! A pig farmer drinking beer!''). But at least I could see.
IRRELEVANT FINAL BOOK-TOUR NOTE: You know how, at drugstore cash registers, there are little displays of breath mints, batteries, etc. to encourage impulse buys? Well, in Los Angeles, I went into a Long's drugstore where the product on display at the cash register was: a sofa. Really. Suspended ominously right behind the cashier's head was a full-sized sofa, priced at $499. Apparently, this is for the harried shopper who gets to the cashier and goes, ``Let's see ... dental floss, aspirin, and ... Ohmigosh! I almost forgot the sofa!''
I should write a clever final sentence here, but I need to do my laundry.
(c) 2008, Dave Barry