Saturday, April 15, 2006

Sam Elliot would let people smoke in the airport

I'm watching the TNT original movie "Avenger." Sam Elliot has the leading role, and he's now one of my favorite actors. He sort of combines the hardass elements of John Wayne with the unpredictability of a Nick Nolte.

In "Avenger," he's an ex-Special Forces guy who takes a job to go to Bosnia and find a rich guy's humanitarian son. Turns out, the son has been killed by a Bosnian war criminal, and Sam decides to exact vengeance. Awesome.

Woah -- James Cromwell, as the chairman of some security council, just said, "There is one end that justifies any means: the security of the United States of America." Of course, next door on the History Channel they're playing the latest adaptation of "Spartacus," and it opens with Spartacus saying "To become like your enemy is to lose to him."

Anyway, the point I wanted to make here was that a guy like Sam Elliot wouldn't stand for the kind of shit they deal you at the airports these days. Every time I go home (or wherever), I'm re-subjected to the "anti-terrorism" measures being placed in U.S. airports. What does that consist of? A security scan that looks at everything you're carrying, and only takes away lighters from smokers. Once you're inside, newsstands may or may not supply matches, and the airport probably doesn't have a designated smoking area any more.

A few years ago, at least smokers could keep their lighters, and at least they could all congregate inside the smoking fishbowl -- usually a glass-walled room with negative air pressure that smelled like the inside of the Marlboro Man's single remaining lung. It wasn't pleasant, but at least it was a place where addicts could feed their nicotine jones and keep the homicidal urges at bay.

No such luck anymore. They take your lighter (and the guys at the other end won't give you any of the ones they've taken), and they won't let you smoke, even in a sealed-off room.

To me, this just means that they're really not all that serious about preventing terrorism. I mean, I'm a pretty peaceful guy, and all I ask in return for not causing any problems is a stinky room to help stink up. But no. Instead, I've got to sit in "non-smoking airport bars," suck down bloody marys, and hope to God that nobody talks to me while my brain shrieks at me for lack of tobacco.

Quick flights aren't as big a problem as trans-continental trips would be, and I've yet to make one of those while feeling like a character out of "Trainspotting." But I can imagine landing in Seattle ready to go on a killing spree when all I can get at my destination is an over-roasted venti Starbucks coffee.

And that's not enough, apparently, for you clean-lungers. Places in Alabama are considering ordinances to ban smoking in public, outdoor areas, and I'm sure it's safe to assume city councils in other states are looking at the same sort of law.

Keep raising taxes on cigarettes, keep balancing states' budgets on addiction, keep herding us into smaller and smaller areas, keep us suffering on every mode of public transportation. Someday, the wrong smoker is going to go see "V for Vendetta" and go medival on society at large. I'm not saying it's going to be me, but the odds aren't good. Consider yourselves warned.