Today is my 58th birthday, and three TSA agents just pulled me aside at the John Wayne Airport for a special frisking. It seems that there is a strange bulge protruding from under my jacket. It’s my stomach, but the TSA agent has to rub it to be sure.
“Today’s my birthday,” I say.
“Lot’s of terrorists blow themselves up on their birthday,” he says. “Seventy-two virgins beats a birthday cake any day, don’t you think Rah-me?” He pronounces my name to make it sound Palestinian rather than Israeli. I’m neither,
“Recent scholarship into older manuscripts of the Qur’an suggests that the idea of virgins is a misreading of the original Arabic which may actually say ‘raisins.’ Martyrs are rewarded with seventy-two raisins.”
“Like raisins, do ya?” the agent asked. “Are raisins worth dyin’ for?”
“No,” I said, “but I often travel with prunes. I get constipated.”
The search took longer than it should. You shouldn’t banter with TSA agents about the Qur’an. Or constipation.
My seat on the American Airline flight from John Wayne airport to Dallas puts me next to a very large woman who has lifted the armrest between our seats so she can use half of mine as well. Very intimate. And sweaty. I think she uses Ice Blue Secret antiperspirant.
I cram up against the window of the airplane, and hum “Happy Birthday to Me,” but no one inquires why, or even seems to notice. Did I mention that today is my birthday? I’ve been on this planet for fifty-eight years.
I’ve had a few successes during that time. When I was very young I learned how to shit in the toilet rather than my pants. It is skill I worry about losing. Sometimes I stand in the adult diaper aisle of Wal-Mart wondering if I should stock up now as a hedge against inflation. Note to manufacturers: it would be cool if there were superhero diapers for adults as there are for toddlers. I’d feel better shitting in my pants if they had the face of the Incredible Hulk printed on them.
Anyway, I’m happy to be fifty-eight. I don’t mind getting older. I’m even looking forward to turning sixty, but that’s mostly because turning sixty comes after turning fifty-eight so looking forward is really unavoidable.
Sometimes when you say you’re getting older someone says, “Consider the alternative.” They mean I should think about being dead. I don’t see the value in that. I’m thinking of treating myself to a birthday snack from the cart on the airplane, instead, but paying $12 for a bag of stale peanuts seems extravagant given the economy. So, I think I’ll just ask for water and tie my shoelace to the cup after I drink all the water, and wear the cup on my head like a party hat. Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear Rah-me, happy birthday to me.