Happy Wanderer: Traveling with titanium


HILLS NEWSPAPERS: JANUARY 8, 2010

I have a new best friend.  It’s not something I asked for, or sought out, or even necessarily wanted in my comfortable mid-life years. I have plenty of friends. But suddenly, I’ve got a new lifelong companion, and no matter how mismatched we may be, we’re locked in this relationship.

This new friend of mine is a titanium hip, presented to me by a surgeon who said life would be better “bionic”. My limp, more pronounced as the last bit of cartilage in my socket disappeared, would be better, in time, with the aid of my new metal partner.

Yet, while this is true, no-one told me the downside of this new arrangement – that I would be pulled out of every airport security line – isolated as I watched my laptop and shoes and liquids move merrily along the conveyer belt without me. My titanium hip would sound the alarm – that I might be a terrorist and must be patted and probed in front of a parade of curious travelers.

How could a shiny piece of mushroom-shaped metal cause such an uproar? The doctor said I had cute little bones, and my new friend, in time, would grow on me. He said it would hardly be noticeable –more like a soul mate than an unwelcomed house guest.

The metal wand hums over my arms and legs, beeping as it detects the clasp on my zipper, the hook on my bra and the titanium in my right hip. With each blaring sound comes a warning that I’m about to be patted down by the female security guard. More sympathetic stares come from onlookers, as I’m asked to reveal the top of my slacks and the fleshy roll of flab that I try to conceal.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for security and whatever has to be done, within reason, to keep air travel safe. I don’t mind taking off my coat and my shoes, and isolating my computer and cell phone and three ounce bottles of wrinkle cream. But lifting up my shirt is an outrage.

Whatever makes the government think that something dangerous could be harbored in my bellybutton? What could it hold – maybe five drops of liquid or a dusting of gunpowder?  It’s simply too tiny to contain anything menacing.

And I haven’t even gotten to the most troubling part – that my livelihood – my job – involves travel. For the last several years, I’ve been writing and broadcasting about adventure travel – both at home and abroad.

How will my new hip be perceived in, say, Russia? What if I travel to Ukraine and set off their airport alarms? If every time I travel overseas I have to worry, is it worth the risk?

These are the realities I face as I enter this new relationship. And like anything, I suppose, the more time that goes by, the more I adapt. I just hope that my new friend doesn’t change me. I’m not ready to stay home.

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