Flights of fancy

Flying cross-country out of LA on the day liquids are banned from aircraft. Discarded sodas and water bottles fill bins next to the curbside check-in and throughout the airport.

At security: shoes off, laptop out of backpack. Into a clear plastic bag go cell phone, keys, watch, belt, sunglasses, gum with foil packaging, memory stick. Place all items flat on the conveyor belt.

Millionaire men with aides to carry their bags, who have reserved spaces at National airport, traveling on government planes or private aircraft and able to bypass security altogether, decide how the rest of the country travels.

No water or drinks, no shampoo or hair gel, toothpaste, perfume, hand lotion, lipstick, sunscreen, nasal spray -- no liquids or gels of any kind.

Chertoff says that the American people are very understanding and willing to tolerate a little inconvenience for their security.

Shuffling barefoot, clutching our drooping pants and what remains of our dignity, we meekly agree.

Ahead of me a man has a stick of deodorant seized from his carry-on bag. The TSA officer wags it in his face disapprovingly, as though something shameful.

Confused grannies in wheelchairs being frisked. In the glass box a toddler no more than 3 years old standing perfectly still, arms outstretched, solemnly looking up at the uniformed officer waving an un-magical wand over her body.

Is our children learning?

Yes, our children is learning to assume the position.

After my arrival at my destination, I stood in the damp night air outside the terminal. Flipping the backpack off my shoulder, I fished through the contents – stapler, eye drops and various crap – and found my cigarette lighter. Inhaling the smoke deeply, I pondered the meaning of it all.