It is unbelievable, the adventure that flying has become. Once when I flew somewhere, my carton of yogurt was confiscated. Another time when I was flying, I was singled out for "special screening," to quote what they told me. That meant I had to walk into a booth and an air jet blew up my skirt. A recorded voice said: "Air jet operating." (That particular instance was two years ago. I'm sure the technology has advanced since then.)
Ever since then I have enjoyed funny airport screening stories. Today we have a dandy. This comes to us from pianist Stephen Manes, who for a long time was chair of the UB Music Department and is now professor emeritus.
Manes was in town last week to give a recital at UB's Slee Hall. Playing all that Liszt, it turns out, was the easy part. The tough part was getting through security at the Los Angeles airport.
What happened was, inspectors were inspecting his luggage and they found a metal instrument.
"What's this?" Manes was asked.
"A tuning fork," he told them.
"What's it for?"
"You tune pianos with it," he said.
That is a tuning fork pictured above! A pause ensued while everyone studied the implement Manes, pictured below...
... had handed over. The inspectors muttered amongst themselves. Finally they turned back to him.
"What kind of piano?" they asked.
Manes stared at them, wondering what in the world this question meant. Because a tuning fork is a tuning fork, whatever you are using it for.
"A Steinway," he said, truthfully.
That was the magic word. They waved him on through!
Perhaps they really wanted to ascertain that he could name a certain brand of piano, that he was not making things up. You never know!
In any case, the story has a happy ending.
Harmony in the skies!
-- Mary Kunz Goldman