As an American, something downright awful happened to me this past weekend. I am still having trouble “digesting” it and finding some way to accept it. Here’s the story; hang with me.
This year is a whole new adventure for my wife and me. We have both retired, finally, and have visions of being together unencumbered and alarm-clock free. Oh what a feeling!
To celebrate before the money runs out and we adjust to living without paychecks, we have booked a bucket-list cruise in the spring. We’ll be heading south in the Pacific, down along the coast of Mexico and Central America, then through the Panama Canal, followed by stops in Colombia and Aruba, then home to Fort Lauderdale. I know, aaaaaaah!
So the ship we’ll be on was in port this past weekend, right here in Fort Lauderdale–just a few miles down the road. Rosemarie and I decide to check it out. You know, sort of get a preview to make us drool in happiness as we anticipate boarding her in the spring.
I’ve been to the port many times. After all, we’ve lived here for practically 30 years. We’ve even taken other cruises from the port. The Convention Center is also located there with a multi-storied parking lot. I’ve been there plenty of times, too. The parking lot is directly across from our cruise line’s dock. It’s a great way to see the ship. I suggest to my wife we should go to the top of the parking lot and we’ll get an excellent view. So that’s where we were headed.
Port Everglades (The official name for Fort Lauderdale’s port), like any other major industrial and commercial port has undergone some significant upgrades in security since 9-11. There are check points at every entrance now and you have to show an ID and explain your business. Going to the Convention Center has always been routine. After all, you can’t set up a formidable roadblock for a public auto or boat show…can you? Well, guess what? You can.
We never got in. I showed my ID, told the officer I wanted to park in the garage and gawk at the boat we’re going to be on in a few months. Nope, that’s not good enough reason for us peasants to enter the now-sacred serfdom. The “new me” was nice to the officer (I did notice he had a gun). The “old me” would have gotten exasperated as my wife would try to stifle me so I wouldn’t be told to step out of the car. I hope I made her proud, not getting arrested and all.
Hey, I get it. Times have changed. Terrorists blow up people. Nonetheless, I do find it odd that you can roam around an airport parking lot and inside the terminal and you are not faced with security until you reach the gate. I don’t understand why the same doesn’t apply at the port. Where I wanted to go was pretty much public property and it still prohibited access to the ship. It’s where you park when you go to the antique show or the job fair for cry’n out loud.
Our mission was unfulfilled. We did not get to see our ship. We did see several ships from a distance, but we were not able to confirm which one was ours. So be it. The more important fact is that our country’s ever expanding new culture, one of fear and the need to suspect anyone and everyone, is a sad one.
I live in America where, once, its citizens could walk the streets, tour the countryside, ride public transportation, enter buildings–including parking lots–without an armed officer asking for identification and an explanation. For me, a child of the post-war 50s, this is a bit much to deal with. It’s like something I’ve seen in a movie. How much further will this fear take us? Franklin Roosevelt was spot on… and George Orwell? Well, maybe he was just a little premature.