“Keep it weird, dude. Keep it weird.”
I was preparing for an important moment and my friend Jeff was giving me some unwittingly sage advice. My attire for this debut moment was going to be an important choice. Should I show up in a traditional suit, or nylons & heels?
This advice has served me well over the years, including a recent scare at the Salt Lake City International Airport:
I’m a show-up-90-min-before-my-flight kind of guy. My girlfriend dropped me off at the airport at 90 min prior to boarding. The Delta baggage check in agents were bored – an omen of good things to come (or so I thought). I walked right up, checked my luggage and proceeded toward the TSA line in less time than I could have ordered a #7 combo meal McDonalds.
As I proceeded toward the TSA screening area, I saw a massive movement of people. It looked like a line, but it was just too big for my mind to register it as a line. I’ve never seen such a long, single file arrangement of people in my life. What could this be? A word-record setting flash mob getting into formation? A terrorist in the airport and everyone is just trying to stay cool and stay to the perimeter of the building?
This mass ingress of humanity was the TSA screening line. It became immediately obvious that I would not be making my flight to Des Moines, Iowa. Nightmare visions of my baggage sitting, unclaimed in the Des Moines airport tonight ran through my mind. I reached for my phone and started composing the bad news to our events / travel coordinator, Jen. Flights to Des Moines are not that frequent and getting me there would be a joke, at best. My heart sank as I thought of the logistical bomb I was about to drop on poor Jen. She’s chronically nice, so I wasn’t worried about the fallout from her, but I was loathing looking like an incompetent fool to my coworkers who would be waiting for me in Iowa.
A woman approached me: “Do you travel often?”
“Occasionally, why?” I replied.
“I’m with Clear. If you come sign up right now, I can get you passed this whole line and right into TSA screening.”
“How much is it?”
What she said next was mostly inconsequential. I would be willing to pay stupid amounts of money to avoid looking foolish in front of my more senior coworkers.
She led me out of the line over to a Clear kiosk to begin feeding in my biometrics and ID info into the system.
“I love your outfit! The suit, the legs, the heels, the hair, everything! You are just beautiful!”, she gushed. This woman was my biggest fan, and she, my Moses, for a day.
After signing up, she handed me off to another Clear employee who guided me past the mass of humanity who would also be missing their flights today. I strutted with confidence and gratitude past them all. Another Clear employee met me and escorted me to the TSA agent:
“He’s good” she said.
He simply nodded his head and in I went.
One benefit of flying in heels – the TSA screening is much easier to just slide in and out of heels, rather embarking on the process of de-shoeing from my other favorite footwear: rugged Doc Martens boots.
My SLC airport experience went from full on crisis mode to strolling into my gate, coffee in hand, 5 minutes before boarding.
I had a delightful flight that day.
When I was deciding what to wear for traveling that morning, I had a little voice in the back of my head saying, “Travel in style, Keep it weird.”
Had I not worn my shorts suit, nylons & heels, I would have faded into that enormous line. The chances of the Clear agent approaching me would have been miniscule. I absolutely would have missed my flight. I didn’t realize I could just go sign up for Clear and forgo that whole disaster. Because I stood out so much, I was an easy target for her – and thank GOD.
When in doubt, keep it weird, fellow Soul Anarchists.