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A Texas Two Step

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The transatlantic salami
The Gazette Staff
The recent brouhaha about the intimate new TSA pat downs which gave new meaning to the phrase "Don't touch my junk" started me thinking back on travels I took in younger days.
We were not really aware of or worried about terrorism and the whole business of flying was quite straightforward and fairly carefree for the average person. Even so, some strange things did happen.
When I lived in New York, I found myself at a point where I could actually book a two-week vacation. I had always wanted to see Italy. I saw an ad in the weekend Times in which Alitalia, the Italian state airline offered a two week all-inclusive tour featuring quality hotels for about $1,400. The itinerary included Venice, Florence, the Tuscan hill country and Rome - exactly the places I wanted to see.
I arrived at JFK Airport for an overnight flight to Milan. Standing in line waiting to check-in, I couldn't help but notice the woman in front of me. She was a short grandmotherly type of Mediterranean appearance, dressed completely in black, and headed, I assumed, to her country of origin. She was carrying a tote bag over her shoulder. Sticking out of it was a very long salami.
I was standing there, rather preoccupied, when an Australian voice behind me yelled "Duck, mate!" At the same moment the salami hit my shoulder.
The owner of the salami gave me a dark look and did not apologize for the offending sausage.
I remarked that a transatlantic salami could be a dangerous weapon. The Australian girl laughed and observed that some unfortunate person was going to have to spend about eight hours beside the garlicky treat.
As it turned out, that person would be me. The aircraft was a big 747. I was traveling coach. I had the middle seat in a three-seat configuration. The salami lady had the aisle seat. About four hours into the flight, I needed to use the washroom. However, the grandma with the salami appeared to be sound asleep. I fidgeted and she woke up. I told her I wanted to use the washroom. I could get by her without her leaving her seat. But I couldn't get by her tote bag plus the protruding salami. Finally, she grudgingly lifted the bag and I exited.
Once in Milan, she ended up in front of me at the customs and immigration post. She was waved through, while my passport was thoroughly perused. Finally though, I was on my way to Venice and the start of what turned out to be a thoroughly wonderful trip through Venice, Florence, Tuscany and finally Rome.
The time came to head to Fiumicino Airport and the trip back to JFK. I got in line for check-in. A moment or two later, I happened to turn around. There she was. The same black dress. The tote bag. And a salami. This one appeared somewhat fatter than the one that had made the previous trip.
This time, she was not seated near me. I pondered the salami. I suppose she took one overseas as a gift to her relatives and brought one from an Italian market back to her family. Perhaps it was some sort of long-standing tradition.
The last I saw of her, she was being helped out of the airport by some folks about my age and a little boy who was happily clutching the fat salami.