September 26, 2006

Suing Jean Paul Gaultier

Teddyboy's clear plastic knapsack...'What I usually carry on the plane: changes of underwear, top and bottom, a casual shirt or two, a Leica, a cologned wet towels in a Ziploc, toothbrushes and a nearly spent toothpaste (now banned, think of the halitosis factor now), and Thai prickly heat powder, which makes you feel particularly fresh behind after a long flight. Do not use in front, you will get cross-yeed. And throway airline socks from the last trip for when I take off my shoes before boarding.'

By Teodoro Locsin Jr.

‘YOU are not alone,” my daughter told me one morning after we’d come back from a trip abroad where I was repeatedly ribbed on my unique and highly original knapsack. “Jean Paul Gaultier said in an interview that he was so sick and tired of being harassed at airports on his carry-on luggage that…”

“Don’t tell me,” I said.

“That’s right,” she said.

“That frog-eating s.o.b. I am not going to take being robbed by white people of my intellectual creations yet again,” I thundered. “Why I’ve had that clear plastic knapsack for six or seven years now and he talks like he was the first to discover it? I’ll sue him.”

Indeed, I am sick and tired of having American newspaper columnists steal my ideas and corporate giants exploit my discoveries without giving me credit, let alone royalties for them. For example, it was I who discovered and was the first to write about the “Fart Factor” in airline travel from both painful personal experience and acute and relentless observation.

My resistance had been so weakened from flying economy class on a plane full of unremittingly exhaling people that when I sat in the shade during a San Francisco Giants game, I succumbed to hepatitis. I concluded years later and well before it became an issue in airline safety that passengers had a curious tendency of leaning left or right or forward from their seats for no apparent reason and it struck me that they might be releasing air. And yet where was the fresh air? A jet must fly airtight and pressurized, so there can’t be an exhaust. In a famous column I wrote later I suggested farting straight into the cushion so the fibers absorb the stench.

At the same time, back on the ground, I also observed that I am a magnet for airport harassment and it’s been like that since long before 9/11. The only thing I haven’t been subjected to at airports is a cavity search and it doesn’t matter if I travel as an ordinary tourist or a state guest, like when I was detained at Detroit in the same room with plaited Jews and shabby Latvians for having been issued incomplete special travel documents by the US State Department as its Ninoy Aquino Fellow.

Was that any fault of mine, I didn’t issue the documents? And I had told them back in Manila that I already had a US tourist visa. But they insisted that I had to get special treatment. I had to fly to Washington, D.C., to retrieve my passport. And then there was the time when…you get my drift. So when I was browsing in a luggage shop in New York, which is what I most enjoy doing after bookstores, I saw this clear plastic knapsack and I thought, Why not come clean right at the start, right there at airport security? Let them see everything even without an x-ray. And so I’ve traveled since, years before 9/11, and the London airport scare.

The harassment, of course, continues because I am, as I said, a magnet for it even if I am whiter than most Americans, clean shaven like a baby’s bottom, and casually drop a big rosary along with my glasses in the x-ray tray. I dare anyone to say there is a light welt across my forehead that might have come from a towel wrapped around my head. Maybe my seeming transparency is arousing more suspicion that I am hiding something somewhere else.

And now Jean Paul is going to claim he thought of it first. I dare him to repeat his claim. I have patented my discovery and hereby copyright my latest observation that the next big airline safety issue will be halitosis, what with hardly any airline passing out travel kits with a small toothpaste tube to economy- class passengers who need it most.

(Originally published in the Business Mirror, Lifestyle Section, Sept. 25, 2006.)

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