Carbon Fiber Belt Buckles

So I was actually pondering over this a while back, but I’ve been way too workload heavy to put it down in the ether. That being said, here it is…

I recently (well not so recently as it turns out) flew to Las Vegas to meet with distributors. For those that have already forgotten, the work I do is in the movie industry and distributors are the guys that actually get DVD’s out to the retails stores. They typically work closely with the studios but invariably are the bottom end of the food chain – right before the retail store.

The meeting was a conference for the industry and given the nature of the business was shrouded in security guards and restricted access. “You gotta have an appointment to get in this part of the hotel” some lowly dude grunts out. “Sure do! Here’s mine…”. Obviously I didn’t look the part to him but I most definitely had the credentials.

Enough about the conference. It was actually quite boring. But I did manage to stay at the new Palms hotel which, I must say, is pretty nice. iPhone pictures are all I could grab, but you get the idea.

The hotel was a nice change from the hustle of the airport. If you’ve never been to McCarran International (Vegas airport) let me indulge you a little.

Your inbound flight usually ends up being a cross between a bus ride and an old rattling wooden roller coaster. The turbulence around Vegas can be pretty bumpy. One minute you are checking out the Strip from the small round cubby hole frequently described as a ‘window’, and the next you’re doing your best to stop your drink from drying itself on your fellow passengers because you didn’t finish it when the sarcastic flight attendant told you to. Need I say more?

If you are lucky you get to experience a ‘missed approach’. ‘What’s a missed….’ Here. Indulge me for a minute. A missed approach goes something like this:

ATC: “United 185 cleared to land runway four – five right”

Pilot: “Cleared to land, four five right, United 185”

Pilot to co-pilot “Dude – I really messed this one up. We are literally a few feet from the runway but we’re gonna run out of runway before we finish rolling because I came in too steep – I was too busy looking out the window”

Co-pilot to pilot “It’s OK man, we can do one of those go around thingies. I always wanted to do one of them”

Pilot: “United 185, Missed Approach. Going Around”

Passenger in row 13 Seat B: “Oh my God. I think I’m gonna throw up, why are we accelerating and pulling up so hard… where’s that bag… too la….”

It can be an unnerving experience. Especially if you don’t know what’s going on. But for the sake of saving you a long tirade of commentary, let’s assume we landed safely and pulled up to the gate.

Once inside the first thing you notice is the smell of cigarette smoke emanating from the carpets. Long since banned in the airport itself, the decades of smoke absorption slowly release into the atmosphere. But soon you are distracted by the sound of slot machines. Rows and rows of the things with people eager to hit it big as they depart and arrive.

Who knows how many millions of souls have passed through with the thought that today could be the day when their lives would change forever. And, no doubt, for one or two it happened.

Once you have taken the automated monorail to the main baggage area the lights and sounds begin to barrage every sense you have. Massive LCD displays announce the shows and attractions. Slot machine after slot machine waits eagerly to save your money for you. And the sounds. Music, shows, big events – all of it being broadcast to you in mind-blowing quantities.

But arriving and leaving are two different beasts. When most people arrive they are eager for the thrill of winning millions and becoming one of the elite few. When most people leave they’re returning to their lives they left behind with stories of grandeur, architectural facades and tales of how close they came.

Conscious of this, the airport reflects the reality of the situation. The slot machines you passed on the way in are they to take whatever money you have left on your way out. A last fleeting chance to get something back from the gambling syphon.

Ironically it’s the airport security that has the biggest parallel to the Vegas roller-caster. As you approach, the signs tell you to make sure you put everything in the conveyor belt trays. Take your shoes off. Remove jackets. Slowly but surely the process strips you of everything until it’s just you, the bear minimum of clothes and the machine.

I’ve passed through security at airports so many times I think I know the procedure better than many of the TSA employees. On this occasion I omitted to take care of one essential item.

The preparation was easy. I removed my computer from my back pack and put it into a grey container (it must be so the X-Ray machine can see it – only in America). I put the back pack on the conveyor belt and removed my shoes. I put my shoes in another grey container and promptly emptied my pockets of my wallet and iPhone. They too joined my shoes.

Thinking I was done, I stepped through the detector. Within seconds a TSA employee standing at an intimidating 5’ 6” tall proceeded to explain that I had to remove my belt.

“Yes, yes” I acknowledged, knowing that I had done this hundreds of times before and in one momentary lapse of concentration forgot. My belt, too joined the shoes.

Now nothing remained between my birthday clothes and the machine other than a pair of trousers, underwear and a T-shirt. The machine never complained about me again. Apparently my abs of steel didn’t register. I’m not so sure this was my abs of steel as much as it was the machine being faulty. But I digress…

I gathered my belongings and returned my belt to where it belongs, firmly wrapped around my waist. It then dawned on me. Why don’t we have carbon fiber belt buckles? I wouldn’t need to feel like I was stripping for the benefit of my fellow passengers and the line would be expedited ever so slightly.

Almost certainly the government would figure some rule that would make us remove our carbon fiber belts.

In a strange twist you realize that at least in a casino you can walk through the doors with your shoes and your belt, carbon fiber buckle or not – although your wallet might be just as empty.

Safe travels.