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Airport mincha, ads in security area trays, and what does TSA do, anyway?

So, I've been traveling again. It makes me happy! I think that's because I like to look at new and interesting things, and there are so many more new and interesting things around when one is in a new environment than when one is stuck in one's routine at home. Lessons learned:
  1. I should make an effort to get out and about in NYC more often, since there is lots to do and see in NYC that I haven't gotten anywhere near seeing yet.
  2. I should get out of NYC more often, even if just for the weekend, by visiting friends who live within cheap-bus-commutable distance of NYC. Even Riverdale and Teaneck.
I saw a guy davening mincha, facing a structural column, at Newark International Airport. Nothing remarkable about that--I had just done a similar thing, myself. But he wasn't wearing a kippa, which struck me as odd from a sociological perspective (not a halachic perspective). I wonder if people think the same thing about me, when they see me davening in jeans? I mean, I don't think twice about it, but, really, a man wearing a kippa isn't so different from a woman wearing a skirt. Both are customs that indicate allegiance to a particular community, although I would say that kippot have more symbolic meaning than skirts (remembering that God is above you), while more people probably justify only wearing skirts on halachic grounds. I would also say that it's more socially acceptable for an Orthodox woman to wear pants than for an Orthodox man to not wear a kippa, but that's a product of my time and social circle, not an absolute statement. All of this is besides the point. I just thought it was interesting that a person would make the personal choice to daven mincha while forgoing the kippa that is normally warn by people who would be committed enough to weekday mincha to say it at the airport. Now I expect to hear from all of you who say: I am a non-regulalary-kippa-wearing male and I daven mincha!

My second travel-related or travel-inspired observation was that someone had the grand idea of putting advertisements in the bottom of those plastic trays that people throw their things into to send them through the x-ray machines at security checkpoints. It's brilliant because it was an otherwise flat, monotone surface that people more or less have to look at regularly. Also, you can target them to travel-related things, since you know that everyone who looks at them is traveling. (This may draw a higher per-viewing price than print advertisements placed in less-targeted locations.) My only complaint is that it makes it harder to see if you've left something in the tray. I wonder if airports that have these ads will see a spike in things forgotten at security?

My third observation, which was made on December 17, eight days before the flight 253 attempted terrorist act, was that I accidentally left five keys, on a key ring, in my pocket. I wanted right through the metal detector, sans belt, sans shoes, with all of my liquids neatly crammed into 3-oz.-or-less containers in a quart-size ziploc bag...and nothing happened. No beep, no buzz, no stopping me. Five metal keys on a key ring is quite a bit of metal for a metal detector to miss! I happen to be a harmless sort, but couldn't I have been carrying that amount of metal in the form of a very sharp knife?

Anyway, the vacation was very good. I saw some spectacularly beautiful things (e.g., Lake Tahoe after a fresh snow and several beaches), breathed in a lot of fresh, clean air, ate a delicious meal (thanks to my uncle--thank you!) at The Kitchen Table, a kosher restaurant in Mountain View, wandered around Old Sacramento alone (verdict: tourist trap; I should have gone to the railway museum instead of the military museum and schoolhouse museum), met some very nice, friendly, interesting new people (particularly at the Mission Minyan in San Francisco), visited one of my grandmother's first cousins and made her day, caught up with friends and relatives (in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Pacific Grove), had a surprising amount of fun watching month-old piglets at Little Farm and then taking a spectacularly slippery, muddy, fall-down-on-my-butt-at-least-four-times hike in Tilden Park in Berkeley, and felt that maybe I should construct a long-term plan to get out of New York City in a more permanent manner.


The davvening man may have accidentally lost his kippah - I've had mine come off in my outer-hat sometimes.

I haven't ever encountered any man who would daven minha sans head-covering, but there's a lot of people I haven't met. :)
Ah, yes, you make a fine point! I never would have thought of that.
I loved your photos!

As for getting out of NYC, I would certainly support that plan. I always feel there's a certain pressure in the air there. Maybe it's all the people. I'm sure there are beautiful things to see in NYC, but my overall impression is of ugliness. Maybe if I were a born and bred NYer, I would feel differently.
I feel sure that he lost his kippa--maybe it blew off his head in the wind, or fell off when he was leaning over to put on his shoes after he went through security--and he didn't notice. If he has been losing hair lately, it might be that his kippa falls off more easily than he is used to. This has happened to me occasionally. Another thing I have done on more than one occasion in my life, though not very often, is to put on my tefillin shel yad, get distracted, and forget to put on my tefillin shel rosh. In both these cases, in most shuls, someone will point out right away that I am davening without a kippa or without tefillin shel rosh, while in at least one shul I know, no one will ever say a thing. Should I name names? Nah, you know which shul I'm talking about.
I do not feel sure that he lost his kippa. He was wearing a suit and looked very put together and I sort of just assumed that he was a traditional sort of Jew who does not normally wear a kippa, and just didn't put it on to daven mincha. (He was in kind of a rush. It was nearing shkiya and he hadn't gotten to security yet, so he was probably also running for a plane. The security line at EWR was *very* long.)

In any case, it is possible that he did not normally wear a kippa but usually would to daven mincha, but did not in this case, or that he did not normally wear a kippa even to daven (especially when in a rush at airports).

Or, as you all suggest, it is entirely possible that his kippa blew off or came off accidentally in some other fashion.
I should get out of NYC more often, even if just for the weekend, by visiting friends who live within cheap-bus-commutable distance of NYC. Even Riverdale and Teaneck.

I assume "NYC" stands for "New York County" here? :)

Thanks for calling me on that. I do try to be sensitive, especially since people often assume that my neighborhood is not in Manhattan or "the City" at all, as they call it.

I will try to remember that Riverdale is in the City and in New York City in the future. (Even though I usually feel that any place with so many trees could not possibly be in New York City, that is obviously not the case, and not just in the ritzier parts of the Bronx!)
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