Packet Rat: The Rat abridges freedom of the press plane

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

Nothing, it seems, is as simple as it used to be, especially when it comes to Rat family vacations.

Hopping on a last-minute fare deal, the whiskered one's wily wife managed to exploit some of the
complexity to get the whole brood booked for a visit to relatives far from Washington's steamy sidewalks. But the wrinkles in modern air travel soon had her pining for the joys of a long family drive.

'This is like the line at Disney World,' griped Mrs. Rat as the family waited with hundreds of other would-be passengers to get past Transportation Security Administration screeners.

'I'd rather it be like a theme park ride now than have extra thrills later,' replied the cyberrodent, still leery of air travel after his last adventure lashed to the belly of a Global Hawk remote-piloted vehicle.

Scanning the hordes ahead, he noted that one line seemed to be moving faster than the rest. 'Let's follow them,' he suggested.

With ratlings and bags in tow, the furry couple repositioned themselves in what appeared to be the express lane. In minutes, they found themselves on the other side of the security checkpoint, without a single bag check or wave of a detector wand.

'That was weird,' the wirebiter mused. 'We didn't even have to take our shoes off. Is there another checkpoint down this hallway or something?'

'Whatever,' muttered his spouse, lugging a notebook PC and a toddler. 'Let's just get to our gate.'

The Rat fell in behind his better half and soldiered on. Distracted by the antics of his offspring, he paid little attention to the rest of the boarding process. Only after the aircraft door had closed, and a familiar bespectacled figure passed him in the aisle, did the reason for their rapid progress become clear. They had boarded the White House press corps charter plane'headed to Africa.

'You'd think a family of anthropomorphic rats on the White House press plane would have drawn a little more scrutiny,' his wife hissed a few minutes later as they were surrounded and escorted to the airport security office by Secret Service agents. 'If you hadn't annoyed Ari Fleischer at that Christmas party last year, they'd never have noticed us and we'd be on our way to Pretoria by now. I guess it pays to be pompous after all.'

'What do you mean, pompous?' the Rat demanded. 'I was just trying to give him some pointers on how to program his TiVo.'

He turned to the agent inspecting the youngest ratling's diaper bag. 'Besides, I'm sure this was just a freak occurrence. I mean, what are the odds of someone trying to stow away with the White House press corps?'

'On the other hand,' he added as they were marched to their ticketed flight, 'I hear Entebbe, Uganda, is lovely this time of year.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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