John Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Recombobulation: thoughtful area in Milwaukee airport

The return trip from Milwaukee to New Orleans lasted two and one half hours instead of the all night ride that took us there on Amtrak.

But unlike the train, flying was sterile and impersonal.

The only indication that anyone connected with air travel had a sense of humor about them came at the end of the passenger security screening line in the Milwaukee airport. After passengers had frantically removed shoes and coats and emptied pockets and stood in front of a scanning device that looked at no telling whatall, the line led to the end of a conveyor carrying all that stuff we had just been separated from.

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And there, over the place where shoes, coats, pockets contents, etc. were retrieved from bins that had carried them through a conveyor, hung a sign: Recombobulation Area.

I liked it. It seemed like a thoughtful gesture for passengers so recently and completely discombobulated.


We met the Milwaukee damncats Ernie and Thelma during our visit .

Ernie had come to them first, Mary and Phil told us, after his original owner faced a move that forced him to leave the damncat behind. Ernie had been declawed by the original owner and he came with a vet’s certificate attesting the removal of his front claws. That was important since the apartment where Mary and Phil live allows damncats but only if they are declawed. That and an extra fee paid monthly allow them to have the pet.

The apartment were they live in South Milwaukee reminds us of the old Popeye movie that stars Robin Williams. Throughout the movie, the taxman rides up on a bicycle to collect a tax on just about everything that happens.

So it goes in this apartment. An extra monthly fee for each pet, and extra monthly fee for a second vehicle. And so on.

Which makes Thelma problematic for a couple of reasons.

First, she’s not been declawed. Mary and Phil found her on a cold, snowy winter night and took her in. By that time, Mary had learned enough about declawing that she realized that it’s really an amputation of the end of the animal’s paw.

So that makes Thelma contraband for a couple of reasons. She’s not declawed and no monthly fee has been paid to the taxman.

They’ve spent some minutes hiding Thelma from the Taxman — mainly a snoopy maintenance guy who comes around to make repairs. When they know he’s coming, they shut Thelma out of sight in a back room. Trouble is, he’s subject to arriving unannounced in a semi-emergency.

But that’s their problem, we told ourselves when we left the Wisconsin city behind as stormy weather arrived heralding a wintry blast not far behind.

We’ve already got damncat issues in two states without taking on a third.

But that “Recombobulation Area” has been much on my mind since. There should be more of them spaced at intervals along every path that life takes us, including the twists, turns and detours.

Especially the twists, turns and detours.