As I write, I'm returning to my desk after a week off.

If you are on Facebook, you know the joy of realizing that you have just stumbled upon a worthy post: a cute pet photo, a well-staged family portrait, a meme that meshes with some strongly held opinion.

As a family columnist, whose daily life has been grist for 25 years' worth of musings, every day brings material that feels like it needs to be "posted."

So here are two random vignettes I need to download after 10 days away from my keyboard.


In a Midwestern airport on Christmas weekend, an energetic TSA worker exhorted flyers there to empty their pockets. By empty, he meant COMPLETELY empty.

No gum. No coins. Not even a stray aspirin.

A rule follower by nature, I was worried that a lint ball in my jeans pocket would earn me a one-way ticket to Guantanamo Bay.

"Sir," I said sheepishly, "I have a metal stent in my left leg that may set off your machine."

"It should be OK," he mumbled, before resuming his loud instructions: "Now, WHAT should you all have in your pockets?" he barked rhetorically to the group of us removing our belts and shoes.

"Nothing, sir," I stammered, like a Marine recruit at Parris Island.

"This guy wins the award," he said exuberantly, motioning for me to step ahead into the X-ray machine.

There, I was told to raise my hands. It being the season of baked goods and eggnog, I was wearing my "fat jeans," and as I raised my hands, I immediately felt my belt-less jeans drop to midthigh.

"Sir, pull up your pants," another TSA worker instructed. "Your crack and underwear might set off the machine."

"Yes, sir," I said obediently, wondering how in heck I was supposed to pull up my jeans while simultaneously keeping both hands raised over my head. I made a quick grab, yanked up my pants, spread my legs and hoped for the best.

Meanwhile, my inner smart-aleck began to awaken: "Shouldn't you TSA guys be more worried about passengers who DON'T have a crack," I thought to myself. "I should think detecting a crack would be commonplace. Meanwhile, the absence of a crack in the crack region should clearly raise suspicions."

Fortunately, I had the good sense to keep my mouth shut. These guys — who do a great job protecting us, by the way — weren't radiating a sense of humor. I got a little patdown and was waved on through.

Later, I picked up this nugget from the TSA website: "TSA incorporates unpredictable security measures, both seen and unseen, to accomplish our transportation security mission."

This explains the "crack" crackdown, I suppose. Good work, guys!


On New Year's morning, I scanned the cupboard for cans of black-eyed peas to ensure my future prosperity.

As a Southerner, I was raised believing that failing to eat black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is bad luck and raises the risk that you will wind up in the poorhouse. Supplementing the peas with turnip greens is supposed to turbocharge your prosperity.

I found two cans of peas and, on a whim, turned them over to check the "use by" date — which in both cases was February 2016. Alas, I would rather risk poverty than botulism, so I threw the peas into the garbage.

There is something mildly barbaric about throwing away cans of Luck's black-eyed peas. Seeing all those little "eyes" peering back at you feels like you're burying something alive.

Still, I had one good can of peas, and I decided to share with my sister, who lives a few miles away.

This is our verbatim text chain:

Me: "Hey, Sis, I have one little can of black-eyed peas, but I will share it with you to ensure family prosperity."

Sister: "I have never, to my recollection, eaten a black-eyed pea. Even on New Year's. I'll let you be prosperous this year. LOL"

Me: "OK. But if you don't win the lottery, don't blame me."

Sister: "It's kinda hard to win something you don't play."

Me: "You should eat one pea today just to test the prosperity theory. Call it the 'pea test.'"

Sister: "Whatever."

Five minutes later.

Sister: "I'm doomed anyway. I already ate a cinnamon bun."

Attached to her text was a screen shot from a 2014 article in the Times Free Press: "Southern tradition holds that the first food you eat on New Year's day should be black-eyed peas for luck and prosperity — specifically one pea for each day of the year."

Me: "What? I've never heard the 'first food' rule. Anybody who counts out 365 peas for breakfast on New Year's Day morning is a moron."

Later, unable to maintain by skepticism, I ate two bowls of my wife's pea soup.

Stay tuned for a prosperity report.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfree or 423-757-6645.