What’s Coming Next?

Sitting proudly in the gunmetal-grey trays, my belongings slide confidently along the airport security conveyor belt.  Less confident—or maybe just smarter, even if only just—I pause before moving over to stand in line for the human scanner.  I pause because I know what’s coming next.  

My carry-on items advance into the maw of the machine.  (Do the carwash-like rubber fronds that demarcate its mouth serve to screen the mysterious interior from unauthorized eyes?  Do they prevent x-rays from escaping?  Do they somehow clean my stuff as it passes through?  I do not know.)  But there the trays with my belongings stop.  Then they jerk backward, spit out without even the courtesy of a scan.

I wait because I know what’s coming next.  The trays move forward again, and this time the x-ray box swallows my belongings.

This scene, so clear in my mind’s eye because so often repeated, always reminds me of feeding Pablum to a baby.

Spoon it up, slip it in.  Wait for it to come back out (and come out it surely will, victim of an inexperienced tongue or an uninterested tongue operator).  Scrape it off the chin and slip it in again.  And repeat, as many times as necessary to fill the baby or to empty the bowl.

Feeding babies in the 1970s, I often thought about the messiness of Pablum.  I never thought about what Pablum had replaced as a first solid food for infants (cereal requiring cooking, I guess, generating even more mess).  No, as I spooned, slipped, scraped, and repeated, I just thought the world had always been this way: There had always been Pablum.

I certainly never thought about the thought that had gone into making Pablum be Pablum, back in 1930.  I just bought milk and formula and, yes, Pablum, fortified with Vitamin D, and I neither knew nor cared why they were fortified.  I mean, who thought about rickets?  The world had always been this way: Babies had always grown up strong and healthy, right?

Well, no.  The world hadn’t always been that way and isn’t that way everywhere even now.

What’s more, the world hasn’t stopped changing and never will, but unlike in the airport security line, I have no idea what’s coming next.  And so feeding Pablum to a baby is more than an image evoked by an x-ray scanner and a conveyor belt: It’s also a great metaphor for how I might handle change.

Reminding me that I don’t resist or think much about the things I’m used to, even when I maybe should.

Reminding me that I often don’t think about why I’m resisting something I’m not used to.

Reminding me that it can take a few passes before I can bring myself to swallow change, even when it’s actually progress: something good for me or for others.

Reminding me—the next time I find myself spitting something out—to stop and consider whether it’s something truly unpalatable, or just something new.

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6 Comments

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6 Responses to What’s Coming Next?

  1. Laurna Tallman

    Pablum is delicious and nutritious. I occasionally popped a box into my shopping cart when I first lived away from home. I have been known to finish the “too much” from my baby’s bowls. The need for Vitamin D was met with horrible tasting cod liver oil when I was young. My mother pointed out photos of children with rickets although I was too young to understand the relationship of food to deformed bones, especially yukky food to straight, strong bones. So, we grow and learn and become flexible but also careful. Enormous change has been visited upon us although we didn’t vote for it. Let’s hope that Pablum and Vitamin D foundation keeps us strong!

    • Isabel Gibson

      Laurna – I took those nasty cod liver oil pills as well – they tasted fishy going down and coming back up, too. (But better than the alternative, although I don’t remember my mother showing us educational photos. It was just, “Here, take this.”) I hadn’t remembered those or made the connection between their absence and the presence of Vitamin D in milk and so on. Thanks!

  2. Tom Watson

    Isabel
    You make some interesting connections! Janice and I were recently on a plane trip to Manitoba and back. At Toronto airport, when we were going, I wasn’t thinking about the process for the human scanner. The attendant waved me to come when it was my turn. I stepped into it and stopped. He waved me to go back and do it again. I repeated the step-in-and-stop. He shook his head, motioned me to go back, then came around to my side and said, “Don’t stop in the middle; just walk through.” Obviously, I don’t get out much!

    As for Laurna’s raising the cod liver oil issue, I remember it well as a child. Took it all winter. There was also electric oil, which, as I recall, we mixed with sugar to make it palatable. We had another really, really ugly thing and that was castor oil. Memory suggests that when there was the first sign of something ailing us we got castor oil. Signs of the crud – take castor oil. Took it even for ingrown toenails. Turned out it worked! In due course all they had to do was wave the bottle at me and I got better!

    • Isabel Gibson

      Tom – You were being your own conveyor belt! In your defence, there are some scanners where you get in, stop, and spreadeagle (as I expect you know). I hope you played the geezer card with the attendant.

      I’ve heard of castor oil but never ingested it, to my knowledge. Wiki says, “Castor oil and its derivatives are used in the manufacturing of soaps, lubricants, hydraulic and brake fluids, paints, dyes, coatings, inks, cold resistant plastics, waxes and polishes, nylon, pharmaceuticals and perfumes.” Not the sort of thing anyone would likely want to ingest.

  3. Tom Watson

    Well, we ingested it alright! But…well, let’s just say I won’t ever again if I can help it!