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.