My Fingerprints Are Not On This Commentary

Who knew fingerprints were temporary? Not Author Ruth Pennebaker, who was shocked to make this discovery.

By Ruth PennebakerJuly 31, 2015 7:56 am

I spend half my life waiting in lines and sulking about it. Who needs the aggravation, the tragic damage to self-esteem you suffer in a queue? Not me, no way.

So, when a friend told me I could get my TSA Pre-Check at an office in a nearby building, I was on it like a tick. I showed up first thing the next morning.

After all, with TSA-Pre-, I could hotfoot it to the airport and wait in a shorter line — not the line where people looked like refugees in “Casablanca,” hopeless and resentful. Not the line where you had to take off your shoes, lose your dignity, and expose your feet to a netherworld of fungus and vermin. No — a shorter line that moved quickly and didn’t make you go barefoot.

I arrived, I filled out the application, I tried to look respectable, I sat and waited patiently for my turn.

It all went pretty swimmingly it was time to take my fingerprints on a little apparatus. The woman behind the desk kept rolling my fingers around, over and over, on the glass screen. She looked a little put out.

“Is anything wrong?” I asked helpfully.

She sighed. “I can’t find your fingerprints,” she said.

She continued to roll my fingers around on the glass. Finally, she gave up.

“You just don’t have any measurable fingerprints,” she said — a little accusingly, I thought. “Do you garden a lot? You must have done something to wear away your fingerprints.”

“I don’t garden,” I said, wondering, What was I? A gardening suspect, or something?

“I do use the keyboard a lot,” I said. “I’m a writer.” I mean, who knew? Writing not only withers your self-esteem … it evidently whacks off your fingerprints, too.

The woman shrugged, uninterested. “It’s probably just age,” she said.

She approved my application and told me I should be getting my Trusted Traveler number soon. I left the office and walked home. Now and then, I stared down at my featureless finger tips.

Every so often, age serves up a new surprise — something you never imagined before. I mean, who ever contemplated sensitive teeth or arthritic toes before it happened to them?

Similarly, fingerprints. I mean, who knew fingerprints were temporary?

It all makes me think of the mischief I could pull as an older woman. Not only am I invisible to much of the world, I also don’t leave fingerprints behind. I swear, if I weren’t dying to get a Trusted Traveler number, I think I’d become a kleptomaniac.

You can find more of Ruth Pennebaker’s irreverent commentary on aging in her new book, “Pucker Up!: The Subversive Woman’s Guide to Aging with Wit, Wine, Drama, Humor, Perspective, and the Occasional Good Cry.”