The Security Show
I recently flew home to Maine for my vacation, thus giving me my yearly exposure to the security procedures designed to save us from terror.
While I do not travel much, I do have the security process down. I put my watch and belt into my carry on (because, you know, belts presumably do bad things to the security hardware or out of concern that a passenger might hang himself out of frustration). I made sure that I had dark socks, because of the need to walk along the floor without shoes. Because, of course, some fool tried to put a bomb in his shoes one time. In a weird concession to age, people who are old enough can keep their shoes and light jackets on. I guess the logic is that people too old to work an iPad would not know how to bomb their shoes.
My ID was ready for the deep screening it goes through and, of course, as anyone knows, no terrorist would have a valid ID. I also had my laptop out because that presumably makes a big difference. My liquids (well, those outside of my body) were safely in the size limit and in the plastic bag. That way the screeners could glance at the bag and see that the containers were not labeled “high explosive” or “nitroglycerin.”
After that, I got my first ride in the full body scanner. It was rather like the scenes in the Fifth Element when the police make people stand and put their hands and feet on the yellow circles. Interestingly, the massively expensive scanner was baffled by my shorts-I had to be patted down anyway because the machine could not properly scan my pockets. As might be imagined, I was impressed to see my tax dollars being funneled to the corporation that makes these super expensive machines that can be apparently be defeated by a pair of $30 cargo shorts.
While they claim that the images don’t show any detail, I could see that the ladies (and some guys) gathered around the screen when I was going through. Yes, I have been working out ladies…and gentlemen.
After my stuff had been irradiated, I then put on my shoes, belt, watch and packed up my stuff so I could go and wait for my flight.
The flight back was basically the same, with one addition. While waiting, I saw some TSA folks roll up with their mobile testing stations. They waited around for about forty minutes until people were boarding and, for some reason, they pull people out of line as they were about the get on the plane rather than screening people while we are all waiting around. Presumably this way is more annoying and inconvenient. This is consistent with my hypothesis that much of the security procedures are the result of drunken wagers between government officials about how much bullshit Americans will put up with as long as they say “security” and “terror” enough.
As I was about to board, someone cut ahead of me and (of course) the TSA picked me for the special attention. As I watched people boarding ahead of me with their giant sized “carry-on” luggage I figured I’d have to check my properly sized carry on thanks to the TSA and the folks who think that anything they can carry (or wheel) counts as a carry on.
They explained the process to me and then rooted through my possessions looking for stuff I might have smuggled in between the time I was scanned and arrived at the gate. Interestingly, they were unarmed-so I am not sure what they would do if they found a real terrorist. Before I got the full body pat down I had the following conversation:
TSA Guy:”Do you have any sensitive areas?”
Me: “Just the usual ones.”
Then I got the full pat down, which was as degrading and as violating of my privacy and personal space as one would imagine. I do have sympathy for the TSA folks, of course. Just imagine spending your day caressing man-boobs and chubby thighs and you will probably feel for them, too. Fortunately, I work out regularly, so the agent got to run his hands over some grade A man flesh. Or maybe grade A-, after all I am pushing towards 50 and I had been eating lobster, bacon and steak all week. Okay,so maybe B+. After determining that I did not have any items that might be used by a philosopher professor to destroy or seize the plane that was taking me to Atlanta, I was allowed to board and jam my carry on under the seat, thus ending that episode of security theater.