Friday, June 15, 2012

My Very Own SA

So there I was at Logan International Airport. I've been here before, I know what to expect, right?
I'm going to have some minor hassle at Security. You know it, I know it, we all know it. The only suspense lies in where the hassle will come from, what form it will take, yes?

Listen close while I tell you a story...

I approached the Security checkpoint as ready as I could ever be. My shoes were loose already, my belt not even about my waist, but stowed in one of my carry-ons.  When it was my turn to partially disrobe and shuffle sockily through their selection of scanning machines I slapped down three trays: one for the laptop, one for the Nook , glasses, wallet and phone, one for the shoes, gum and change. All spread out nicely, ready for a look-see. I put my two carry-ons on the belt behind my trays, one my computer bag, the other with clothes, and I fed the whole bunch carefully into the machine.

That done I stepped to where I was to pass through a machine. They had the metal detector roped off for the moment and were relying strictly upon the bio-scan device. For those of you who may not know, you step into the bio-scanner and take a stance, feet apart, hands up and over your head, and it scans your whole body. You can't have anything but your clothes when you go through, not even paper. In fact, there is a Security Agent stationed right by the machine who's job is to ask people again and again "Do you have anything in your pockets or on your person? Please remove all items, no metal or paper, from your person."

Obviously a job requiring crackerjack training.

Now, my stuff was passing through he x-ray machine with nary a hold up, but I had to wait for the gentleman in front of me to pass the bioscan. As I watched, the Security Agent asked her questions, and the man, in an obvious hurry, denied having any metal or paper on his person and stepped into the machine. As he threw his hands above his head, a flash of light caught my eye.

A wristwatch, with a nice leather band and a big shiny metal-rimmed face, was on his wrist. Some might say gaudy. Some might say "why the hell does that guy have what looks like an alarm clock strapped to his wrist?" Eagle-eyes the Security Agent simply said "Hold still, sir."

Terrific, I thought. This guy's going to hold us all up because there's no way that huge example of horological engineering is going to make it through this machine.

That's when I noticed the bulge in his back pocket and realized that our hero had also failed to divest himself of his wallet. Papers, plastic, even magnetic strip cards were probably in there.

I sighed and thought, Well, at least I'm not the show this time, and settled back to watch, waiting with some satisfaction for the Security team to descend upon him en masse  for being unable to follow the rules. I found myself somewhat looking forward to seeing him wanded, patted down, possibly even hustled off to that small room filled with the smells of fear, sweat and lubricating chemicals that I've heard tell about. Maybe I'd have time to make popcorn...

"You're clear," the Agent said to the man, and he hustled forward to grab his bag and shoes from the safe side of the machines. She waved me along, completely ignoring my open-mouthed stare.

"You're next sir."

I shook my head, amazed at what I'd seen, and stepped into the bioscanner. I took my stance and waited 3-4 seconds, during which I contemplated how Rod Stewart had it right:  some guys have all the luck. I had just about gotten to the point where that song would have been trapped in my head when I was waved through. I started for my belongings, now waiting for me on the safe side of the checkpoint, when a large TSA uniform stepped into my path.  Inside it was a large TSA Agent, hands upraised slightly to form a barrier, physically blocking me from leaving.

"Just a minute, sir."

It was not a request. I waited. The burly Agent spoke into his collar microphone, though from what I could tell he was talking to one of the Agents manning the Bioscanner screens not ten feet away, reminding me of two small children with a new pair of toy walkie-talkies having a conversation via radio from either side of a couch.

Come on, we've all done it.

My ears perked up a bit when I heard the words, "I have that white male you flagged."

Flagged? What? Flagged from what? I turned to look at the Agents running the machines, but they all stared busily at their screens, and I couldn't tell who my Agent was talking to.

"You flagged a white male. I have him here. What am I... ?"

He trailed of, listening to my unseen accuser. I was looking from  him to the machines and back, trying to decipher what was going on. My Agent listened, then looked me over. Listened again. Looked again. I have to admit I was looking him over as well: while he was almost exactly not my type, that word 'flagged' was giving me horrible visions of myself being dragged off to the very small, shame-filled room I had so recently been hoping my fellow traveler to be destined for. I was looking at my Security Agent with something quite specific in mind, and I wasn't liking what I was seeing.

Jesus, look at his hands, they're huge! My God, look at the size of those fingers!

I recalled the next line in that Rod Stewart song, and  felt slightly faint. Some guys have all the pain...

Now, while this was going on the line for the bioscanner was building up behind me and more and more luggage was being pushed through the x-ray machine. With no one being allowed through the bioscanner there was no one to claim the luggage, and it filled the slide on the 'safe' side. Then overfilled it. The luggage was backing all the way up through the machine, and still the conveyor belt kept conveying. My luggage and three trays were stacked at the base of the slide, being pushed into the stopper at the end with more and more force.

I wanted to go fetch my stuff, or at least have someone else, possibly a Security Agent, pull my stuff out of the way before something happened. When I looked back to the big guard who was holding me, intending to draw his attention to the potential problem, two things happened almost simultaneously.

The first thing was that my three trays finally gave in to the pressure being exerted upon them by the luggage being shoved into them by the constantly pushing conveyor belt. I had lined them all up, squaring them off nicely so they were exactly edge to edge to edge. They are only plastic trays, however, and the belt that moves goods through those X-ray machines is pretty heavy-duty. Under the constant and increasing pressure, my middle tray buckled. The leading edge of the rear tray slipped beneath that middle tray and flipped it up, pinning it to the tray in front of it. This had the effect of catapulting my goods, Nook, wallet, phone and glasses, out of their tray and into the air.


The Nook, I was happy to eventually find, didn't make it to the floor but landed in the tray in front of it, as did my wallet, both sprawling on top of my laptop. The glasses and phone, however, sailed right over the end of the slide to clatter to the floor, where they were promptly and completely ignored by the Security Agent standing nearby.


The second thing to happen, pretty much just as my belongings were becoming part of some physics/aerodynamics experiment, was that I saw exactly where my own personal Security Agent was looking. He was looking at whomever he was talking to on the radio, and then at my wrists. Over at his associate, and then at my wrists.

My wrists.

That's when it hit me that the big so-and-so was checking me for a watch! A watch, just like the one I had noticed, with no Security training whatsoever, on the wrist of the white male who had passed through the machine ahead of me!

So, while the guy who ignored the rules, fairly openly, I might add, breezed through security to simply grab his stuff and run off, I was stuck standing there for a few minutes, holding up the line and having my belongings flung to the floor because this SA couldn't seem to comprehend that I did not have a watch! If I wound up being hustled into that small 'examination' room over this I was really going to be sore!

Whoops! Poor choice of words, that.


Just as I realized this, my very own SA waved me on with a sigh and a disappointed-sounding "You can go." Rather than explaining that the problem, the security breach, the theoretical potential terrorist was the guy ahead of me, I hustled over to try to get my stuff out of the way before something else went flying, or to at least pick my glasses off the floor before someone stepped on them. I wanted out of there before someone tried to sneak something dangerous through for Fate to try to pin on me.

Glasses on and phone in pocket, I started to hurriedly shove my stuff together in an effort to get it all off the slide and stop jamming up everyone else's things. I was just getting started when a woman of about 60-65 years of age stalked up next to me. She grabbed her bag off the belt behind my pile of stuff, snatched a pair of flip-flops from a tray, gave me the dirtiest look I've received in quite a while, then shook her head with a disgusted sigh. She turned around and stalked away, back stiff, not even bothering to put on her flip-flops or put away her tray.

I gathered my stuff up awkwardly and made my way to a nearby bench, thinking the same thing I always seem to think while going through airport security.

Why me?

Talk to you later!

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