Monday, November 16, 2015

Safe and Secure!

Greetings, WYMOP readers!

Pick up my bag. Shuffle forward. Put my bag down.
Pick up my bag. Shuffle forward. Put my bag down.
Take off my shoes.
Yup, I’m at the security checkpoint at Logan International Airport on my way out of town.
Mom just dropped me off plenty early, I’ve already checked my other bag, and I did a digital check-in yesterday so I walked in the building with my boarding pass in hand. This security checkpoint is pretty busy—we’re packed in a little bit like cattle—but they’re moving right along, passing people through with no bottlenecks. A woman two spaces ahead of me in line walks through the metal-detector while wearing a chunky, silver bracelet bigger than my belt, with charms rattling on it the size of dinner plates. I see it and hear it, and I’m at least fifteen feet away. The TSA agent working the machine just gives her a friendly smile and waves her through.
Wow, I think. This looks like it’ll be my easiest flight yet.
My carry-on and computer bag (read: backpack) are on the conveyor belt, along with my three trays—one for everything not keeping me decent, the other two for my laptop and chromebook, each needing their own little cart to go on the ride. I wait my turn to go through the bio-scan booth (I never go through the metal detector, for some reason) with nothing but my socks, pants, underwear, and shirt. Oh, and a smile. Always with the reassuring smile.
“Please step over here, sir.”
One of the TSA agents running the bio-scan machine is motioning me off to one side, out of the flow of traffic. It’s not a problem, I was expecting this. The most comfortable pants I own are some fairly thin and loose cargo pants, and what with all of the pockets, it’s fairly usual for them to ask to either wand me with a metal detector, or—
“I’m going to pat you down, sir,” says the agent suddenly kneeling before me like he’s about to ask for my hand in marriage. “I’m going to go up and down your legs and over your pockets with the backs of my hands.” He holds up purple latex-gloved hands in example, then throws a thumb over one shoulder. “Unless you’d prefer a private screening, sir?”
“No,” I say. “I’m good.” I widen my stance and spread my arms, assuming a rather starfish-like pose as all the other potential passengers look on, some even pausing in the collection of their belongings to watch until TSA agents give them the old “Move along, nothing to see here.” My suitor goes up the inside of my legs and groin, then down and up the outside, feeling all the pockets. When he gets back down to the ankles on the outside, I almost start to drop my arms and take a step, assuming we’re done here.
He goes right back up the inside of my legs again. He’s taking his time and being pretty squeezy about it, which strikes me as a little odd since all the pockets he’s worried about are on the outside of my legs, but before I can ask about that he starts—and I can only assume here, from what I felt—counting my testicles. The pants are, as I said, pretty thin and loose, and it seems to me it would be pretty easy to figure out what’s in there. But from the way he’s rooting around, and the amount of time it’s taking, I’m worried that the man’s having difficulty adding one and one to get two.
That’s when I realize that either my suitor has extremely double-jointed fingers, or he’s no longer using the backs of his hands in his search for testicular abnormality. Oh, wow, I think, was his suggestion of a “private screening” just his way of asking for a date? I’m about to ask if there’s a problem, when one of the other agents steps over.
“Sir? Is this your laptop?”
“Yes, why?”
He’s already turning away as my question warbles out, my suitor choosing that moment to give me a little extra squeeze. “I just want to take this over here and . . .”
Since he’s walking away, the rest of what he says is lost in the crowd noise of people walking through the scanning machines, collecting their gear and moving on. My suitor, whom I’m now thinking of as “Dr. Feelgood,” slides his hands down and back to the outside, this time skimming right over all those pockets he mentioned before he started checking me for hernias. His fingers slip inside the waistband of my pants, held up by nothing but some built-in elastic since my belt is off in a tray somewhere. He gives a little tug, and for just a second I’m afraid he’s going to pants me right there and check my prostate as well, and I regret not going somewhere a little more private.
Then I think I’m lucky I am in public—otherwise I might already be married to this guy!
“Sir,” says the good doctor, “I’m just going to run my fingers around the waistband of your pants to see if mrphl eraw gaganikuk.”
He’s leaned in to reach around behind me and become rather muffled, turning his head away so as not to get a facefull of what he’s already had a fistfull of—we hardly know each other, after all—and I am again about to ask if there’s a problem, but a third TSA agent appears beside me like a pop-up mannequin in a carnival haunted house.
“Sir, is this also your laptop?”
I glance down at the chromebook in his hands. “Yes, but that other—”
“I’m just going to take this over here and . . .”
Again, what he intends to do with my laptop is lost in the noise of everyone else in the world traipsing straight through security, weapons intact, because I’m hogging all the TSA agents. I open my mouth to call out to him, to ask What? And what? but nearly bite my tongue off instead as Dr. Feelgood decides to make sure I didn’t grow a third testicle while he was busy fiddling with my waistband.
Feelgood stands, finally, and I’d like to go see where they brought my stuff—you know, all those personal belongings they keep harping about on the public address system, telling you not to let them out of your sight, or be touched by anyone but yourself?—but we’re not done.
“Would you like to step over here, sir?”
No, I think, but I go, looking back over my shoulder to see if I can spot my stuff in the crowd. I turn back in time to see my new pal, Feelgood, holding up a swabbing paddle.
“I’m just going to rub this over your hands for a moment. We’ll try to get this done as quick as possible.” He starts swiping my palms with the paddle’s white collection surface. “Now what I’m doing here is—”
“Swabbing my hands with that in order to collect any trace elements left in the oil on my skin, which you’re going to run through that”—I nod my head toward the machine we’re standing next to—“to check for any trace of explosives.”
I probably shouldn’t have interrupted him, but I really just want to get back to my stuff—including my wallet, that’s still just sitting in a tray as far as I know—and I know the drill: this is the third time I’ve been checked for explosives in the past two years. Feelgood goes a little squinty at my interruption, though, and makes sure to swab between all my fingers, as well as the backs of my hands and wrists.
Like I’m going to be packing C4 into tubes or something with my wrists?
Finally the machine gives me the all-clear, and I’m able to bid my new friend goodbye. I’m good with that; it’s not like I want to send Dr. Feelgood a Christmas card or anything. I approach the conveyor belt to find my stuff just sitting there, still in trays, unguarded by a single person: wallet, glasses, shoes, laptop, and chromebook. My carry-on is there, but . . .
“Where’s my backpack?”
Then I see it, just making its way through the x-ray machine again. All the pockets are open, and when I fetch it I find all the contents shuffled. Obviously, while Feelgood was twiddling my nether regions and two other TSA agents were examining my laptop and chromebook, at least a fourth was rummaging through my books, editing binder, and Cliff bars, without even bothering to let me know.
So I move a few feet away to a handy bench to re-pack, re-dress, and re-think my day. In the end I’m smiling as I walk toward my gate. Oh, sure, I’m walking away confused, disheveled, and feeling just a little sexually molested, but look on the bright side: I’m explosives-free, and once again I avoided winding up in a small room smelling of sweat and fear, accompanied by a large begloved man wielding an even larger jar of lube.
I’m calling that a win.
And all this because I apparently fit the description of some guy called “Random White Male.” Weird, huh?

Talk to you later!

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