Over the past couple years I've been required to fly with greater frequency to a variety of meetings and trainings in different parts of the country.
As a result, the art of packing to suit the many bizarre and changing security regulations of the Federal Government has become second nature. The security check itself is merely a minor blip on my radar, protracting only when the line is cluttered with the uninitiated.
I am able, with an easy confidence, to enter the "Expert Flyer" line at the screening area of Port Columbus International Airport in Ohio because I know to have my laptop placed in its own private gray tub. This act alone, performed without asking any of the TSA henchmen if I really need to do it, immediately earns me TSA henchman brownie points. I shoot a knowing nod to the guy behind me who's grumbling to nobody about whether or not he needs to do the same.
I skillfully swing my coat, shoes, belt, cell phone, briefcase, and any loose pocket change into a second gray tub like a gymnast performing a complex yet graceful floor routine. With driver's license and boarding pass in hand, I move effortlessly through the metal detector without incident. Having pre-planned my footwear, I slip back into my laceless shoes, grab my belongings, and head to Wolfgang Puck Express for a personal-size pepperoni pizza and a Diet Coke while I wait to board the plane.
But I am troubled.
Almost every person I know who flies with any regularity has experienced delays, bag searches, or body scans during the security screening. Even my Lovely Wife once had to stand aside while a TSA henchwoman rifled through her massive purse, wallet and all, because a pair of fold-up safety scissors set off an Orange-level alert throughout RDU Airport. The henchwoman was gruff and ugly, and therefore lived up to my expectations. Still, I was a bystander, not the victim.
I began wondering during last week's trip home from Columbus why I had never been singled out by the TSA henchmen. What is it about me that glares like a beacon, telling the TSA henchmen I am so much the opposite of a threat they can feel free to smile at me and treat me pleasantly while the poor schmuck behind me gets the full frontal pat down in front of the entire terminal?
I've seen other people who are equally adept at the security screening process get pulled aside for a closer inspection of their carry -on bags for seemingly no reason. Why has mine never been checked? Other people are forced to step to the right into the explosives material testing machine and get puffs of air poofed at them, ruining their hair along with their attitudes. Why not me?
Don't I look even slightly threatening? Isn't it possible I'm part of some extremely white, middle-class, middle-age, over-weight sleeper cell?
Or forget terrorism all together and just give me the common courtesy of acknowledging I might pose some kind of safety issue. I'm taller than the guy you just frisked and twenty years older than the uniformed Marine on whom you just performed a cavity search. I'm potentially sneakier than the single mom struggling to keep her kids from crawling into the x-ray scanner while you question the authenticity of her alleged breast milk. And I've got to be smarter than the guy on his fifth pass through the metal detector due to the fact neither he nor you has figured out the big metal chain around his neck is made of metal.
The more I think about it, the TSA is insulting my masculinity by consistently and persistently giving me the easy pass through the security screening process!
Well, no more Mr. Nice Fly. Next time, I'm going to leave the laptop in the bag and make them ask me to take it out. Who knows? I might even "forget" to take off my shoes. Let's see how much of a threat they think I am then...
© 2010 Mark Feggeler