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Thursday, April 25th, 2002

cultural profiling

In retrospect, it was dumb for me to wear an ancient pair of blue jeans on a travel day.

I had purposefully packed old clothes, both to commemorate the weekend visit with old friends (thinking it would be clever to wear the same clothes this weekend as I was wearing when I met these guys, 8-12 years ago), and because I’d suspected I might be falling off the wagon into a bottle of frosty amber ale, and getting sloppy upon impact… but the lacing studs on my boots consistently set off the airport metal detector, and the frayed jeans consistently set off the airport security guards.

“Step over here please.” I stepped out of line and raised my arms as if I was about to be crucified, which is how I felt at the moment: under-rested, about to endure abuse, and being laughed at by two of the guys I’d been drinking with all weekend, both of whom had passed unscathed through the apparent cultural profiling at this security checkpoint, even though neither was dressed even as nicely as I… one of them, in fact, was wearing the same pants he’d been drinking in all weekend — old brown corduroys with the pantslegs hacked off in an apparent Mission-District imitation of a cuff — and a pair of Dr. Martens so old, that when they were in medical school the curriculum included a course in “Leeches”. My jeans were only slightly more ratty, but a lot more clean, not that the security guard was going to do a sniff test, which, all things considered, was probably for the best.

Anyway, I braced myself for the second “wanding” of the weekend. This wand operator was a lot more thorough than the previous one. He had a little stepstool for me to put one leg up on, to better invade my personal space (yeah, I mean the part between my legs) with his little battery-powered toy. “Does that thing vibrate?” I asked. He wasn’t amused. “I mean, so long as you’re pressing it into my crotch.”

He ignored my beery taunts and proceeded with the inspection. He even announced what he was doing as he patted me down: “I’m going to touch your back now… I’m going to touch your thigh now…” I wondered if this is what it feels like to be at the OBGYN, minus the stirrups and the fact that I still had my pants on.

Finally, having exhausted any possibility of discovering contraband that would not require a cavity search to reveal, the guard made me sit down and take my boots off. And then, boots in hand, he walked away! He delivered my boots to the X-ray technician, and from the distance, turned to me and mouthed, “You’re free to go,” waving dismissively down the hall to where my buddies were chatting, no doubt commenting on my high intellect, good looks, and strong moral character in the face of unpleasant public groping by an airport security guard while they waited.

“What about my shoes?!” I yelled. He shrugged at me from the distance. That’ll teach me to make dildo jokes, I thought.

So I walked over to wait for my shoes to be irradiated for the second time in three days, wondering if I should invest in lead-lined socks, like those heavy aprons they make you wear at the dentist’s office. Of course, the shoes passed the X-ray inspection without comment or complication, because I’d taken the precaution of hiding within my navel the portable nuclear warhead I’d been smuggling back from Cincinnati.

I picked up my boots and bag and prepared to face the gauntlet of ridicule my friends had prepared in the 10 minutes I’d been fending off your government’s best attempt since my last audit to find some reason to arrest me… when yet another security weasel appeared and shouted “Bring your bag over here!”

This is the point that I really would have begun to get upset, if I hadn’t been so “heavily sedated.” Why couldn’t they have swabbed my bag for bomb residue while I was getting felt up by the guy with the wand? “Because I can’t do this unless you’re here,” says the swab technician, demonstrating a decidedly mixed view of respect for passengers’ privacy.

The funny epilogue to this dreary episode is that, through all the inspections, examinations, and interrogations, I had a nail clipper in my carry-on, and none of the security blockheads had the presence of mind to confiscate it.

posted to channel: Travel
updated: 2004-04-19 05:30:49

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