[Here’s an account about an annoying incident at an airport last summer. I had it on the reviewer site blog for a while before the amount of text I had up there got to be too much for geocities. It’s old, I know, but I want to put up something here…]
7/26/04 11:26 pm FOOL ME TWICE?
Flying the UNFRIENDLY SKIES again
Well dear readers, this is the week I return from a vacation trip abroad to the good ol’ US-of-A. Port of arrival will the George Bush Airport in Houston, Texas. It’ll be interesting to see if they strip search me after I go through the metal detectors again like they did on the 8th of July.
Continental had oversold our flight out of Houston so I’d stayed the night at the Airport Sheraton after volunteering the day before to take a later flight (they gave me a first class seat for the next day and a $500 voucher good “for wherever Continental flies.”). I had stayed up all night watching HBO in my room, and got to see Keith and Stephanie of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus on Real Sex, so I was a bit tired. Actually this was my second night without sleep since I´d stayed up all night in San Diego and taken a cab at 3am to Lindbergh Airport so I wouldn´t miss my flight if I overslept.
I must have had some metal in my pocket, or a metal beltbuckle or something, because the metal detector beeped when I went through it. So the first screener, a young woman, told me to wait behind a small taped off area that formed a tiny square like they have when you watch a court proceeding from eastern Europe. This is when the sneering and antagonistic condescension began, it started with the way she said “Stand there”. It was about 9 am, Thursday, July 8, and the gate I was going to was E17.
Then a was ordered a few feet past the x-ray machine where they had been checking my carry-on bag. They had taken a small pair of cuticle scissors when I went through at San Diego, apparently they were a possible hijack weapon, so I assumed they were going to give the bag another check for sharp metallic objects. I started to open up the bag and the guy with the metal detecting wand told me to not touch it. The name tag on his shirt said Jayson Maldonado, and he appeared to me about 25 or so, and bit overweight, even for a Mexican.
First I was told to sit down in a chair and hold one foot out at a time while he swept across the legs with the wand. It seemed to beep a little when he did this but each time it did Maldonado made some exasperated “Tch” sound and held it away from me and pressed a button or something and tried sweeping it again. Every time he did this, it would beep as well.
So he instructed me to stand, gesturing at two feet marks on the floor that were about 24-inches apart, with my hands held aloft like that hooded Iraqi prisoner with the electrodes on his fingers in the Al Grahib prison photo. I did, but he made a juvenile-like indication of discontent that there was something wrong with my performance. He kept making those air-expelling sounds that you make as a kid when you’re unhappy with something, and rolling his eyes. When he was feeling up my calves he came across the bulge of my hide-a-pocket that I use for my passport and whatever other valuable papers I don´t want to have fall out of my pants pockets on the plane. It stays in place with two velcro straps, just below the knee. “What´s THIS?,” he guffawed. This was a real amusement for Maldonado and he laughed as if a battery-powered vibrator had slipped out of my pants leg. “It’s a pocket,” I told him. And he irritatedly demanded I take it off.
HOUSTON, WE HAVE A STRIP SEARCH
He continued to wave the wand, which kept beeping, over my legs and feeling around. Then he found what he thought was setting off the metal-wand: the zipper of my boardshorts, which I had on under my pants to save precious space in my carry-on bag. “What’s THIS?” he asked with a chuckle, which was more of a sneer than a laugh. I tried to tell him that it was the hem of my short’s wax pocket, but I was pretty tired from not sleeping for two nights, plus there was a real atmosphere of harassment with the way he was going about his work, telling me that I couldn’t touch my things in my bag and snickering like I was smuggled whoopee-cushions or some other ridiculously funny obnoxiousness, that after a moment I said “Look, I’ll take off my pants right here and SHOW YOU, if you want. I have no problem with that.” I was irritated and wanted to get to my gate and buy a coffee and some breakfast. This was taking too long.
This offer seemed to be what he was wanting because he stood up and looked over to an other search station and waved over this tall black guy, a kid no older looking than he. I swear these two guys had all the skill and professionalism of a couple of burger flippers at McDonalds.
The three of us, Maldonado and the black guy and me then walked through all my other fellow travelers in detention formation, black guy up front, Maldonado in back with the search wand, and me in the middle, to a side door and past a perturbed-looking older supervisor type, a white guy, who was seated behind a desk with a young lady in the room. She quickly left.
We walked to behind a partition where I quickly took off my pants (I still had my shoes off from out in the terminal). I held up my pants and dropped them unceremoniously. Maldonado told me to stand with my arms out again. The black dude was in front of me, making a squint-eyed leer, while Maldonado satisfied his curiosity about the zipper to my boardshort’s wax-pocket. Fuckin sadistic qweebs. Were they trying to scare me by having the black guy come fully prepared wearing one white rubber glove?
Maldonado finished with his gratuitously demeaning comments and irritatingly rude lack of courtesy. He never even asked please one time. I am, after all, a citizen on vacation, not even an accused prisoner or a detainee. The three of us left quickly, while I tried to hide my anger.
The most aggravating part was the constant stream of sneering and antagonistic chuckles from these two representatives of the Department Of Homeland Security. Is that something they train them to do, to reduce the subject’s will to resist, some kind of domestic terror campaign designed to attack a traveler’s ego, attempt to touch his feeling of self worth by exposing him to ridicule? Or is that a natural personality trait of a person who would take such a lame ass job as the one they have? Did Maldonado think he was protecting America when he was poking his greasy fingers through my credit cards in my wallet, snickering? What was he really looking for there? Was he keeping US citizens safe from terrorists when he had me lift up my shirt, and the two of them laughed derisively out loud when he saw I had a compass on a string, hanging around my neck like a pendant? I am after all boarding a flight to a jungle surf trip.
Maybe they didn’t have the Boy Scouts in the Houston barrio or hood or wherever it is these two goons were raised but the big threat to our national security and unity in the future will not come from outside our borders. It will come as provocations from within. One or two air marshals on each of the hi-jacked planes on 9-11 were all that was needed to thwart those attacks. There were plenty of resources in place before 9-11 to guard our borders. The real danger to US citizens in the coming years will be under the guise of the Patriot act and will wear the title of Homeland Security. Just like Hitler used the brown shirts and uneducated and unemployed to harass and frighten victims of the Nazis, so this current trend towards fascism in our country will use crass, minimum-wage rejects like these two stupid dorks to do their dirty work.
Then the Continental waitresses, I mean stewardesses in first crass, I mean class! Shit they sucked! Hostile and downright violent? I’ve never liked the service when upgraded to first class. It´s like they resent your presence when you don´t actually pay full price for the category of seat you occupy. Good thing it was only a two-and-a-half-hour flight.
Check this blog in a few days, dear readers. I´ll let you know how the return trip goes with these would-be members of our national Gestapo. Or, if no entry is found by after the first of the month, maybe send a card or a letter to me c/o Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Shees!
This time though, there won’t be a spec of metal on my person. RR