A discussion of getting through security at airports
MCKNOTES ON TSA
If you don’t already know, TSA stands for Transportation Security Administration. I think we are all grateful for their services, even when we become irritated with the effort to meet all of their requirements. I’m gearing up for a trip to New York at the end of May or perhaps early in June. I’ll share much more about that trip when the time is right. For now I’m just going to write about the stress I personally feel when going through the security check at an airport. It’s not bad in a small airport, but in one of the large international airports, it can be absolutely daunting.
Just so you know, I’m aware that I’m not doing anything wrong. I make every effort to make sure that I meet all of their requirements, but when I finally reach the point where I am half-undressed with much of my wardrobe in a plastic bin, it just becomes nerve wracking. For one thing, I’m afraid that I will hold up the person behind me.
I avoid wearing a belt. I know I’ll have to take it off at some point, so I just put it in my carry-on bag and practice a verse of “Pants on the Ground,” just in case. Then I get to the point where one has to put things in the plastic bin. First, off comes the jacket. I try to wear extra clothes when I’m traveling by air. I almost never check baggage, so I have to make sure I get everything I need packed in a small bag or wear it. I put my shoes in another bin, but I can usually put my keys or something else in that bin. Then there’s the ubiquitous computer. My layered look is not a fashion statement, just a way to get everything from point A to point B.
I’m already out of order, just writing about it. I forgot my quart bag of liquids, including toothpaste, shaving cream and anything else I might need to make myself look human. Anyway, I’ll put that bag in with my shoes. I’m now walking stocking-footed across an area, which on the very same day has probably seen thousands of feet trudging across. Some people wear “footies,” which ends up just being another thing to stuff into my already overstuffed luggage once I’m through security. Whatever dirt they have picked up, I have to shove into my suitcase with everything else that has just been meticulously laundered.
I have a special need, which is my speech device. I have to put my voice in one of the plastic bins. Consequently, I can’t talk until that bin is cleared, so if they ask me a question, I have to go into my Marcel Marceau routine. A few years ago, nobody seemed to know what my speech device was. I remember one TSA agent starting to take it apart. This is not a good idea. They are sensitive and expensive instruments. Try acting that out in a game of charades. I try to be especially watchful of my voice, but I have walked away from security with my shoes, belt, jacket, quart bag and luggage, but without my means of communication. I don’t realize this until somebody asks me a question. Then I realize I have no voice and have to dash back in hopes that my speech device has not been confiscated or dismantled or otherwise disabled. I started the day out nervous about this whole deal, and by now I am a basket case. Again, I know I haven’t done anything wrong. The TSA people almost always go through my baggage. I’m not sure why. Maybe they sense my nervousness.
At New Years, I traveled to L.A. I had with me my favorite pair of sunglasses. I heard two women talking near me, but it was clear they wanted me to hear them. They thought I was somebody famous, I guess because of my sunglasses. One of them said she knew I was somebody, but she couldn’t quite tell who I was. I pretended not to hear them. If they had asked for an autograph, I would have scribbled something illegible and smiled graciously, but they were too embarrassed to ask me outright for my signature, especially since they didn’t know if I was Brad Pitt or Lassie.
On the way home, by the way, my sunglasses were in my jacket pocket. In the half dressed shuffle from security to my departure gate, my sunglasses must have fallen out of the pocket they were in. There went my chance at fake fame. I didn’t notice when I lost them, and I had no extra pair to enhance my appearance, so I just had to be a plain person, but that’s really much more natural for me.
We all know that these TSA agents are doing a job aimed at protecting us, but it’s difficult to remember that when walking through an airport dragging my jacket behind me with one shoe on and one shoe in my hand, and my incognito sunglasses lost for all time, not to mention my pants slowly sliding down my legs for lack of my beloved belt. I’m sure I could probably take my time putting myself back together, but I don’t want to keep the people behind me waiting.
Again, I know I haven’t done anything wrong, and I’m certainly not carrying anything that is verboten, but they just have a way of making one feel guilty. Maybe it’s just me. Would it be so awful to smile while they go through my luggage, ex-ray my belongings and decide whether or not I need to be frisked?