After last week’s column dealing with Hell, I decided to revisit another of those true tales from my life that no one could make up.
One of the legacies of our post-modern society is the amateur airport security screening system that goes by the initials TSA (Transportation Security Administration). After 9/11, the nation realized that our airline passenger screening system needed improvement. Unfortunately, we got the TSA instead, and flying has turned from an adventure in aviation into a way-too-personal violation.
Now I realize that the airport screeners are simply doing the job that they’re instructed to do. And most of them do a decent job at maintaining their composure doing the reprehensible work of enforcing asinine policies and procedures. But there are some screeners…
As a matter of background for this story, let me assure you that I do everything possible to get through TSA checkpoints as smoothly as possible. I usually wear a pullover shirt, elastic waistband pants (no belt), and tennis shoes with no metal inside. I empty the contents of my pockets into the provided trays and let everything go through the x-ray machine. It should be pretty obvious to any screener worth his salt that I’m not trying to hide anything.
One particular nightmarish incident happened in Tallahassee on the way back to the islands after doing government business at the State Capitol. At the time, I was an elected official, representing Marathon as Mayor. Also at that time, removal of shoes was not required at all airports. Many times, I’d simply walk through the metal detectors with my shoes still on my feet, pick up my stuff, and head to the gate.
Not this time. As I cleared the metal detector—without sounding an alarm—this enormous mouth-breather wearing a TSA uniform motions for me to walk down this Lexan-lined hallway. As I enter the hallway, and I swear I am not making this up, the TSA official sticks his foot out and trips me. No apology, no “excuse me.” I swore. He turned and looked at me as if I had the number “666” tattooed across my forehead and said, “You don’t have to take the Lord’s name in vain!”
Glaring back, I said, “You didn’t have to trip me now either, did you?!” Still no apology. At this point, I knew I was headed directly to Hell. I just didn’t know how far down the handbasket was going. My traveling companions, all of whom made it through the checkpoint, are at this point looking back at me and wondering just what heinous offense I’ve committed.
“Remove your shoes,” I was commanded. I complied. They were swabbed down and sent through the x-ray machine. “Stand up and spread your legs and hold out your arms.” I did as I was told so the large blonde redneck swamp ape could “wand” me with his handheld metal detector. “Stay in that position.” Again, I did as I was told so that the official could don a pair of rubber gloves and give me a far-too-intimate patdown.
Then, the final straw: “I need to look down your pants.”
“Sir, I need to look down your pants.” So right there, in the middle of this clear Lexan hallway at the Tallahassee Airport’s TSA checkpoint, in plain view of hundreds of passengers and airport employees and whoever else wanted a peek, I stretched out my elastic waistband so that this Paleolithic pervert could gaze at my crotch.
The last straw having been broken, I unloaded on the creep with both barrels. “Is there anything else you’d like to see, sir? Is there any other position I can assume for you, sir? Are you sure you don’t want to perform a personal strip search, sir?” As he backed away from me, red-faced, I went on, “I am an elected official in this state. As such, I swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of these United States. You ought to try reading it sometime.”
With that, I exited the Lexan hallway, picked up my stuff and headed for the gate.