Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Tuesday Travelogue, TSA Edition

Back in 2002, I held one of my odder jobs. I worked for a small consulting firm, where I mostly had to research nifty excuses to kill the crap out of some whales (because apparently they are very, very tasty).

When I was done signing a death warrant for Shamu, my other client asked me to spend a week touring small museums. It felt like a small-town bandit road trip, except this time for pay.

I spent a day in glamorous Pensacola, touring the Naval Aviation Museum. (If you ever get a chance, GO! They let you geek out and climb around inside all of the airplanes.) I spent a stormy night stranded in Fort Wayne, Indiana, sharing a plate of nachos with a three-toothed man named Shiloh. I loved being stranded in six-gate Fort Wayne “International” Airport, so named because of the occasional flight to Canada. I conditioned my hair with hand lotion, ate at every Waffle House I could find, and learned about all the local murders from gregarious cabbies.

I found the last leg of my trip, to a submarine in Michigan, cancelled due to my delay in Fort Wayne. Then, by a wonderful stroke of luck, I found myself in Milwaukee with a four-hour layover. I spent most of those four hours tossing back beer and brats, making new friends, and watching my bad habits absorbed by the generous expense accounts of the Ford Motor Company.

Eventually, my Midwest Express flight was called. I wobbled on over, ready for home and a hot bath.

When I reached the gate, I was pulled aside for further inspection. My ricochets around America, last-minute flight changes, and imposing demeanor had landed me on a terrorist watch list.

My bag was searched. Unfortunately, nothing interesting turned up. Nowadays I travel with an econo-pack of condoms and a Magic 8-ball, just to give the TSA something to think about.

Then I had to step to one side, and put my arms straight out so I could be wanded. I’m not proud of what I did next. But bear in mind, I was floating on hours of free beer and cute businessmen.

I began to touch my nose with my pointer fingers and recite the alphabet, in the manner of a field sobriety test.

The TSA agent cracked a smile and waved me on board. When I reached my seat, the flight attendant gave me a cookie and a glass of champagne.

The lesson? Never turn down a chance to make a drunken idiot of yourself in front of Homeland Security. Because if you do, you'll get a cookie!

28 comments:

FoggyDew said...

I had a friend at my newspaper in Beaumont, Texas, who, every time he flew, wore a shirt color coordinated to the threat level. He also packed a Qur'an in his carry on.

Lemmonex said...

But were you capable of saying the alphabet backwards?

Shannon said...

Foggy - That's awesome.

Lemmonex - I couldn't do that cold sober. Of course, i haven't tried, because I'm never cold sober.

freckledk said...

"Nowadays I travel with an econo-pack of condoms and a Magic 8-ball."

You too?

zipcode said...

I will refrain from commenting on this one ;-)

Tina said...

My only fun with the TSA folks was when - right after they got started - a kid looking about 12 couldn't seem to fathom why passing the wand over my breasts was causing the metal detector to go off. "I'm wearing and underwire bra sweetie" I told him. Poor kid was mortified.

But they were hyper enough then that they made me go to the ladies room and remove the bra for x ray. Now you know victoria's secret - she's helping me hijack planes.

Tina said...

My only fun with the TSA folks was when - right after they got started - a kid looking about 12 couldn't seem to fathom why passing the wand over my breasts was causing the metal detector to go off. "I'm wearing and underwire bra sweetie" I told him. Poor kid was mortified.

But they were hyper enough then that they made me go to the ladies room and remove the bra for x ray. Now you know victoria's secret - she's helping me hijack planes.

Zipcode said...

My only advice the new TSA folks with the fancy blue shirts and shiney golden badges seem to think they have more power now - which they don't - so those guys I wouldn't mess with - they will make you miss your flight.

Shannons story is funny though.

Lance said...

it's fairly ridiculous that TSA baggage screeners are now 'federal agents'. is there a more ridiculous job that has that title?

Shannon said...

Frecks - Don't we all?

Tina - Victoria is a terrorist? I just thought she made lousy-fitting bras.

Zip - I think the miasma of beer I was giving off mellowed them considerably.

Lance - Food inspectors, maybe? Are they federal agents?

Jack said...

I have a feeling that lesson is hot-chick-specific. I might end up in guantanamo if I ever had the balls to do that.

J

http://adventuresinvoluntarysimplicity.blogspot.com/

Zipcode said...

Lance - they are not Federal Agents - no no no - they are screeners, nothing more, nothing less, all of us in the federal law enforcement family are not happy they got badges, because I am sure inpersonation will happen.

Zipcode said...

This is a sample job annoucement:
http://jobsearch.usajobs.gov/getjob.asp?JobID=68078732&AVSDM=2008%2D09%2D22+13%3A38%3A18&Logo=0&sort=rv&vw=d&brd=3876&ss=0&customapplicant=15513,15514,15515,15669,15523,15512,15516,45575&q=Screener

This is a federal agent:
http://jobsearch.usajobs.gov/getjob.asp?JobID=76359308&AVSDM=2008%2D10%2D10+08%3A01%3A45&Logo=0&q=Special+Agent&sort=rv&vw=d&brd=3876&ss=0&customapplicant=15513,15514,15515,15669,15523,15512,15516,45575

Shannon said...

Jack - I'm more lukewarm, and after a week on the road, I was pretty well cold.

Zip - Thanks for clearing that up. More importantly, when do I get a badge?

Zipcode said...

I can get your a Junior Agent badge if you really want one...........lol

Tina said...

I want a junior agent badge!!! I can then go as a sexy underwire bra hijacking terrorist impersonating a federal agent for halloween. How awsome would that be?

Shannon said...

Zip - You know I totally want one, and would wear it every day.

Tina - That would be the ultimate in Unlikely Sexy Skin-o-Ween costumes.

vvk said...

How much fun you can have with the TSA depends on who you are. As a big brown guy, I have to be very very very deferential. I went for a record 24-odd flights in a row post 9/11 where I was "randomly" selected for extra screening... only rarely by the computer.

Now-a-days I (1) use my work id/hall pass when I fly, and (2) wear a DHS t-shirt or sweatshirt. This has reduced my screening rate to ~one out of four flights.

Shannon said...

VVK - agreed. I'm a pocket-size white girl, so I get away with a great deal more than most people would.

Zipcode said...

2 badges coming right up! fake ones that is..........

I don't wear anything identifying who I work for when I fly - that just calls out "Please attack and kill me first" if something happens. I like to blend in - I look like a college kid with a funny tshirt when I fly.

vvk said...

I wish the "college kid with a funny tshirt" thing worked for me... but I don't think they look too far past "big" and "brown"... also, I don't work at DHS, I just wear their swag. :-)

Shannon said...

Zip - When I fly, I have to stop the gate attendants from making me wear one of those "Child Travelling Alone" stickers.

VVK - I wonder what would happen if you wore, say, HUD swag.

restaurantrefugee said...

Shortly after 9/11 I had to take a last minute flight to Atlanta for a work thingy. It was so last minute that I had my assistant go to my house to pack a bag for me to ship later. Random guy on a one-way ticket and without luggage, I spent two blissful hours enjoying the company of TSA or whatever they were called at that time. Since I then missed my flight, my bag got to Atlanta before I did.

zipcode said...

vvk: I like your use of swag
shannon: have you ever though of a career as a comedian :-)

FoggyDew said...

This was pre-9/11, but in '99 I was coming back from from a two week shoot-ex at Twentynine Palms with a group of Marines including the deputy commanding general of the 2nd Marine Division. We got to LAX, loaded all our bags on a cart and went in to the ticket counter.

When we got through with all the ID stuff at the counter the ticket agent told me my bag was selected for further inspection. I told her fine, it's the red one on the bottom beneath 10 or 12 seabags and she was welcome to go through it (although I was a little worried it might be covered in explosive and gunshot residue due to the two weeks in the field).

She took one look and and said, "You're done. Have a nice flight."

Too bad we have to do all the heavy lifting now.

Shannon said...

Refugee - Just so long as there were no body cavity searches...

Zip - Nah, I make more money as a secretary.

Foggy - My bag is the one covered in cat vomit. Care to inspect it?

I have thoughts said...

I'm being forced to tag you by Zipcode. I'm sorry.

Bilbo said...

"An econo-pack of condoms and a Magic 8-Ball"? Genius! If I get arrested next time I fly, it'll be your fault...