Saturday, September 24, 2011

I'm Not That Guy

"Take off your hat."

I don't remember if the TSA guy half my age said that politely or even appended the word please. He was staring at my driver's license suspiciously, comparing my lined, tired face to the photo and...I looked different? Really?!

For some reason, his request (if that's what it was supposed to sound like) infuriated me. I've endured the usual indignities associated with commercial travel. In Frankfurt in 1972, a bored German soldier motioned me to put my hands up with a mumbled "bitte." In Fort Myers, Florida an obnoxious TSA employee seized an entirely ordinary-looking bottle of water from a woman looking about seventy, waved it triumphantly and bellowed "People, this is not permitted through security. Okay, people?" I've done the shoeless shuffle, sometimes in the presence of sympathetic security folks trying to keep it endurable. Others seem to enjoy the misery they heap. So yesterday's hat tip should have been no different, just another petty request.

But it wasn't, and I think I know why. It's that I'm not the guy they are after. Really. I'm not that guy. And I know it, even if no one else does.

I've been a cop for most of my adult life, mixed in with service as a Naval Intelligence Officer (please, no oxymoron jokes). I've trained to deal with armed suspects, not be one.You know why I'm getting on the airplane? 'Cause I have someplace else to be. I want a smooth ride, a cocktail (and don't mind when I get bumped up to first class - "Why, yes. I'd love warmed nuts.") and a great view out the window. An on-time arrival is nice, especially when I'm coming home to my family, or a beach is awaiting.

Interfere with the flight crew? Why? They have enough problems of their own, what with insane schedules, airline bankruptcies and mergers, and really crummy pay. The FBI puts paint bombs in the money they give hijackers - ever try to spend a red $100 bill? - and "Take me to Cuba?" Grand Cayman to Havana, Cayman Airways Flight 833. A hundred forty five bucks and don't forget the little slip of paper to have for Cuban customs to stamp. So I'm told. Anyway, announcing a hijacking is a good way to get the crap kicked out of you. Here.

I get it that we have real enemies, that shoe bombs and underwear bombs and goodness-knows-what-they'll-think-of-next bombs mean that some form of security needs to happen. We all have to sacrifice (pay our fair share of discomfort, or some such thing) because we all enjoy equal protection under the law...and so forth. I know common criminals get aboard here, disgruntled employees here, homicidal misfits here. Somebody has to stop them. My kids, their spouses and my grandkids fly. My wife flies. I want them to be safe. Fine. I can dig it.

But I'm not that guy. The TSA wastes their time (and our money) whenever they search me. You wanna decrease my carbon footprint? Don't bother turning on the "Hands Up" machine when I walk in holding up my pants (my belt gets x-rayed, right?) because I'm not your man. You won't find anything. I'm clean.

The valid reasons for the dog and pony shoe...sorry, show...we all endure when we fly may be sophisticated, act as a deterrent for amateur mass-murderers and I know there is a certain method to the institutional blue-shirt madness. But....

I was on my way home. I missed my wife. My daughter gave me that hat! And who looks like their driver's license picture, anyway?

But the guy behind me, the old man with the cane? Wow, I'd have wanded the shit out of him. Just a suggestion, between us good guys.


  1. Loved the post! So funny and extremely well-written and entertaining. I could read your style all day long. I laughed and read and smiled and read some more.
    Made my day.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this. That's for sharing your perspective.

  3. Used to be, right after 9/11, I would be stopped every time. Me. The blond-haired, 4th generation Californian. Yup. Why? Who knows? Because I was annoyed with the stupidity of it all perhaps, and it showed. Seriously? I suppose I could turn into a homegrown terrorist. Not likely, though. At least, I'm ont likely to go after a plane loaded with innocent people. That's not my style. Actually, I don't know what my style would be since it's just something I've never considered. (g)

    The last time I went through the airport, I made them pat me down. The amount of radiation produced by those airport scanners is much higher than they profess. (It's been in the news.) Am I packing anything? Maybe a candy bar (and not the Babe Ruth found in the pool in Caddy Shack. grin)

    My daughter wakes up singing "God Bless America." Do you really think I'm a terrorist?

    Yeah, I'm not that woman either. (g)


  4. Patti and Cassandra - thank you very much for the kind words.

    Marci - Thank you for the comment. I know why blonde women sometimes get stopped by young male police officers, but that's a topic for another day. I just wish, in the great scheme of things, the whole process felt like the TSA gives a thought to how intrusive the whole process is. They just don't seem to care.

  5. TSA is an expensive knee jerk reaction for the general public's appetite for a sense of action. It need not be productive action but it is action by God!. I believe that the screenings do some bit of deterrent, and technology has improved as a result, but I believe the money could be better spent on other forms of terrorism deterrence. Years ago, I was providing security for a perceived threat to the nation's infrastructure. A trucker resented the fact that I needed to do a check on his truck. He said, "I ain't no fu--'in raghead." And he was not. But neither was McVeigh. "Sir, this won't take but a moment, and we will get you on your way...."

  6. That's the problem - there's not a simple solution. From the standpoint of the average passenger who knows they are not the person TSA is looking for, it is frustrating when the officer is rude. From the standpoint of LE everywhere, it would be nice if people wouldn't be rude to us when we're trying to get a job done professionally.