It is hard not to ponder the prominent ‘spoils of war’ displays that are arranged in shadowboxes at major security checkpoints. First I wonder who was flying where with a full sized medieval replica of a broad sword. But then I have to wonder why it is displayed there at all. Does security really believe that toy guns, jarts, and a rather large medieval mace arranged like arrow heads in a shadow box makes travelers feel safer somehow? Or maybe it’s just self-reinforcing a particular skill for locating secret pick-axes. Never mind the explosive underwear.
I deftly remove my belt and jacket and take my shoes off before I have even made it to the rectangular grey bins and small white tubs and unzip my carry-on pack with foresight to whip my laptop out. Savvy traveler, I am. I shuffle through the metal detector to keep my jeans firmly around my waste, and no beeps. A little relief, despite the fact that I made sure there’s nothing that could possibly set it off.
“Sir, would you please step to the side for random screening?”
Words no one likes to hear at the end of the long, fatiguing, single file line at the airport. Should have shaved last night; could have looked more trustworthy. Or better yet, not flown on one such a damned busy day. This early and the line has already been a forty-five minute exercise in patience and standing drills.
A larger forty-something uniformed woman gestures me to the left, away from the freedom of my awaiting backpack and signs pointing to the AirMall (Same prices as your hometown mall, guaranteed! Because everyone should buy jewelry at the airport.), and towards a looming hollow black and airport grey cylinder that dominates the security checkpoint. “Walk inside and place your feet on the yellow markers.” Ah, shaped like feet. Clever.
As I assume a position somewhere between a weak flex and a hands-against-the-wall arrest, the machine starts to whir and spin around me. Well, this isn’t too bad. Sort of looks like a machine out of Star Trek. Except, well, Scotty is seeing me naked in an enclosed, off-site area. But before I venture to imagine what my penis looks like in the negative through the eyes of another, it quiets down.
I look to my TSA agent for confirmation of freedom, but see her walking away and a younger man coming towards me, drawing disposable gloves onto his hands. Slowly left, then slowly right.
“Sir, I’m going to have to feel around the inside of your waistband.” I pause. “Really,” I managed to mumble flatly. An early morning combined with the piercing florescent lights planted a dull throbbing headache right between my eyes somewhere before Starbucks but after Subway back in line.
“You can request a private screening if you so choose.” Pity mixed with regret.
Our eyes meet awkwardly. The tension in the air is palpable. And I try to keep my pants from falling while holding up my shirt.
I can see him snapping his pale, powdered latex gloves against his wrist like a particularly cruel family care doctor. Though the mind admittedly plays tricks. I grunt noncommittally and he stands looking at me expectantly. I shake my head. Still no movement by either party.
“Er, Sir, would you please lift up your shirt to expose your waistband?” So he can reach down my pants, but he couldn’t lift up my shirt. Wonder how many stale “buy-me-a-drink jokes” he’s heard today. What would happen if I just went limp and nonresponsive? An incident, no doubt. He stands facing me and slides his glove smartly around the inside of my jeans, trying not to touch my skin. Can’t say I really blame him. Who knows where I’ve been?
As I try to simultaneously rethread my belt and step into my shoes (while always keeping an eye on my tablet computer and laptop, of course – don’t want them confiscated).
As I hurriedly shuffle away, I glance back at the group waiting for random screening see my newest friend-with-benefits approach the stocky, hoodie-clad man in line behind me and say, “Sir, I’m going to have to pat down your buttocks.”