Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Treating American Air Travelers like Potential Criminals

It is no secret that I flew round trip from O’Hare in Chicago to Honolulu, departing for Hawaii two days before Thanksgiving. There were two reasons for my going to Honolulu: it was the 55th wedding anniversary for my parents and my older son serves at Pearl Harbor and I had not seen him since he was 21. He is now 25.

At O’Hare, Transportation Security Administration personnel were overwhelmed by the number of travelers who were leaving in mid-morning, including me. I never know what to expect when I fly so I wear slip-on shoes, nice socks and if I have a carry-on bag, it usually is a lap-top computer. I already had my driver license in my shirt pocket to be compared with my boarding pass.

It was a long flight from Phoenix to Honolulu against the Jet Stream. It was weird to have to sign a mandatory state Department of Agriculture form about whether I was bringing flora or fauna to Hawaii before we landed. I was glad to show my driver license to the guard to board a U.S. Navy vessel tied up at Pearl Harbor after surfing at a U.S. Navy beach.

My experience on the return flight on November was unexpectedly awful. Agents seemed to be working for the Transportation Insecurity Administration. For those who remember when I was fat, I am now thin and my belt, that has almost no metal, holds my pants up. I had to remove my belt and wallet. I had to lift my hands in a full-body scanner and my pants fell down. I am afraid that made me snap.

When I was in seventh grade, there was a picture of Kareem Abdul Jabbar as a Milwaukee Buck in the Milwaukee Journal. Kareem had both middle fingers raised at the referee. I thought of this picture when I raised my arms, both middle fingers extended. The Transportation Insecurity Administration agent called this gesture was unnecessary. Of course, it was unnecessary. It was unnecessary to remove my belt. Stunned by the bald stupidity of this remark, I smiled at him.

“How many terrorists has TSA caught?” I asked, knowing that he was only implementing a stupid policy made in Washington. I answered my own question by making the zero sign. He leapt to the defense of his agency. I know that TSA has denied permission for soldiers returning from the long trip from Afghanistan to use the airport restroom because there were firearms on the airplane, for example.

Unstated was that I was flying to Phoenix to lead a jihad against illegal aliens. That would be ironic because Arizona already has a jihad against illegal aliens. Also unstated was that they had me confused with some other terrorist that is also a middle-aged, near-sighted Danish-American. I fly often enough that I do not want to be on a No Fly List like friends with more common American names or more ethnic names.

No comments: