adventures in security theater – part 1

The annoyed TSA employee incident –
As I have mentioned several times, I don’t travel very often. Not because I don’t want to travel, but because the opportunities are infrequent. Being inexperienced, I try to follow directions carefully in an effort to reduce and prevent problems. Airports broadcast a looped “Don’t leave luggage unattended” warning that is followed by a “or it may be damaged by TSA” disclaimer that makes it sound like luggage without an owner gets the Mythbusters ‘blow it up’ treatment. So, I keep my hand on our bags and keep the children from getting near anyone else’s bags.

While going through security, the man in front of me stomped on through the metal detector with his bag not yet on the x-ray conveyor belt. The TSA employee snarled at me to scoot my stuff onto the conveyor. “That’s not my bag.” In my mind, touching someone’s unattended bag would cost me a trip to the TSA interrogation area and one of my personal goals in life is to avoid situations that involve groping by anyone other than my husband. The TSA employee didn’t see things that way. She started on a long, rambling mumble about “not her job” and “people making things difficult” that I was certain would end in some kind of passive aggressive punishment for me. Luckily, her aggravation with me wasn’t great enough to seek revenge. As much as I wanted to apologize and explain that I didn’t know I was allowed to touch someone else’s luggage, my self preservation instinct told me it was in my best interest to put distance between myself and the annoyed TSA employee.

The SeV incident –
The Smithsonian Museums have “enhanced security” signs everywhere, so I walked toward the metal detector and started to take off my coat and hand it to the guard. “Please keep your coat on and move through the detector.” “My coat pockets have batteries and…” “Thanks for sharing. Move along.” So, I stomped on through security wearing a coat that contained more stuff than I ever carry in my purse. Doug walked up to the detector wearing his SeV. In his pockets were pocket knives, a pair of tweezers, half-full juices and an assortment of items that would make MacGyver jump for glee. He tried to explain about some of the contents. “Holding up traffic. Move, move, move.”

The Metro incident –
Metro employees have a glass booth to protect themselves. Since all the money and credit card action takes place on the wall when you first enter the station, I’m not sure why the Metro employees need those booths. If you knock on the booth for anything at all, they don’t talk through the little opening, they leave their holding cell to solve the problem. Some people get walked to the map. Some people get walked to the ticket machine. Some people get lectured on using the turnstile. Some people, I’m not saying who, get Metro schooled on all of the above. Maybe the booth is just there so the employees have a place to store their coat. When the employees are out educating the Metro illiterate, they occasionally shout, “No drinks on the Metro.” So, the first time this happened, we gulped down our drinks before boarding the train. Once seated, we noticed that more than half the people on the train had a water bottle or Starbucks cup.

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