November 23, 2004

X-Ray OJ

File under: Travelling While Brown.
I wear shoes that don't have any metal in them, so that I don't need to remove them when passing through airport security areas (Typical exchange: "Sir, we highly recommend you remove those shoes," in the same sotto voce a sommelier might use with the cuvée primiere and a sole meuniere; me: "These shoes don't contain any metal." and thinking to myself, "Can't they just violate me once the metal-detector / explosives-sniffer sounds the alarm?" But instead I'm summarily pulled aside. First the shoes come off (and, as I refuse to stand barefoot on carpet, a supervisor is summoned); then they ask me to remove the jacket, the sweater; then the belt; then "please unbutton the trousers." This is too much. They've put two different metal wands around my body, patted me down, and passed me back and forth through a metal detector. My OJ goes back through the X-ray machine, my laptop undergoes further scrutiny, and we all make our way to a small closet behind the line of waiting passengers. Here my shoes are screened again (because, they explain, I put them back on in order to walk to the closet; But, I point out, you were with me the whole time. Yes, but this is the procedure. That phrase recurs.); my belt, trousers, and sweater are again patted down and a wand sweeps over my body.
The underlying agony lies in the boring, boring manual nature of all this: after a mad scramble to install automatic explosives-sniffing devices, advanced metal-detecting scanners, and all sorts of traveller-profiling systems, where are we? In a back room at SeaTac, at Sky Harbor, at LAX, with two surly naturalized citizens triple-checking my travel documents and looking for any reason that I should be further detained.

Posted to shenanigans by salim at 05:43 PM