03 April 2007
You’ve Been Randomly Selected For Incredibly Intrusive & Overwhelmingly Ridiculous Additional Screening
Twelve hours pass and it’s like I’ve landed in a completely different universe upon arriving at San Francisco Airport. I had fallen asleep in Shanghai only to wake up two hours later and find that we were still at the gate. Apparently one of the lavatories was acting as a vacuum into the outside world. Not good. Needless to say, that meant everything else was late, except for the flight attendant’s attitude. No, that was right on time. “Excuse me can I…” Odd woman wearing excessive eye make-up continues on past me. Cue safety video circa 1973 reminding us to stow our platform shoes. Awesome. This video was, of course, broadcast on the microscopic televisions suspended over the aisles. This TV would later play host to Casino Royale as we munched on our “meat” dish.
Now here I am, back in the good ol’ US of A looking forward to the more “civilized” life I left so many months before. Wrong. First it was the baggage claim, where people fought like cats and dogs to snatch their bags off a revolving platform that was indeed REVOLVING. That meant the bags were coming back around again and again and again. Then it was the customs line, where a man cut in front of me and the officer didn’t “welcome me home.” When did we lose that touch? It always felt so nice to return to the US and hear a guy say “welcome home Mr. Taylor.” Apparently it was a security issue?
This was followed by the third, and most disastrous turn of events. I had missed my original connecting flight because my first flight was two hours late, despite the fact that my connecting flight was actually on the same aircraft that I had taken from Shaghai, that ancient Boeing disaster (special thanks to Not Divided Airlines). Isn’t it odd how I was on the plane then had to get off of it, only to be unable to get back on it in time? This is, of course, a security consideration. After all, that’s how the bad people get you! They feign normalcy on their first flight then kick it into high gear on the connection.
This put me in the slow lane at the “Rebooking Center,” also known as the reason you missed the next three connecting flights. Luckily Lucy was able to squeeze me into a flight scheduled to depart in 20 minutes. I dumped my baggage, tightened my backpack, gave my rolly suitcase wheels a spin and I was off to catch this plane! I must have run for ten minutes solid before reaching the re-securing security line (that’s literally what it was called). I approached the tight-panted, quite fine TSA employ (who would now check my ticket and ID for the eleventh time) completely out of breath. “Why were you running,” she asked. “Because I have ten minutes to catch this connecting flight and I already missed the first one,” I told her, smiling at the fact that I was going to catch the plane. “Well that’s just great,” she said, proceeding to then dash the ticket with her hot pink highlighter. “You’ve been randomly selected for additional screening.” Game over.
I spent the next forty minutes being picked, prodded and questioned by who can only be described as a TSA intern, who rubbed his little bomb residue reader cloth over every single item in each of my two carry-on bags. That includes my poster tube, green tea and chopsticks, because clearly those three items are central to my greater plan of taking over the world via an aircraft. While I sat there a black woman wearing a “Hong Kong rocks” T-shirt was also pulled aside. She was using a walker and wheeling an oxygen tank behind her. Terrorist? I think yes! I’m pretty sure the blind man was her partner in crime (no, seriously. They randomly screened a blind man). Per usual the TSA intern was trying to strike up a conversation. “So, where ya comin’ from and where ya goin’?” I tell him I’ve been in China. “Wow, musta been tough since they speak that weird picture language.” Yes. Yes. That was tough.
I ended up missing the next two flights and was eventually placed in the exit row of a prop plane full of about 50 people or so, including the blind man and the black woman. It’s just so odd to have left a developing country where people work so hard to create a better life, only to find people in my home being treated like criminals for the sake of “safety.” How many rights and freedoms do we have to give up before people realize that we’re actually losing our way of life to protect it. In the end, will there be anything left to save? Meanwhile, I’m just wondering what they did with that guy’s seeing eye dog…