Be sure to read Part 1.
Yes, that one-way ticket from New York to Boston caused me more trouble than I would realize, but at least I had gotten through it with a story I knew I’d be able laugh about, eventually anyway. I have no proof, of course, but I believe the special screening I received was noted somewhere and continued to follow me as I travelled.
We did all have a good laugh at my expense that week at the conference. Once it ended and two of us were headed for Manchester where I would be dropped off to catch my flight home, we continued joking that it probably couldn’t get any worse. We were (mostly) right about that, but it also didn’t get much better.
This time, I didn’t get a special stamp on my boarding pass and got in the same security lines as everyone else. When I reached the metal detector, I got pulled for one of the random (and more thorough) screenings. They opened my carry-on and laid its contents on the table as I got wanded and then frisked. Twice. They told me they didn’t have time to repack my bag, so I had to. Again. It was the fourth time for anyone counting along at home.
I didn’t think any more about it until the next time I had to travel. I needed to spend a week in New York. A TSA agent stepped toward me as I neared the metal detector at the Nashville airport.
“I need you to step over here, please, sir.”
He motioned me over to an adjacent area where they emptied my carry-on as they wanded and frisked me. Twice. At least I didn’t have to repack my bag this time.
At the end of the week, I was waiting in the security line in the Baltimore airport when a TSA agent approached me. I clearly remember thinking, surely not, but he motioned me over to another area for a “random” (I couldn’t help but use quotes at this point) security screening. Two more times (notice a pattern) of wanding and frisking while they went through my bag.
The next time I went to New York I got pulled on the way up and the way back. Same story each time. At one of them I finally gave in and asked the question burning within me.
“Am I on some kind of list or something?”
“Why would you ask that? Should you be on a list?”
“No, of course not. It’s just that i keep getting pulled for extra security screenings.”
“We’re just trying to keep you safe. They’re completely random.”
“Oh, really? Then why do I keep getting selected? The odds of that are . . . are, um, really high.”
“Does extra security make you feel exposed? Are you nervous because we’re looking more closely at you right now?”
“Nope!” It was definitely time to be quiet.
I got used to the routine. If I flew, I got “randomly” selected. Oddly, the most thorough frisking I received was in Birmingham, Alabama. I had to come back for an appointment when our trip there was extended so I flew back to Nashville. The agent frisking me had me open my pants.
“Don’t worry, I’ll use the back of my hands when I get to a sensitive area.”
“How is that better?”
“I’m using the back of my hands.”
“Which are still brushing my genitals!”
“But I can’t cup them this way. It should make you feel better about it.” No, no it did not.
On a trip to New Hampshire (the one where I was forced to say “ya’ll”), I went through the usual screening on my way up. When it was time to come home, I got in line and was not pulled for a random screening. I thought I had hit the jackpot. I passed through the metal detector with no issues, packed up my laptop after it passed through the scanner, and waited for my shows. I reached for them as they exited the machine, but the conveyor stopped, then reversed. I died a little inside as my shoes were swallowed back in.
The screener leaned over his monitor. Then he moved my shoes out and back in. He raised his hand and moved all four finger simultaneously to beckon another agent. Another agent arrived who also leaned over the monitor.
“Is there a problem?” I asked. They did not answer or acknowledge that I had spoken.
Then the second agent raised his hand and made the same beckoning gesture. A man not wearing a TSA uniform (but somehow looking more official) eventually arrived and leaned over the monitor. Everyone behind me seemed quite annoyed that I required so much attention. The official raised his hand and motioned to an agent with a dog.
No, no, no, this is not happening, I thought, this cannot be happening.
The agent with the dog came over. The dog seemed completely uninterested in anything. Finally, that agent pressed the button and my shoes came out. One of the agents tentatively picked one up and looked at the soles. At this point, people actually began backing away from me. The agents actually breathed a sigh of relief, then turned my shoe around.
“You stepped on something.” I felt as if I had stepped in something all right.
There was a small screw embedded straight up in the heel of my shoe.
“You might want to get that out before you go through security again.” You think?
For some reason, I stopped getting the random screenings after that day. I flew several times and did not get pulled out of line once. I felt pretty good about it, and even started having a more positive vibe for the TSA, which carried over to all airline related personnel. PIty that NTSB employee I sat next to on a flight to Baltimore had to ruin it all. Of course, that’s another story.