Security Conscious

When it finally happened, I didn’t have time to consider the whys and why nots.  I just stepped into the pod, raised my arms, and submitted to the full body scan.  It was that or miss the flight from Amsterdam’s Schiphol to Portland International on the first day of 2011.   All my reservations, all those questions about modesty and personal invasion vanished like they do when you’re told to bend over for a rectal exam.   As I stepped out, I thought no big deal. Or was it?

If nothing else, the exhaustive procedure to secure me for flying was certainly ironic.  It was at the same airport eleven days earlier that I gained entry to departing gates with no check at all.

Our flight to Dublin was cancelled early in the evening and at the last-minute.  We were told to return to Schiphol well before 6 am on the following morning.  A mustering of passengers who had spent all of the previous day watching their flights being cancelled gathered at the entry to a not-yet-opened security checkpoint by 5:30.

Like refugees from revolution, our sleep-deprived group walked up and down the departure area until we spotted an employee.  Our spokesperson explained our difficulty and the employee stepped aside and let us into the departing gates area without so much as a passport check.

This wasn’t the first this happened to us.  A few years ago we were on Maui in a long, long line outside the terminal.  Although we were two hours early for our flight, the line had barely moved as it took off.   An hour later we passed through security in slomo and rushed to the gate.

The airline apologized and put us on a ready-to-depart flight to Honolulu where we could get a connection to the The Big Island, our original destination.

Rumor had it that this was the first day for a new passenger screening procedure, hence a delay augmented by “island time”.

When we got to Oahu, we had to hurry to make our connection, so we were escorted through security with absolutely no screening.

I’ve heard stories similar to ours and have certainly experienced the opposite, too much, as in petty, screening.  The funniest occurred at Shanghai International.   A virtual crew of very serious, militarily suited men and women searched through my carry-on like seagulls at an abandoned picnic apparently determined to find something, anything.   The only half-smile I saw was when a triumphant woman removed her hand from my bag holding a half-empty 2 ounce bottle of shampoo.

In English, I told her that it should be allowed since it was such a small amount.  In Chinese, she apparently told me that I was a dangerous foreigner clearly trying to board with an illegal, unanalyzed liquid in my possession.

She tsked, shook her head no, and upturned the bottle over a bowl of other possibly contraband liquids.  The nature of shampoo being what it is, it took a minute for the first drip to appear.  The woman, who quickly decided she had made her point, stonily replaced the cap and handed the bottle back to me.

About the times I have breezed past screening, I don’t know whether to be thankful for the convenience or scared to death.


About roads-rus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roads-rus

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