Last Wednesday, February 25, I arrived at Los Angeles International Airport for a flight to the cold coast. An officious man stood near the entrance to the TSA "security" line controlling a leashed dog (at least he was in control of something, or appeared to be). He was not wearing blue (blue is the new brown, to paraphrase one of this culture's more contemptible cultural products), but he had "TSA K9" printed on his garment. I do not recall seeing a dog at a TSA "security" checkpoint (the theater of the absurd that is to security what modernism is to art and what rap & "nü metal" is to music). The dog sniffed me (and, to the best of my recollection, everyone in my view). (See Radley Balko's series of articles on the unreliability of police K9s for this latest scene in the latest act in the Endarkenment's ongoing theater of the absurd.) Something else that was different (to me) was the "personality" of the blue shirt checking identification and boarding passes near the front (I'm not familiar with their argot and don't know what to call the individual). Unlike many I encountered fairly recently (perhaps in an effort to improve the agency's public relations and to reassure whatever vestiges of pride remain in the spirit of the twenty-first century American on the street), this one was NOT particularly congenial and did not engage in the incongruous persiflage in blue I had more recently experienced. (This is an improvement. There is nothing about this agency or experience that is congenial--it is not Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood or even Howard Stern--and it should not be disguised as such, and, indeed, Rogers and even Stern are remnants of a better culture.) As I neared the famous gray, imposing "porno scanner" (which is as imperious and implacable as an inanimate object can be), I took out my notebook computer and doffed my shoes, as usual. (One of the blue shirts said something about the notebook computers. I wasn't paying much attention, but I thought he commanded "my fellow Americans" to remove the computers from their bags, as usual. I wish I had been paying more attention, as it became important.) Although my memory is already somewhat hazy, I thought those in front of me in line were being herded into the porno scanner. When it was my turn, the blue shirt directed me to the less imposing, better old-fashioned metal detector next to it. From my perspective, it was a matter of chance whether I was subjected to the worse-than-useless scanner. When the reification of Endarkenment was over and I donned my shoes again, I noticed that I had inadvertently left an empty bottle of vitamin water in my 20th Century Fox tote bag that went through the bag scanner. (Yes, I drink it. I don't care if it's an "expensive waste" or a placebo--I like the flavor, it's a value to me, and I could probably use the vitamin content. I had intended to discard it before the expensive playacting, but I had forgotten.) The guardian of the democracy (not republic, not anymore) that monitored the machine must have missed the bottle (unfortunately, one stole my Thomas Jefferson cigarette lighter years ago, the irony apparently lost on that particular charge of public education). Whatever else has changed, I know that beverage bottles are still contraband at "airport security" (where is George Carlin when you need him?)
After arriving at my destination, I discussed the matter with a long-time friend and fellow "libertarian" (who has managed to keep much of his mind intact despite apparently majoring in English in college in the late 1990s). He said that he had seen the dogs recently (including in Los Angeles), and that the blues informed him that the purpose of the canine was to obviate the doffing of shoes and the separation of computers from bags. Since I generally avoid talking in general (and I usually cannot understand the mumbled and/or inarticulate discourse of the "officers"), I have not asked for clarification (and I'm too busy to peruse the Internet for it).
For my return flight yesterday in Philadelphia (the cradle and grave of liberty, to borrow from Tamara Keel, who was referring to Boston), there was no dog (though there were other subhumans, however temporary their status). The older couple in front of me (likely considered "senior citizens") were told to keep their shoes on. But the younger people around me were doffing them. ("Terrorism" apparently retires eventually.) I was subjected to the inefficacious scanner this time. Despite the fact that is was my understanding that the scanner obviated the need for a "pat down," they forced me to endure that as well (after blue asked me if I was wearing a belt, which I wasn't). (With the intention of streamlining this unAmerican process, which obviously failed yesterday, I eschew the belt, which necessitates tighter, skinnier jeans. I probably looked as much like a typical Angeleno "metrosexual" emo eunuch as it is possible for me to look. Perhaps I looked almost as fatuous as the blues, but I doubt it. And it is slightly amusing to hear a twenty-first century, inarticulate, slang-infused young person with a Philadelphia accent pronounce the word "buttocks." As Jimmy Buffet once wrote and sang, "If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane.") Afterwards, I was "instructed" to the side for some kind of chemical test with another blue. (These were noticeably less congenial and solicitous than my previous few experiences.) Since I knew I had no choice (and I know how unreasonable this agency, and the culture that tolerates it, is), I did not protest much. But I thought I had to say something after both of my hands were subjected to some kind of chemical test. (When I did not relax the first hand immediately, Blue said, "You can relax your hand now." How kind of her, but I knew I "could." I decide when to relax my hand, and, since there was no reason to relax yet, I didn't.) Although I am not much of an oral communicator under any circumstances (and I understand the nature and implied violence of the situation), I could no longer leave the area without saying something. I asked why the special attention was necessary. It was difficult for me to understand the response, especially under the circumstances and considering the interlocutor's voice. To the best of my ability to interpret the response (and recall it), she said that all subjected to "pat downs" must now receive mandatory chemical tests (I didn't retain the name of the chemical).
Much more can be (and has been) observed about this agency, the broader cultural context, and the false-at-best ideological fundamentals that underpin all of it, but, unlike the blues, some people have honest, productive, efficacious work to do.
|The inadvertent contraband (or are exceptions made for empty bottles?)|