Your day consists of wrangling Black Friday-type crowds. You’re the butt of jokes because you have to inspect behinds, among other things. Accused of being a meanie. You share people’s most-intimate details — like what kinds of condoms and deodorant they use.
Yet you don’t know them because you don’t get paid to chat. But you may have to start politely grilling them, because that fun chore may be added to your job description.
Sure, I’ve read all about less-than-pleasant incidents for some travelers. Heard how some TSA agents have pilfered from luggage. Seen how the X-ray machines have made shocking centerfolds out of some average Joes and Janes.
And now, there’s news that travelers at Boston’s airport are subject to so-called chat-downs, along with pat-downs. They’re being queried by TSA agents about their travel plans as part of a experimental screening process that could be coming to an airport near you.
Except for the added inconvenience, that doesn’t bother me. It’s done in other countries. I was quizzed entering India and leaving South Africa.
And don’t whine to me about how it could create more profiling. Because I’m someone who really has been profiled.
There was this encounter arriving in Australia earlier this year, when I was searched just because I was a single American woman flying from India.
And another more-humiliating time, decades ago, when I landed in Australia on assignment. I was dressed in comfy jeans and running shoes ’cause it’s, as you know, a really long flight. My luggage was turned inside out. The Aussie immigration bloke was smirking as he slowly unwrapped a bundle covered in foil, certain he’d caught a live one.
His face fell when the catch turned out to be my favorite jewelry. Even then I was a no-frills traveler who didn’t own a jewelry box. Boy, was he disappointed.
With the exception of an agent blustering about taking patriotism for granted while we were waiting to get through Customs one time, I’ve never had an unpleasant TSA encounter.
But then, I’m fortunate in that I know the rules regarding liquids, laptop computers and shoes. Since I’m not encumbered by anything but my own klutziness (I sometimes trip over my own feet because I’m trying to be so quick), I can breeze through.
Amazingly, I’ve only encountered the X-ray machines a handful of times. I always opt for the pat-down. Not for the thrill, but because I don’t like getting any extra X-rays than necessary. One time, the rotund woman with the big curls and oversized glasses who had the honors was very nice. She was very interested in my round-the-world trip and asked for the online address.
She wasn’t the only one to show a human side. I’ve seen facades crack many a time.
Like when I was on my way to my sister’s in Charlotte, bearing grocery bags full of Ring Dings and Yodels. (Apparently Drake’s cakes are rare south of the Mason-Dixon Line.) Wanted to keep them uncrushed and intact, so that’s why they went through security as prized carry-ons.
Are these OK? I asked meekly. Only if we can have some, the agents responded with laughing eyes.
And when Mitch and I were on our way to Prague, a friendly sort offered all kinds of suggestions about where to eat and drink.
Hey, TSA agents are only hoominz doing a job. Whether or not it’s too gung ho or entirely necessary is another topic altogether. That’s bordering on politics. And Planet Lippstone is a No-Politics Zone.