April 26, 2008

To Air

Filed under: travel,weird — mhoye @ 5:33 pm

We had a bit of an awkward start this morning, when our cab driver got lost on the way to the airport. Lost in several tiny little increments, it’s worth mentioning – I could see the airport from where we ended up, so strictly speaking we weren’t actually lost, but we did end up on the roof of the employee parking facility somehow. You might ask yourself what sort of cab driver would struggle to locate the major local airport, but due to our pressing schedule we were unable to fully investigate these entirely reasonable questions.

We’re in the air now, traveling from Toronto to San Francisco. The turbulence is a little exciting, but even more exciting are the announcements coming over the intercom: not just “we are experiencing some turbulence, please remain in your seats”, but the somewhat more dramatic “It is not safe to be standing right now. Turbulence can throw you into the air and in any direction, so it is safer for all of us if you remain seated.” Is this sort of thing typical for United? I don’t have a lot of experience with this, I couldn’t tell you.

This has been my first run-in with the Department of Homeland Security, and… let me tell you. Oh, indeed, let me tell you. I’m carrying my usual day to day bag, mercifully empty of some of the more… exciting, possibly, stuff I usually have with me, but let’s play What’s In Your Bag anyway.

One SLR camera, one P+S. Flash, extra 50mm lens. Nokia n800 and e51, shared power adapter and bluetooth keyboard. Gorillapod tripod, cheap little metal tripod, extra SD cards, usb cables. GPS widget. A DS and a GBMicro, plus games, those in Altoids tins. And to round it off, a wirebound notebook and some pens.

Yes that is my bag, baby.

Weighs less than you’d think, and has a reasonable chance at keeping us entertained for the next 24 hours or so.

So I put all of that into the X-Ray machine, along with my jacket, hiking boots, and belt, it all trundles through, the staff giving me the eye the entire time, and when we get to the other side, they decide that they need to take a good hard look at my wife.

Who’s carrying a purse, with a wallet in it. I assume that it’s a random search, but the idea that she’s on a watch list somewhere is amusing enough; my wife is about as dangerous and threatening as a sleeping kitten. I mean, she hates me for my freedom, sure, but that’s only because I occasionally come home mildly inebriated after exercising it. But then, awesome, they decide they need to turn her bag inside out and pat her down.

Yo, what?

The DHS apparently teaches this wierd patting-down technique that involves the backs of the agent’s white-gloved fingers being pressed against various parts of you while you stand there looking kind of perplexed. It’s pretty clearly optimized for avoiding bad-touch-related lawsuits and putting a check box in every square on the training form rather than, say, actually finding something concealed. I don’t see a good reason for meticulously patting down the bare arms of a person in a t-shirt, for example, but you’ve got to mark off that you checked their arms, so here we go.

There’s a lot of stuff here that doesn’t make a ton of sense. But we have to do something, or at least be seen to be doing something, and this is, well, it’s something. So we’d better keep doing it, right?



  1. Usually when they pat you down with the back hand of the gloves to get as much contact as possible between you and the gloves, which then go in to a spectrometer.

    Comment by Quotation — April 27, 2008 @ 1:27 am

  2. I’d believe that if the gloves had gone on before, or come off after, the pat-down.

    Comment by mhoye — April 27, 2008 @ 6:01 am

  3. why must your wife hate america so?

    Comment by Oren — April 27, 2008 @ 7:00 pm

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