I’m sitting on cool mottled green composite marblesque flooring, my spot near the elevator chosen for its proximity to a wall plug. I didn’t realize, when I left the accomodating confines of the American Airlines lounge, aka the old international terminal, what an anomaly its amenities were. Here in the new international terminal, some sadist put irretractable metal arms on all the seats so even when they’re empty the weary traveller is physically constrained to a sitting sleep.
But that’s beside the point. The point is, my phone battery’s dead. My personal battery’s also dead. At any rate, I have entered that zone where time and space melt down into one relativistic surreal corridor full of people wheeling bags and speaking unintelligible tongues, punctuated by alarming requests to protect the security of the airport by reporting suspicious behavior.
Normally, I wouldn’t notice these things. Normally I wouldn’t spend 12 hours in the airport going in and out of security, but my “volunteer” flight to London took an annoying turn when I checked in at British Airways, or rather, when I read the digital display over the agent’s head proclaiming my replacement 4:55 pm flight was now a 7:20 pm flight. Oh, well, I thought, I can wait at SFO just as well as Heathrow, and still catch my connecting Aer Lingus. But no, because first, I’ll be landing in London after my connecting flight takes off, and second, I’ll have a date with English customs before I go catching any more planes.
What was it I most wanted to avoid? London’s obsessional Olympic security, including missiles on rooftops. It’s always foolish to run from things. They just come back at you in different forms, amplified. It occurred to me, as I stood waiting for my second, gratuitously invasive pat-down of the day, what an extravagant demonstration they were putting on for me of their intriguingly dismal little procedure. I’m becoming familiar with it. Some good must come of this. Like I should write a play about Security Theater.
As I stood there calmly waiting for the small, spry, disgruntled young woman to beckon me in the least engaging way possible, like a nerdy teenager at a high school dance, as I followed her commands to place my feet shoulder-width apart, so she might expertly pass her hands over my flesh through my clothes while mumbling self-evident, anti-erotic phrases like, “inside the waistband”, I felt like I was doing civil disobedience, like Thoreau would be proud.
I had to wonder at the pack of lemmings being herded through x-ray machines. I had to wonder, What would happen if everyone exerted themselves and opted out? TSA isn’t equipt to handle more than three pat-downs per hour, judging from the time it took them to get around to me. If people made it TSA’s problem… if air traffic was shut down… if people simply laughed and refused…
Revolution needn’t be bloody.
This begs the question, who the hell is TSA, and why have they been granted this extraordinary, dehumanizing power over people and possessions? What’s the justification for separating law-abiding citizens from their wallets, jewelry, computers? Shoes. I stood there watching people strip down for TSA.Not how I want to start my vacation. What gives TSA the right to be a bummer? An expensive, wasteful, bumptious bummer.
I remembered what it used to be like saying goodbye to people at the airport, how romantic, how painful, how lingering, how heartfelt. Now it’s like one big smelly lockerroom. And who designed those awful gray tubs? And the conveyor belt that’s not long enough. Everything TSA needs to be scrubbed and redesigned from the shoes up. And hire some cute people. These agents all look miserable. Humorless. Depraved. Like people who can’t get a date.