I wonder if I'm on a terrorist watch list now

| Wednesday, July 27, 2011
I'm on the train to the airport in Atlanta when I realize: I don't have my wallet. This could be a slight problem. But okay, let's not panic. Okay fine, first let's panic and have someone yell at me to search every single pocket of my bags, because clearly I have magically broken years of habit and sense and started putting my wallet in the middle of a suitcase where it would be completely useless. Step two, call my brother to tell him I left my wallet at his apartment, in his living room, and then wait for him to get home to search for it, also known as find it where I said it would be.

Maybe there's some small chance that he could get it back here in time for security and the flight. Or not. Okay, now what? Well let's see...

We could rush off in some random direction on our phone and book a replacement flight that the other person didn't ask for, leaving the other person (me, btw) to struggle after with both suitcases. In the process, run right past the AirTran counter and then insist that I point it out if I see it, which I would have normally done, if I had the slightest clue what was going on (all I knew is that two bags are hard to control, nothing else), and if I didn't expect to get a response indicating something along the lines of "What? I can't hear them now. Can you please repeat that?"

My brother calls with a useful suggestion: explain to TSA and see if I can prove my identity despite my lack of proof of identity. So I rush off, on my phone with my brother, toward the security area, still dragging both bags, while getting told that I need to be thinking about my options, while still on the phone, and wondering why the fuck she is telling me anything at all because none of what she says actually affects my situation or what I will be doing. If she's getting on the plane without me then she's getting on the plane without me; I don't need to know the various reasons why or what it will cost me to get another ticket. I'm trying to fix a problem here, not get a lecture on why it is a problem.

The TSA people were obnoxiously slow, but eventually I did manage to get by. I'm not sure what part of "I don't have my wallet or any ID" suggests that "do you have an ID?" is a useful question. They called someone, asked my name and address. Then asked my date of birth. Where I grew up. My parents' names. What is the nearest expressway, park, and hospital. That last one had me worried because I wasn't quite sure. Somehow they never asked for my place of birth or social security number. Nor did they look up a photo of me, which was surprising, since at the very least they should have a database of driver's licenses, but I guess not. Then I did the usual shoes off, bags through the x-ray, me through the metal detector. After that was a useless search of my suitcase, which would have been entirely ineffective if there had been anything hidden. My backpack was left alone.

At the end my mom was crying, which I found a bit stupid. What could possibly be worth crying about? It's not as if either of us were in trouble. Only when we got back did I learn that she had been sent through that creepy naked scanner machine, which makes the crying make a bit more sense. Somehow I didn't get sent through, despite being the suspicious one.

The entire thing left me not feeling particularly safe. Or like a whole lot of time and money is being wasted. Is it stereotyping to suggest that middle-class, middle-age white people aren't your typical terrorist and maybe shouldn't be regularly harassed? Yes. Of course it is. But maybe it makes some sense. On the other hand, I don't think it makes much sense to have a line for white/black people and a line for brown people and one of those lines gets searched and the other wanders right through.

I might suggest this though: it's not going to save anyone anyway. If I were a terrorist I'd not waste time with planes. At this point no plane can ever be highjacked again. You could smuggle on a machine gun that shoots nuclear bullets and the entire plane would still rush you. At best you could blow up a plane. And I would suggest that that was a stupid thing to do, because if the goal is fear or murder, there are much bigger numbers of people that can be killed by much easier methods. A terrorist with nail clippers is not a threat, but instead something we should be grateful for and encourage, as a way to safely identify and dispose of terrorists.

Tomorrow I'll try to talk about something with gaming. I have plenty of them. But being away from a good computer for 5 days makes them hard to play.


Syl said...

...or you can just dress up as a policeman and take a boat.

I've never felt more hostility blowing my way than in a) British airport custom lane and b) the American version (right after filling out that yellow leaflet where I made a cross at not intending to kill the president). security is one thing, but the paranoid way in which people get treated at airports these days is appaling. they treat you like a criminal and if a guard is having a bad day your blessed civil rights are blown away faster than you'd think.

I get the reasons for the security measures, but come on: how about not giving people the evil eye from the beginning? there's still a "how" in doing things.
It's the reason why I haven't visited back since 2011, although I'd love to meet my peeps in Cali again. but if it requires me to get that isometric pass and leave finger prints, forget it.

And I feel really bad for your Mom now.

Syl said...


Tesh said...

Aye, there's the underlying trouble with this whole mess... terror is easy to create. There are a ton of "soft" targets and easy ways for terrorists to hurt people. The whole "plane into the building" thing was a harebrained scheme in the first place. Yes, it was a punch in the face, but there are more effective and more devastating ways to hurt people and cause terror.

...and even a full-on Orwellian 1984 police state couldn't stop them all.

Klepsacovic said...

@Syl: Security and justice are opposites: good security is guilty until proven innocent, while justice is the reverse. So I understand the evil eye, but maybe they could be nicer about it.

@Tesh: I'm sure the 1984 state could stop them all. The problem is that a 1984 state wouldn't be worth protecting.

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