TSA: Checkpoint Charlie

I’ve never really been molested before. There was one time that I turned down a hobo outside the Ralph’s in downtown L.A. who wanted me to buy him a beer, and then he asked for a hug. I played along and gave him a very cautious one, at which point he just buried his crotch in mine suddenly and whispered something in my ear I couldn’t quite catch. When I drew away quickly he got really defensive. But aside from that, there was just that one peeping tom and my experience in receiving surprise affection ends there.

What I’m saying is, I don’t have a strong analog for what it’s like going through the TSA checkpoint, but I know that what they’re doing is just plain fucked up and wrong.

I won’t take it out on the grunts, who are working through a shit economy. Most of them are either brusque or make the most token attempt at politeness, which I get. They deal with me all day, and often the worst version of me, the type that doesn’t care who’s responsible for the bullshit; they just want to lash out at the nearest excuse they have. I can’t do that. You leave me alone, I’ll leave you alone.

But the fact is, when I have to step into a machine and put my hands over my head like somebody about to receive a prize beating from the LAPD, and when they confiscate all my camp food after giving me the option to eat it right then and there, I’ve been unduly probed and stolen from. But it wasn’t the guy following the rules handed down to him, it’s that nebulous, veiny pustule thousands of miles away, creating arbitrary rules in a flailing attempt to justify its own existence. Because an agency that could be leaner and more efficient needs to keep its funding, somebody has to take naked photographs of you and ask just why you felt it necessary to go to Pakistan ten years ago.

And you know, the process took less than ten minutes from getting my boarding pass to getting flopped out of the rapid-fire nonsense hole of the TSA security checkpoint, which is STILL longer than it took my father and I to pass through Checkpoint Charlie in a pre-unification Germany, yet surprisingly brief. Showing up two hours early has only served to deposit me at the quiet end of a terminal that is hermetically sealed against my loved ones, friends, and the phantom terrorists that want to blow up the CNBC Smartshop. My soup and peanut butter sit at the bottom of a trash can a few hundred feet away, and we are protected against them. I’m caged in with the most baroque, shiny, and yet tired distillation of capitalism that you could imagine. The wifi doesn’t really work, and when it does it’s brought to you by Amazon, so you can pay or watch an ad, and then sign up for in-flight service if you just download some ebooks. All this gets you an air bubble worth forty-five minutes of electronic connection with the world that exists outside the triple-priced eateries and last minute knick knack shops.

In eight hours I will be in Maui.

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