By Jeff Girod
So how is it exactly that these are the people we’ve decided to protect us from the evildoers?
You want to sneak something onto a plane? Throw a tennis ball and run the other direction. Better yet, ask an airport screener a question that can’t be answered with a monosyllabic grunt printed on a laminated card. (Now with handy cartoons!)
Are they going to “stupid” the terrorists to death? Or are we just hoping that the screeners are so inept that after five hours of being stuck in line all the bombs will explode because the terrorists didn’t pack enough fuses?
I was just at the Indianapolis airport and the screener checking boarding passes was so slow that driver licenses started expiring while we were standing in line. The checker also had more neck beard than teeth and I swear every time he opened his mouth, I heard banjo music.
When I finally arrived back at LAX, I saw another screener administering a full-body pat down to a 4-year-old boy. (It would have gone faster but the toddler was still learning the difference between his left and right hands. Apparently so was the screener.)
You have never met a cross-section of society more upset with their lot in life than airport security screeners. Everyone else gets to go on vacation and business trips while there the screeners sit, all day after mind-numbing day, X-raying your laptops and wanding your private parts. And the only way they can retaliate is to make you to take your belt and shoes off. They know you have nothing nefarious in your shoes and belt loops. But for three inglorious minutes per person, an airport screener gets to act like king of the metal detecting world—while you struggle to pull your pants up and wonder how the hell you picked the one pair of socks with the holes in the toes.
Nobody aspires to become an airport screener. It’s why, no matter how bad the economy gets, you can always work at the airport. (Just remember to comb your eyebrows together for the job interview.) And it’s why you’ve never watched a Nobel prize-winner’s biography on A&E and heard the phrase, “Before his illustrious career in microbiology, Professor Otto Von Sustburg used to remind travelers that they could only carry three ounces of Head & Shoulders onboard a plane at the Ontario airport.”
And what’s this obsession airport screeners have with gels, liquids and lotions? Is someone trying to blow up a plane or exfoliate it? Screeners are constantly seizing liquids and gels from travelers. Secretly I like to imagine that after a long hard day of doing nothing, all of the airport screeners get together and squeeze the lotion tubes into one gigantic fuselage-sized gooey pile. Then they strip naked and take a running start at each other, like sumo wrestlers. In one corner of the room is a crumpled stack of polyester uniforms and 44-waist hook-button pants. And in the other corner is a just a hot, sticky mess of naked Homeland Security screeners stacked on top of each other like idiot pancakes, slathered head-to-toe in Neutrogena and Oil of Olay. It’s an orgy of moisturizer; a Slip ’n Slide of stupid.
It comes down to one basic fact: We have completely lost faith in airport screeners and we’ve resorted to policing ourselves. If I’m on a plane and a guy jumps up too quickly to use the bathroom, I’ve already got a Kill Bill tap to the chest with his name on it. It doesn’t even have to be a guy. If it’s the difference between my plane landing safely or smashing into a building, I’ll punch a grandma in the throat. Now hopefully she’s a nut job grandma wielding a box cutter. But I’m willing to play hard and fast with the rules in the interests of national security—and soft soap.
Contact Jeff Girod at firstname.lastname@example.org.