Sometimes It's Security That Needs Handcuffs

Sometimes It's Security That Needs Handcuffs
Posted by FoM on December 28, 1999 at 12:42:32 PT
By Jan Glidewell
Source: St. Petersburg Times
Oh goody. Canadian border guards catch a guy with a carload of bomb-making supplies and, as a result, we get more airport security. I guess I can't complain, although the only real problems I have had with border guards have been in Canada, an allegedly friendly nation, where I was grilled (no pun intended) for nearly an hour about my relationship to meat.
They wanted to know whether I had been near a meatpacking plant or beef-raising operation and whether I was carrying any meat. I had a funny feeling that they would have overlooked a kilogram of hashish if it was in my suitcase next to a ripening salami. I was tempted to offer to open the false heel in my shoe and hand over the Spam, but I know how well customs types love a good joke, and decided to keep my mouth shut. It's not that I don't think security is necessary, or that there aren't some intelligent, helpful people in the business, but my experiences at airports have been pretty weird. I got held up in St. Paul, Minn., once because a member of my party was carrying a whole slew of pills, all legally prescribed, in their bottles in a plastic bag. It wasn't a drug concern. "This," said the security guard suspiciously eyeing the X-ray machine, "looks like an orange." I hastily made a mental review of the penalties for transporting oranges across state lines (during a non-medfly period) or possession of an orange with intent to, what, squeeze? I couldn't think of anything that was going to get us and the orange, if that's what it was, wrestled to the floor, so we let her look. Airport security is not the Drug Enforcement Administration, so the pills didn't faze her once she saw that we were not carrying citrus in any form. Another member of our party was shaken down for carrying an ivory-handled emery board (a wedding gift) in her purse. I guess they were afraid she was going to whip it out and demand to be taken to the cockpit, threatening to shape and buff if she didn't get what she wanted. A year later, I was coming through Chicago's O'Hare airport (also known as the Seventh Circle of Hell and the only institution on earth that functions more inefficiently than the average HMO). I had just come off an extremely turbulent flight from San Francisco, had a roaring case of the flu and had to find a connecting flight at a gate nobody seemed to know existed. "Hey," said the security guard as my carry-on bag went through the machine, "this looks like a watch." "Your point?" I asked, noticing that both I and most of the passengers boarding with me were wearing watches. "Why do you have it?" he asked. "Because, Sparky," I answered, "if I have one of those I can tell what time it is, how late my flight is and how much time we're wasting here." Eventually, I got across to him the concept that some people carry different watches for dress occasions and made it to my next flight with, it turned out, three hours to spare. It's not that I don't think airport security, customs and immigration are valuable barriers to criminal activities (although I'd really rather they spent more time looking for explosives and less for marijuana). But it is all very important to me this year because I am in the process of downsizing my household and trying to get rid of possessions -- even books, which I would have considered heresy a year ago. I asked all of the people (okay, both of the people) who I thought might be inclined to give me gifts, to give me, if they insisted, intangibles. Specifically, I asked for travel-related gifts -- you know, weekend gift certificates from hotels, that kind of thing -- and in the case of attractive women, passionate kisses. So far, we're doing pretty well on the travel. An amazing (to me, at least) number of the women told me to take a walk. Well, it doesn't involve customs or security, anyhow.  St. Petersburg Times, Published December 28, 1999  Copyright 1999 St. Petersburg Times. 
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