Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Now That "We Got Him" Can I Keep My Clothes On, Please?

We're all experts now on not having any metal on us at all when we board airplanes. Change goes into the pockets of panhandlers before we even get to the airport. Belts are swiftly removed, coats undonned, phones and wallets and money clips discarded into that ugly plastic bin. It should be enough but its not.

An unlucky few are subject to further searches. Exactly who is subject to these searches is apparently based on criteria such as whether you are traveling alone and how near to your departure you booked your tickets. This is because it is a well-known fact that terrorists do not act in groups or book their tickets ahead of time.

I was selected for further searches because young, New York City professionals are very dangerous. The rifling through my carry-on was fine. The probing with the probably radioactive wand was not altogether grotesque. It should have been enough, but it was not.

"We'll need you to remove your shoes, sir," the representative of Homeland Security informed me.

"That cannot really be necessary. There was that one guy, right? What kind of shoes was he wearing?"

"Sir, remove your shoes." The tone was meant to convey that I should not engage in any more terroristic activities such as questioning the logic of Homeland Security.

"What kind of shoes was he wearing?" I asked again.

"You need to remove your shoes, or you are not getting on the aircraft. It doesn't matter what kind of shoes he was wearing."

"Of course it matters. It always matters. These," I pointed down at my feet, "These are Gucci lace-ups. No one would ever cut them apart to put a bomb in them."

"Sir. This is the third time I will ask. You need to remove your shoes. You will not be asked again."

"I can see that you do not understand anything. This makes me feel less secure than if you actually allowed people to bring daggers and firearms on to planes. Here are my shoes. Handle them with care, Homeland."