Just a thought… I flew this past weekend. I went through airport security and asked the guy ‘is everything okay?’ He said, ‘You might want to have that mole on your ass checked out.’ That seems a little personal to me. [Jay Leno]
As you know, Rob and I love to travel. We’ve been uncharacteristically anchored this year by the job I unexpectedly took on doing middays at Ocean 98.5, a position I expect to vacate within a few months as a new kind of technology slides into place. It’s a great move and very exciting and, as much as having a show every day gave my life a much needed sense of normalcy in the past year, I’ll be happy to be a little more untethered when it comes to hopping on a plane. But after last Friday’s experience at the airport, I’ll approach the whole travel thing with a little more trepidation. Here’s why.
We arrived at YYJ in plenty of time to check in for our flight on Alaska Airlines. Strangely, even though Rob went online and reserved our seats, even giving the necessary information as so-called Trusted Travelers, we were able to check in that way but not able to print boarding passes. Huh?
As we stepped up to the standing kiosks at Alaska Airlines, they were all shut down with laminated paper signs saying they were not in operation. We barely had time to remark on how strange that seemed, when a tall young man wearing a crisp white shirt and a badge or two asked if we were checking in. When we replied in the affirmative, he led us towards the check-in desk and stopped us there, saying he would have to ask us some questions.
Wait, what? We agreed (of course). He asked where we were going and why. He looked at Rob’s passport picture and remarked, “I see you’ve shaved your beard. I’m going to have to ask you a few additional questions.” Honestly, the way this was going, I thought I’d have to hand over my phone so he could see if I’d tweeted about Herr Drumpf. (He didn’t.) Instead, we got the usual questions about who had packed our bags, where they’d been since we closed them and if anyone else had had access to them. He also asked Rob and me what we do for a living.
When he explained that this was increased TSA security, I asked what would have happened if there had been 20 people in line instead of just us, and he pointed to the other three gents who were standing chatting. Still, that would have meant very slowly moving lineups and therefore some seriously close calls for people trying to catch flights into the US. Apparently this has been going on since the start of the year.
But our security experience wasn’t over yet. “Trusted Traveller” and Nexus card or not, Rob was randomly flagged for extra security. That meant when we went through security with everyone else, they took Rob aside to go through a scanner, went through our shared carry-on suitcase and asked him a handful more questions.
We were perplexed at this whole undertaking and relieved to see that our flight to Seattle was delayed by fifteen minutes. I mean, we weren’t cutting it that closely, but if our cab had been even later than it was in picking us up, we’d have been sweating for real.
Finally, we were called to board our plane. And there, just after our boarding passes and passports had been scanned, stood another officer with a few more questions about suitcases. Had anyone been with them while we awaited the flight – things like that.
The entire episode left us shaken. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for security (or the illusion of it that comes from one shoe bomber causing us all to have to go barefoot, while one mass shooting only brings looser gun laws). It just had some deeper undertones to it that I still can’t put my finger on.
Maybe – just maybe – I think I had a glimpse, just for a moment, of what it might be like to have skin darker than my own. To be pulled over, searched, questioned or mistrusted for absolutely no reason except that I’m a “foreigner” to the United States. I know it’s dangerous to conflate the sudden and temporary loss of the ease of passage that I’ve known all my life with what millions and millions of people go through every single day, but just that one hour, that one day, I had my eyes opened.
Back with you here tomorrow.