Christmas fun at airport security

10 12 2010

Have you ever wondered how much time is wasted in airport terminals? Passengers have to get there hours before take-off, and think of the lost productivity as folks just sit around in departure areas or stand in some line. Long gone are the days of an efficient, first class travel experience – unless of course you belong to the 0.01 percent of the population that has access to a private jet.

This little Citation would fit my needs if not my budget.

And honestly… there is really only so much people-watching you can do as you wait. The food in the lounges all seems to taste the same after a while, and getting a free spritz of overpriced perfume in the duty-free store is just about the highlight of any airport transit experience.

So where do you find entertainment while killing time in the terminal? Airport security of course! A never-ending source of amusement and irritation that defies any logic beyond randomly and indiscriminately imposing gratuitous hostility on the innocent. And all completely free of charge!

Though here in Europe we don’t have the TSA to command us around and sexually molest us during a pat-down, we do have the next best thing: Foul-tempered, disrespectful, German-speaking security officers progressively losing their nerves.

Take an incident in Nürnberg last Tuesday morning, 6am. Cranky, underpaid modern-day Nazis channel penned-in passengers through an obstacle course of electronic detection equipment like a herd of drugged cattle. An added bonus was the early morning breath of a flak-jacketed and armed tough-guy pseudo-cop dangerously invading my space.

After spotting something of interest on the X-ray, the junior security chick demanded I empty every corner of my carry-on, including a bag of dirty socks underwear, and then threatened to confiscate it (the carry-on, not the underwear) if I didn’t do exactly what she told me in the order in which she told it to me.

Apparently I look like someone who would smuggle C4 in used lingerie.

The offending item was a set of rare coins, carefully bubble-wrapped and worth roughly three times her monthly salary. I told her to keep her paws off it – as every wise, overprotective numismatist would. That’s when she called over Mr. Flakjacket to bark the directive a little louder, as if I didn’t hear the first time.

I slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y repacked my ransacked bag, as if I had all the time in the world, thus creating a bottleneck at the security checkpoint. That’s the part of this process I enjoy most – tossing a little sand into the machinery and watching the ensuing human and system meltdowns.

Where are YOU headed this Christmas?

So as we prepare for the annual Christmas ritual of wasting precious life time in endless airport security lines, it’s important to remember that every paying traveler has rights too. Just because some arrogant person in a silly uniform makes you undress in front of him/her (jacket, sweater, scarf, vest, belt, shoes, silver jewelry, hair clip, keys, coins, MP3 players, cell phones, Kindles, I-pads, laptops, toiletries) doesn’t mean s/he has a carte blanche to harrass you – and I firmly believe s/he needs to be told that rather directly.

Once you clear the body scanner and have settled in to the two square feet of airplane you will inhabit for the next one, two or 13 hours, there’s nothing left to do but toss back that first stiff drink.

And pity the poor suckers who missed the flight because some overzealous security-type mistook the fat guy in the red suit (with his pet reindeer and a bag of toys) for a terrorist.