Note to self: At the TSA checkpoint, take your cell phone out of your pocket

03 Dec

Flying the friendly skies is a good way to travel -- once you get through security.

I don’t like all of the security measures at airports these days. Who would? But I understand the need for them.

And here’s a special note to myself:

Dear Self,
Before you walk through the little TSA doorway that beeps if you have something metal on you, be sure to take your cell phone out of your pocket and put it on the conveyor belt to the X-ray machine.

I recently flew from Moline with some fellow members of the Mississippi Valley Fair Board to Las Vegas, where we attended the annual convention of the International Association of Fairs and Expositions.

I normally clip my bulky old cell phone to my belt when I’m walking around. But, since it sometimes falls off, I decided the night of the flight to put it in a pants pocket so I wouldn’t lose it.

That turned out to be a bad idea because at the security checkpoint, when going through the doorway that sounds an alarm if you have metal on you, I kept making it beep, beep, beep. After several unsuccessful attempts to get through without setting off the alarm, the TSA attendant there asked me to step over to another TSA worker, who was waiting to pat me down.

Great, I thought. Just what I wanted most to avoid!

He told me to take everything out of my pockets, and that’s when I discovered my stupid mistake, the cell phone.

As some other friends and their spouses from the fair, who had sailed through security with no problem, stood nearby, watching me and smiling, another TSA worker walked over to me with a little bowl to collect the phone and run it through the X-ray machine.

“Why did you leave this in your pocket?” he asked incredulously.

I explained why I’d put it in the pocket in the first place and that I’d simply forgotten about it. He’ll be old and forgetful someday, and I hope I’m there to see it.

The other TSA worker, the pat down guy, now had rubber gloves on and began to explain why he was doing the pat down and what it involved.

I’m a news junkie, and I consume the news via newspapers, television and the Internet. So I knew all about this new, controversial security procedure.

As he was talked, the phrase that one airline passenger, a young man, had used, came to mind. It’s the line that was in the news and now appears on bumper stickers and T-shirts: “Just don’t touch my junk, bro.”

I was thinking it, but I certainly didn’t voice it. I may be forgetful when it comes to cell phones, but I’m not stupid. I didn’t want to cause any trouble and miss my flight.

I merely said of the pat down, “I know all about it. Just go ahead and do your job.”

And he did. Thoroughly. Very thoroughly. Right down to checking the inside of my waistband for contraband.

He explained everything he was about to do before he did it. And the whole thing took just a couple of minutes. Long, embarrassing minutes. All that time I was thinking, The terrorists have won. They’ve disrupted our lives. They’ve caused us to lose our right to privacy. But again, I didn’t verbalize that.

I passed the pat down test and began the processing of reassembling myself — stepping back into my shoes, gathering my belt, belongings and my dignity….at least what was left of it.

I later learned another fair board member who had arrived earlier also had gone through a pat down. And he’ll likely do so every time he flies.

It’s not because he carries his cell phone in his pocket and forgets it. His problem is, he’s had hip replacement surgery, and the replacement hip is metal.

For him it’s always going to be beep, beep, beep at the airport.

Copyright 2010 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece submitted as an “Everyday People” column to The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

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Posted by on December 3, 2010 in Uncategorized


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