You all know I flew down to Florida last weekend for my job interview and that went really well but what I didn't write about earlier this week is another run-in I had with our nation's great terrorist deterrent, the vaunted TSA.
When it happened I was so damn angry I was beside myself.
Since May of 2004 I've been through several airports on many flights all over the country and have been mistreated by the TSA on several occasions but Monday's incident just inflamed me.
I get to the West Palm Beach airport in plenty of time to make my return flight to West Virginia, check in and get my boarding passes for my flight and connections. I get to the security station and I see (I shit you not) about thirty TSA agents standing around. I take everything out of my pockets, take my boots and belt off and the agent paws through my stuff... He picks up my Zippo lighter and says he'll have to confiscate the contraband item...
Here's where it gets interesting.
All I asked him was "What makes it contraband on this flight today, when it's never been before on the several times I've flow in the last few years?"
I've got to say right now I didn't in any way say this in a threatening or derisive tone. It was said in a flat and questioning voice.
You'd have thought I had tried to smuggle a small thermonuclear device onto the plane at this point. Next thing I know I hear him say:
"I need a supervisor here, I've got a passenger creating a disturbance!" Loudly enough for everyone within fifty feet to hear.
I was definitely NOT creating a disturbance. I may be crazy but I'm NOT stupid. I just had a valid question that I wanted answered. I got it down to Florida on my person. In fact, the TSA agent who checked my baggage at the Charleston, WV airport for my southbound flight asked me if I had a Zippo lighter in my carryon luggage. He was looking at it through the x-ray machine. I said yes and He just nodded and let me pass, so I didn't think much more about it. Like I said, I've had it go through several times in the past.
So the supervisor who looked disturbingly like Little Richard walks up and asked the agent grilling me what he wanted to do, and in his tone I could detect a "Want to have him locked up?" voice...
What the fuck!
All I did was ask a simple goddamn question. I have a Right as an American to question any order. I wasn't creating a disturbance. I just wanted to know why.
I've got to say something about this particular lighter at this point. I've had this Zippo since January, 1983. I bought it at the main PX at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma when I was going through Basic Training. I've had it a long time and it was very special to me.
Basic Training for The United States Army to defend The United States of America...
I for one am getting increasingly tired and frustrated at being treated like a criminal at our nation's airports.
After I convinced Heinrich Himmler I wasn't going to hijack the airliner and passed through security sans my treasured Zippo, the last thing I hear him say to Little Richard was this:
"Looks like I got me a new Zippo lighter!"
I stopped and looked at him and he was smiling smugly at me... You have no idea how I felt at the time and how angry I was when I heard him say that. I was livid. I was so fucking angry I was shaking.
Another piece of my past ripped from me, never to be seen again.
You want to know how I felt going through the TSA checkpoint? All I felt that was missing from the whole experience was the TSA uniforms should have been black with a red armband and jackboots and me wearing a little yellow Star of David on my chest.
I now know what the Jews in Nazi Germany must have felt like.
That's exactly how I felt.
I wore the uniform of this nation's Army proudly. I served and fought for this country proudly. But is this the country I fought for?
Not any more it isn't.
Oh, and by the way, a few items in my carryon that these Gestapo agents missed that I most definitely could have used as a weapon(Not that I'd ever even think of using as): Cross pen and pencil set (six-inches long and pointy) the charger cord for my cell phone (definitely I could have used as a garrotte) and the deadliest of all deadly weapons, a 1 1/2 inch nail clipper with the fold-out emery board. Not to mention the ring binder (deadly loose-leaf paper cuts!) or the binder itself as a blunt instrument...
I used to love to fly. Now I dread walking into an airport.
America, sleep well tonight. The Gestapo is alive and well.
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden