Saturday, August 05, 2006

More bullshit from the Gestapo, Er, I mean the TSA

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


Sherri said...

Did you tell them about the sentimental value of the Zippo? That's horrible.

I've only flown once, but when I did, it was a complete nightmare. I was wearing an underwire bra that set off every single metal detector I went through. At one point I had to strip off my sweatshirt behind a curtain to prove it.

Lisa said...

OH MY GOD. That really sucks. I am amazed. I almost want to laugh when they've gone through mine and my son's bags before. I mean really. If I'm going to hijack a plane am I going to take a young child that looks just like me along for the ride?

Fathairybastard said...

You know, some people might think you're going way over the top with that Gestapo analogy. What they miss is the fact that most Nazi thugs were essentially the same sort of people as the average airport guard; little people (and I don't mean short), maleducated, normally powerless people who've been given power, a uniform, and official sanction to abuse others if they choose to. It's almost completely up to them, whether or not they use their power to do the right thing or the abusive thing. Somebody said that power corrupts? Nothing worse than empowered assholes in large groups, and it's not just at airports ether. I lost a pocket knife one day, years ago, before 9-11, when I walked into a concert with it and the guard asked me to empty my pockets. This was in Texas, which is not known to be a real anal place when it comes to these things, and on an army base also. I'd carried that knife for years. It wasn't huge. Just a small blade and a pair of scissors with a bone handle. I'm sure he took the knife because he liked it and wanted it, and there was some rule that allowed him the discression to make the decision, like with your zippo. I stopped carrying anything I value through the airport baggage check a long time ago. Check it in your luggage or leave it at home. Don't give the mother fuckers the opportunity.

Ranger Tom said...

Sherri: Yep, I told them of the sentimental value but it didn't meant a thing to the Gestapo

Lisa: Didn't you know that early 30's women with small children are the biggest terrorist threat to airline safty in the US today? What the hell were you thinking?

Fathairybastard: Welcome aboard the Bi-polar express... I agree I shouldn't give the fuckers the opportunity, but what the fuck? I'm a 40ish white guy with a military hair cut. Not your typical Al Qieda shithead... And if people think my corrolation to the Gestapo is over the top they should fly a little more often.

DivineMsN said...

You should def file a complaint! What a bunch of jerks. I had a run in with one of these asses at BWI and I ripped him a new asshole.

tsduff said...

Tom, I can relate. Coming back from Iceland my boyfriend and I were practically strip-searched upon leaving NY at JFK. They pointed us into the "extra" search line... and we were poked, prodded, and felt out (my bf has long hair and is in fact a hippie). He wasn't wearing his NRA shirt that day though...I smiled and tried to make the most of it, joking with the burly lady TSA... but she wouldn't even crack a smile. When we arrived at SFO in San Francisco, we picked up our little backpack; it was completely covered with TSA "INSPECTED" tape, wrapped up like a mummy. They had not only ransacked the bag from top to bottom, but the backpack was left unzipped, with clothing wadded halfway out of the top, with tape and adhesive sticking all over it. Gee, can we just rub in how much we don't give a flying bit of respect for you and/or your belongings? BECAUSE WE CAN.

the Yearning Heart said...

It's simple. They hate our freedom.

Janine said...

Ran across your blog doing a search for something else. I am an airline agent so I know a few things about working around the TSA. (aka, Thousands. Standing. Around.)

Anyway, airlines are requied to have so many secuity trained specialist on staff and being one of them I just wanted to let you know that by law anything including lighters that TSA takes from you is required to be held for 30-45 days in order to give you a chance to return and claim it. If you have a friend in Palm Springs it would be worth it to have them stop by and ask to look at their "no fly" box of lighters. Most TSA offices just keep a huge box of the ones they take. Also, it does make a difference if enough ppl file complaints so voice what happened. It sounds like pure bull shit and most TSA agents would agree. There are some decent ones out there.