Friday, November 02, 2007

Getting through the no joke zone

The airport security check is largely what Bruce Schneier calls 'security theater,' just a bunch of invasiveness meant to convince us that there's a pervasive problem and the government's on top of it. This is a bad place for the 'speak truth to power' ethic -- I don't actually like being detained. But, I nearly lost it Friday.

My practice is to carry a second cell phone battery with me so that if I use up my current one and can't get to a charger, I can still operate in the world. Life without a cell phone is an unnavigable data-poor fog that I can really only tolerate if I'm strapped into a seat. So, I carry a charged battery.

Apparently, to the x-ray machine, my cell phone battery looks like a 9 volt battery, which has about twice the width and half the cross section. 9-volt batteries are mandatory bag checks. Why? Apparently, they're both uncommon and frequently used in IEDs. If you haven't served in Iraq, IEDs are what we used to call bombs -- improvised explosive devices. I didn't say
  1. So, most of the fake bombs that you miss use 9-volts?
  2. Dude, I could totally set off a bomb with that
  3. You'd think those terrorists would switch to C-cells
I was good! But, then, after establishing that I had a totally innocent non-flagging type of battery, he swabbed my bag for explosive residue. I did say,
  1. So, I shouldn't carry explosives in the same bag I use for my carry-on?
I mean, I'm allowed to carry explosives around town, aren't I? Actually, I don't know any more. But, I think so. How else would people catch fish? There's no need to make jokes, he started, and yammered for a while. This yob, he wants to make it clear, has been given power over me. I didn't say,
  1. Don't tase me, bro
  2. Look, just cuff me and leave me in a holding room
Do you not acknowledge how good I am? Both lists of things I didn't say, I want to add, occurred to me at the time. I just said,
  1. I don't set your priorities
Which he asked me to repeat twice, just to show who was in charge.

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