Where in the World

28th April 2006

For the last five years or so the airports have had a new program to detain me at every possible opportunity. I’ve experienced seemingly every new development in airport security as it comes up. I was among the first to have my cuticle scissors confiscated, remove my shoes to have them carefully searched for hidden wiring, drink from my flask to prove it didn’t contain lighter fluid, have my computer dusted for chemicals, have my bra hand-searched for hidden explosives, remove my underwear for chemical testing, do the required gyrations to shake loose any wiring attached to my person. All that stuff that’s become a standard part of travel in the U.S.

Anyway, I’m happy to do it. I’d rather be delayed for fifteen minutes than face the gradual erosion of our belief in the basic goodness of humankind. Or, you know, death.

A few days ago, we flew through Dallas, where I learned of a new security development. It’s a machine that looks like an elevator compartment with glass doors in the front and back. When you’re one of the select few who gets to step inside, it blasts you with a series of air “puffs.” They’re supposed to blow chemicals off of you to see if you’ve been mucking around with nitroglycerin lately.

These “puffs,” are surprisingly forceful. When you’re not expecting them, it’s a little like being blasted with twelve mini fire hoses. Except, you know, creepier and more invasive.

Anyway, I passed. We’ve been in Argentina for a week or so. I’m on steak number 73.

0 thoughts on “Where in the World

  1. Vikki

    My worst experience with airport security was when we traveled with our 18 month old son. They separated him from us (by several) feet so that they could run the scanner over his little body. Needless to say, he wasn’t a big fan. Then, he had to be separated from Tigger because Tigger had to go through the xray machine. We are going to Portugal in August with both kids (4 and 14 months) – I hope they don’t get shot with the air puffs…

  2. Jessie

    My sister just left for Argentina this morning (for 3 weeks study abroad) and she’s not a steak person so is kind of not looking forward to the amount of steak she’s likely to be served. I told her I’d definitely take her place on the trip if it was such a problem. Unfortunately she said no. Hope you’re having fun down there!

  3. Megan

    I have succumbed to my sizeable travel envy (about Argentina, not about getting “blown” on the way there) and must refrain from reading your site until I can regain my composure.

    Thank you.

  4. blackbird

    It doesn’t appear to me that you resemble a threat…
    I wonder if there is a woman fitting your description on the most wanted list.
    It COULD be.

  5. Katie

    I’m glad to hear that you haven’t been messing with the nitro…but I wonder…do they warn you about the power or the air puffs? What if you’re particularly concerned about your hair? What if you’re wearing a skirt and the air puffs blow it right up? Can you then sue for embarrassment and mental anguish? Ahh, the things that plague my mind on a Friday afternoon…

  6. amee. c. r.

    yea i traveled to asia during the whole SARS thing and had to walk under the thingy things.

    a police officer got shot yesterday in our cleveland airport. it was before the checkpoint so y’know..

  7. dd

    ugh – I get the same thing whenever I fly. There will be a line 50 people long and the security folks will make a beeline for me to pull me aside.

    I’m just as WASP-y looking as they come, so my travel companions always get a good laugh (and all the overhead space while I’m having my carryon searched).

    I haven’t yet been “blown” however – thanks for the warning :)

  8. thor Post author

    No you don’t have to be nude to be blown. It costs a little extra, but it’s worth it.

    Also, yes, it totally messes up your hair.

  9. GN

    Yes, the implementation of increased security measures may be bothersome, yet offer some greater peace of mind, perhaps.

    Speaking of “puffs,” I can already imagine a spin-off of the Marilyn Monroe blown-up skirt deal. It’s already staged for it…glass doors front and back, passers-by and airport personnel…just wait and see.

  10. Karen

    In the Augusta Maine airport you are made to take off your shoes and coat and you are patted down in a platonic way- When we went through Boston and Atlanta in March 2005 the security was looking the other way half the time as luggage went through the detector, nor were our shoes or coats checked????
    Guess those air puffs could almost be fun…!

  11. Leah

    Mmmm I remember the tasty Argentinian steaks. And other interesting parts of the cow too!

    As for airport security, I must tell my frightening but awesome story. I flew in October of 2001 (as in, the month after 9/11) and I snuck a knife onto the plane. Not because I’m a terrorist and not because I wanted to cut things, or even because I wanted to see if I could. I just didn’t want to give them my pocketknife. I loved that pocketknife! I had forgotten to take it out of my bag before we got there.

    So, I placed it amidst my homework right inside the metal rings of my 3-ring binder. I figured the metal rings would shield the knife-shaped metal inside. It got through without any problems.

    How that make you feel about your personal safety?

  12. Z

    Crazy stalkery post ahead. I am a reader of your blog and had a dream last night that my husband and I met you and your husband on vacation on some sort of bus tour and the bus jumped the road and drove into a lake, but we were all okay. My aunt (who I think you look so much like) is in BA this week fixing up a couple condos. If you see your doppleganger +10 yrs enjoing a a slab of prime, say hi.

  13. CrazyForHer

    Next time you have to enter “The Elevator”, toss in ten $1 bills and as the air goes off start stuffing the dollars in your pants, bra etc. Everyone around you will think it is the newest airport promotion.

  14. christina

    I’ve been puffed too! And it took me by surprise (my puffer didn’t have doors – it was part of the metal detector) so I let out the girliest squeal and started giggling – the guard laughed at my display. Apparently it was also the village idiot detector.

  15. Patricia

    This can’t be happening…somehow I have been also increasingly held back at airport screening…and my guy friends tell me it is nothing to do with national security :) Would you believe that?

  16. estella

    My favorite part of airport security is when they take volunteers for the extensive search. It gives the guy with a strapped chestful of C4 explosives a chance to lay low.

  17. Leslie

    Oh, steaks in Argentina! Also tapas in the afternoon and the wines! I remember eating at a place with a stuffed cow in the entryway. I ordered the “mixed grill” because I thought I’d get a little of everything. It turned out to be kidney, udder, intestine. All cooked at the table and lovingly served to me by the waiter.

  18. Ana

    OMG I can’t believe you are here in Buenos Aires. It’s getting cold outside but the Autumn here is awesome, please be careful it’s crazy outside during weekdays.

    If you need info about cool places to visit please email me.

  19. Mark Kenny

    Ooooh, you’re in Buenos Aires, I loved Buenos Aires, and the steaks in Argentina are so good! I noticed the mate de coca photos on your flickr stream: we had the exact same reaction when we tried it, ha ha.

  20. David

    >Anyway, I’m happy to do it. I’d rather be delayed for fifteen minutes >than face the gradual erosion of our belief in the basic goodness of >humankind. Or, you know, death.

    Given what we put up with when we go to the airport I’d say that belief isn’t being gradually eroded, I reckon its completely gone and has been for awhile. If anyone believed in the basic goodness of humankind it wouldn’t need to be verified by nitroglycerin puffs.

  21. karen

    I fly twice a week for work, and I live in DC so I fly out of National. Since I fly so much I have status on my airline, and sometimes get to stand in the special, shorter security line.

    But sometimes – not always! – the special line is shunted directly into the airpuffer and it’s waayyyy slower than the regular line. Then I don’t feel special anymore.

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