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|| News Item: Posted 2001-09-28

"Lots of questions about how we do business."
By Robert Seale, The Sporting News

At Intercontinental Airport in Houston, some of the short term parking has been eliminated, and your car is searched as you enter the parking garages. Since you can't use skycaps to drop off at the curb, (Christmas is going to be lean this year for our favorite skycaps), this means all your equipment cases are subject to search as you enter the garage. I think I will be cabbing it in the near future.

At the ticket counters, (which were empty by the way), you are asked the same silly questions, they check your luggage through to your final destination and throw it on the conveyor belt. My checked luggage, to my surprise, was not searched at all, and apparently is only searched if a random number comes up in the computer as you are checking in. One of our other photogs, Bob Leverone, had his number come up in Raleigh this weekend and was put through a 25-minute cavity search.

A security guard standing in front of the X-ray machines asks you if you have any contraband items, (nail files, pocket knives, Leatherman tools, handguns (this is Texas, you know...), etc....and if so, you can turn them in or return them to your car.

Carry on items must go through the X-ray machine now; this includes film, even if it is out of the canisters and in Zip-Locs, you still must X-ray it, or take it back to the counter to ship under the plane. This eliminates the dreaded and much feared weapon: squeezing the air out of empty Fujifilm canisters and popping people with the projectile caps. This, as you all well know, could very well "put someone's eye out."

This creates lots of questions about how we do business: Do you Fed-X your film to your hotel before a game? Do you Fed-X it home afterward? Do you buy film in the city you are traveling to?

The security people at IAH are not using the CTX scanner on domestic checked luggage right now, (this monster that nukes your film, can supposedly only do a limited number of bags per hour, and it costs a million dollars apiece). I've always taken my chances by shipping all my unexposed film in the belly of the plane, and hand inspecting the exposed stuff on the way home. With the added security, (which I'm all for, btw, each airport might buy 20 CTX scanners - who knows?)

My rolling carry-on case, (which contained a 400/2.8, 4 bodies, various lenses, etc.) was not hand inspected or put on the bomb-sniffer once on my trip. I was very surprised at the "increased security", but I guess I shouldn't be, since we still have the same people doing the inspections. Until, we get some Secret Service, US Marshall's, or FAA people with some actual training on the case, you will still be asked, "Do you want fries with that, er... uh, can you display your cell phone." as you are walking through the security checkpoints.

A side note. At 3Com this weekend, as well as at Enron Monday, the security people looked through every case thoroughly.

Maybe we should hire some of our stadium security people and put them to work at the airports.

(Robert Seale, is a staff photographer with The Sporting News based in Texas.)

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