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|| News Item: Posted 2002-05-02

Road Warrior: Airport Security Still Sucks
By Mongo

Photo by
Ok, so now we've made these airline security screeners federal employees.

Do you think that made them any smarter?

Mongo doesn't think so.

In fact Mongo knows so.

While traveling from Denver International Airport last week, I got to the airport a few hours early because DIA is so goddamned big it really does take an extra hour to return a rental car and ride the train out to the gates. Anyhow, I get to the security screening line and instead of a Disneyland maze, all of the dividers are down and it's a beeline to the mags!

Photo by Mongo

Photo by Mongo
Four open screening stations!

No waiting!

How lucky can a gal get?

I survey the situation. All the screeners look bright eyed and bushy tailed, so I go for the far left lane. I pull both of my laptops out of their cases and place them on the belt. They roll forward, followed by my combo pack/purse/briefcase.

The screeners wave me forward, I pass through the mag with nary a peep, but wait. Instead of passing straight through, I'm diverted to a side holding lane that's enclosed in Plexiglas. I can see my laptops bouncing along the conveyer rollers but my combo pack/purse/briefcase is nowhere in sight.

Ah! There it is emerging from the x-ray.

Wait a sec, it's rolling back in, nope, now it's rolling back out, back in, back out, back in, back out hey porno!

This goes on for several minutes and I guess I became visibly agitated, because now all the screeners are staring at me in my little holding area. A large, rather matronly looking woman motions me to stand with my legs spread and arms held straight to the side. She runs the wand over hill and dale and once again, not a squeal or squeak from the Garrett industries DT-237 hand scanner.

She seems to be a bit disappointed and now motions for me to sit down. I do so, and then she tells me she has to sniff my shoes. (No you perverts, she doesn't have a fetish) she takes my shoes, runs a cotton patch over them, places the swatch in the machine

No beep, no chirp, nada, nothing.

Now while all this is going on, the number of screeners running the x-ray scanner has grown exponentially.

There are now (4) of them gathered around the monitor in what appears to be a group "chimping" session. One points at the screen, another grunts, the bag comes out of the machine and another picks it up and passes it back to a screener on the other side of the machine. This ritual is repeated (4) times.

Clearly they are disturbed about something in the bag.

"We need to do a hand inspection of your bag" barks the largest of the screeners. I nod my head yes, and he proceeds to start unzipping the bag and removing it's contents. Now keep in mind that I Mongo am a VERY well organized traveler, believing in the motto of "a place for everything and everything in its place". Consequently I have organized my purse with a number of different size mesh pouches that you can see through.

Photo by Mongo

Photo by Mongo
Laptop power supply, modem cables, printer cords, PCMCIA cards and so on, go into the black pouch.

GPS receiver, flashlight, cell phone, hands free headset, charger, pager, are packed in the red pouch.

Cigars, lighters, punch, cutters, bullets, ride in the gray pouch.


Holy shit! I forgot about the bullets. (to be specific, .45-caliber 230 grain black talon jacketed hollow points) I was at the range last weekend shooting steel and dumped my extra carry rounds into my cigar pouch.

So now I'm sweating bullets (ha, ha) watching this screener open the gray pouch and start to poke through it. He pulls out the machined aluminum cigar tubes and carefully examines them. "What are these?" he quips. "They're for protecting cigars" he unscrews the top of each of the tubes and inspects each cigar. (I dunno, maybe he thinks I'm smuggling Habanos) He holds the tubes up for all the other screeners to see, and they all seem to collectively breath a sigh of relief.

Aha, they thought I was packing explosives!

He puts the tubes back into the pouch and continues his exploration.

I watch with great trepidation as he unzips the mesh pocket where I can see the ammo through the side. He reaches in (I'm about ready to pass out from holding my breath) and he pushes aside the ammo and pulls out my cigar cutter!

I could not believe it!

He looked right at the ammo, and didn't even know what it was !!! What the hell are they training these people to look for ???

The screener waves over his supervisor and hands him my cigar cutter. The supervisor inspects the cutter hands it back to the screener and tells him it's ok. The screener puts the cutter back in my cigar pouch, next to the ammo and zips the pouch shut.

WHEW! The color is coming back to my cheeks, the blood pressure is coming down.

I gather all my pouches and repack my bag. Slowly I shuffle off to the escalators to start my descent down to the shuttle trains. I am mortified and outraged that I and my fellow travelers are made to endure these new security procedures which for all intent and purpose seem to be just window dressing. My rage continues to grow as I near the train. A thought crosses my mind to storm back upstairs and make a scene, maybe calling the local TV news station and telling them about this lapse in security. I want to strike a blow at the heart of the fucked up FAA. I should do this to be part of the solution, not the problem.

Naaaaa I don't have time for that, I'd rather see if I cleared the upgrade list.

(Mongo Johnson worked as a weapons and armament expert on such hit TV shows as "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.", "COMBAT!" and "The Green Hornet". Currently he is a travel and security consultant working in Missoula, MT.)

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