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  • They did leave me a note...
  • This is no surprise, hardly the first time upon return from an airline trip I find a note from the TSA in my suitcase.

    To protect you and your fellow passengers, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is required by law* to inspect all checked baggage. As part of this process, some bags are opened and physically inspected. Your bag was among those selected for physical inspection.


    During this inspection, your bag and its contents may have been searched for prohibited items. At the completion of the inspection, the contents were returned to your bag.


    It is so routine I usually pay it no heed and toss the crumpled white note, its blue and red text, in my recycling bin. As citizens, we did not opt for Section 110(b) of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001, 49 U.S.C. 44901(c)-(e).

    No, the politics do not bug me (that's another story). But it makes me pause to think how we have become accustomed to having strangers inspect our luggage. Do I get creeped out that someone was sifting through my dirty clothes, some of which spend a lot of time close to my privates?

    No, that's just weird. It's probably more creepy that I think about it.

    But I do wonder that there is a person I never will know, going through my luggage. I wonder who they are, what this work is like. I imagine a white laboratory with banks of lights, inspectors in white lab coats welding electronic detectors, wands, valiantly saving our society. After all, as the note reads, "Smart Security Saves Time" (what does that mean?).

    What is their name? What do they experience in doing this work? You see, that seems more worrisome to me is that we have this passing experiences with other people who we never experience... all I know of them is... "TSA".

    I day dream about putting my own note inside; it would need to be with something strange enough to demand the personal inspection. What would I say?
  • We have a lot of background noise here is Hanger 133, the grinding of conveyer belts, the flopping of baggage on the concrete floor, the roar of jet engines on the other side of the metal walls. To compensate, a guy named Smith brought in an old school boom box. The crews tease each other about their music choices- Smith himself always with the classic rock, but he yields for the death metal I enjoy or the rap that Wilma dances around too.

    Three hours on, 15 minutes off, long shifts. The edge of winter breathes through the walls, we huddle around wooden tables, at least three propped up on shims to keep from wobbling. Our fancy tools? gloves, a flashlight, and the metal lift wand.

    It's just a job. The lead grunts like Wilkinson run the xray scanners, slapping stickers on so monkeys like me can grab the bags and open them up. She'll yell our codes like "Dirty Harry" (possible gun), "Rambo" (explosive), or "Dr Doom" (unknown electronic devices) so we know what she spotted suspicious on the scan.

    After the first week, you forget out the noise, the ever recording overhead videos, the loud clock meant to remind us of the pace we need to work. As a kid, I never even learned to fold a towel; I wish my Mom could see how well I can fold a silk business shirt.

    The most common finds are the camp stoves the camper travelers forget about, but guns are not that uncommon. There's a list of stuff we need to press the buzzer for, and out come goons like Rodriguez with her clipboard. That means more paper work for all of us.

    We're not allowed to talk about what we find, but word gets around. Most of the crews head after a shift to the Shamrock pub on McDowell. We just hint at the finds, because you never know who carries a clipboard. A lot of action goes on over at Terminal 4, especially on the internationals.

    There was Johansen, who got canned because he got caught sneaking out panties. What a dumbass. Right under the cameras. Just feel the softness and move on.

    I see strange stuff. Amazing the money that people keep in the case; just last month I pulled out an envelope of more Franklins then I could count. I cannot remember the last time I held a 100 in my wallet; I'm luck if I have a Jackson in there. I won't go into the strange "toys" we find, but it does make for a funny break in the action when that oaf Wilson starts doing a lip synch into a dildo.

    But mostly it's dull. Just rumpled dirty clothes like this orange Samsonite. It's a shrewd person's bag, with it's four independent wheels.

    You get to start making guesses about the owners. You can easily get the gender. This guy has traveled; there is a New Zealand merino wool pullover and an Icelandic wool sweater. The cowboy boots? Dead give away he was born on the East Coast but moved to some place like Dallas, Phoenix, or Denver. A real cowboy wears his boots all the time. Like me.

    I do stop and wonder, though, it is strange to riffle through someone's suitcase, you will never know who they are. There is much more of s story to them then what I can guess from the way they pack. But this bag has a peculiar wrapped object that set up the level 2 search protocol. And that changes up the pace.
  • It's heavily taped up in bubble wrap, obviously liquid, and weighs maybe a pound or too. Wilkinson must be bored to pull this one off; with a tilt you can feel the liquid is thicker than something incendiary.

    My hunch proves correct, once I jimmy off the tape, carefully as to never let the guy know we opened his package. I am that good. I do not need an excuse, I have the entire US Government on my side, keeping all that smart security that saves time. I send out the three trill whistle, loud enough to be heard over the blare of the Led Zeppelin II. Wilson, Sanjay, Wilkinson, Hurley, Smith shuffle about; Smith is like 6 foot 10 and with that fro, he can block the camera.

    Just for the thrill of it, we all get a dab taste of that liquid. Gold.

    I was right, maple syrup, probably tapped and boiled at home like I did every winter as a kid in Vermont.

    In a few minutes, it is sealed, covered with TSA tape, and I slip the Notice of Baggage Inspection atop the tan shirt- it has to be within the first 2 layers of clothing, or else Rodriquez will be hover ing with her clip board all next week.

    Maybe it;s just my over active imagination, but I day dream sometimes of scribbling a hand written note on that notice. Nothing taunting like "ha ha ha, I took out your underwear". No, it would seem interesting just to let someone know that I was a person just like them (except I will never make enough money to fly across the country). I'd like to buy them a drink, but really it would be good to let someone know that we are not faceless government agents down in this noisy hanger.

    I'm just waiting for the right suitcase.
  • Like every other time, I pause over that note, and then move on to unpacking and getting settle at home. Put the heavy sweater away, and leave the boots out so I can shine them up.

    For lunch, I am going to treat myself to some pancakes with that lovely jar of gold I got from my friend Geoff in Vermont.

    And then I forget about the silly wondering of the person going through my bag. It's just the TSA.
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