Security Check and Mate

Passing through TSA security checkpoints has become like a Stanley Kubrick film, with partially clothed adults meeting randomly for moody conversation and dark rituals. People under the age of 18 really should have their own checkpoints that are G–rated.

It all starts with idle chatter in the twisting chutes that snake across wide expanses of non-complimentary colored carpeting and are meant to deliver each individual to the first checkpoint in a dizzy delirium. I finally reached the home stretch, which happens to be a straight away headed for the finish line. This “finish” is not really the end, but rather the beginning of the madness. It is marked by a single TSA agent sitting in a chair and carefully examining government issued identifications carefully removed from their plastic protective sleeves. As there is just the one TSA Agent and thousands of airline passengers, there is time for idle chatter, so I strike up conversation with the woman next to me.

“Good thing we are early,” I say, somehow sensing that her flight will take off at approximately the same time as my own.

“Do you fly out of this airport often?” she asks.

“No, I am a Bay Area guy here for a friendly football visit. How about you?”

“I’m from Seattle. Do you know if the Seahawks are winning?”

“Sorry, not sure. I do know there is sports bar just through security.”

At this point, Grumpy TSA Agent Number One calls her forward to examine her I.D.

“Maybe I will see you inside?” Seahawk Fan asks over one shoulder as she proceeds forward to meet Number One.

Following my identification examination, I am streamed in a different direction. I begin the process of untying my shoes while walking to keep up with the woman in front of me in the line approaching X-ray, and as not to be trampled by the nervous man behind me, who obviously did not allocate appropriate time to pass through a three and a half hour security screening. One must plan ahead.

Evil TSA Security Agent Number Two is shouting at us as we are in line.

“Flammable and explosive materials are not allowed. Sharp objects such as box cutters, ice picks, knives and meat cleavers are not allowed in carry-on luggage and must be checked. Tools such as axes, hatchets, cattle prods, screwdrivers and crow bars are not allowed in carry-on baggage and must be checked. Martial arts and self-defense items such as billy clubs, brass knuckles, throwing stars, nightsticks, and kubatons are not allowed in carry-on baggage and must be checked.”

Unless you currently live in a cave and under a rock, you must know these items are not permitted. And what the hell is a kubaton?

Evil TSA Security Agent Number Two is shouting again.

“Remove laptops from their cases and place in a plastic bin. All coats, hats, shoes must be removed and placed in a plastic bin. All liquids and gels must be stored in containers with a capacity of 3.4 ounces or less and removed from your carry-on luggage and placed in a plastic bin. “

I really feel like stabbing this man in the head with my umbrella and placing him in a plastic bin.

While garments are let loosed such as scarves, coats and shoes, we are still not close enough to the stainless steel table to begin placing our items in the bins. Evil TSA Agent Number Two stares at the woman in front of me. She uses a similar strategy as mine: get loose and ready to strip fast, yet everything stays on until I hit the packing table. My belt is already removed and stuffed in my shoulder bag along with my watch, cell phone, iPod, ChapStick and loose change.

The woman in front of me is still completely adorned with trench coat, scarf, wool mittens and hat. Her stiletto heels are still firmly fasted to her feet.

Number Two stares at Firmly Fastened and she responds with an icy, hollow glare. I am impressed for the first time.

Then the line lurches forward and we are at the bin-packing table. Number Two has moved away to harass other innocents. Suddenly, clothes are being ripped of in frenzied fashion: coats, hats, scarves, sweaters, mittens, belts, and shoes are removed and placed in the bins. For a moment, Firmly Fastened and I are in a heated competition to see who can remove their clothing the quickest. This reminds me of the one-night stands of my youth, when one generally tried to get naked as quickly as possible to avoid last-minute mind-changing by coming to my senses.

Having stripped nearly naked and passing through the X-ray portal and a full-body search performed by sadistic TSA Agent Number Three, I find myself in the Shangri-La of post-TSA security checkpoint, also known as the dressing area.

As I watch a 72-year-old woman get wanded and frisked by morose TSA Agent Number Four, I collect my belongings and find a place to store my bins. I then notice that Firmly Fastened is dressing just to my right. When she bends at the waist to strap on her stilettos, I am awarded a rear perspective. Her silk, leopard print camisole rides up high on her midsection, revealing her angels and demons tramp stamp. I am satisfied that we both emerged from the scanning and pat downs in a record time and I tell her just that.

“You were good.” I say matter of factly as I buckle my belt.

She turns and smiles wickedly and pulls on her trench coat saying, “I’ve done this a few times.”

And then she is gone.

I stagger off to the sports bar, needing a drink. If you could smoke in airports, I would do so right now while enjoying the afterglow.

I find Seahawk Fan sitting at the end of the bar and join her.

“Is your team winning?”

She turns and smiles when she recognizes me “No. But it is close.”

Sitting side by side at the bar, we hold a conversation that can be only described as on a singular plane. Our body language is peripheral. She is also engaged with laptop business during the entire single plane conversation. With all of the media distractions and sideways conversation, we rarely make eye contact. It’s another one-night stand, of sorts.

I buy her a drink and order a beer and a shot for myself. As I am getting married the following summer and she is wearing a rock the size of Gibraltar, I try to make nice by saying, “I see you’re married.”

Strange bedfellows begin associated weird pillow talk.

“Actually, it’s my second marriage.”

She then begins to cycle through pictures on her laptop.

“Here look,” she says and I am staring at a graying, portly man and a plus-size woman. “That’s my ex and his new wife. Isn’t she fat?”

First, it should be noted that Seahawk Fan is not fat. Or svelte. Or lithe. She is thin, but shapely. And she is not bad-looking either. Particularly after a beer and a shot.

“Well, she is definitely not the same dress size as you, now is she?” I reply.

Fan smiles content that I recognize and appreciate her beauty. She becomes more enthused about her photo album.

“Here are pictures of my babies,” she says while scrolling through shots of two girls approximately six and nine years of age.

“Oh look,” I say, “that little one has a beauty mark on her cheek. How cute.”

“I am going to have it removed,” she says decidedly. Then she glances secretively from side to side, as if about to tell an off-color joke.

“I’m going to tell you a story because I know I will never see you again,” she starts.

This should be good.

“I had a beauty mark on the nape of my neck when I was a girl.” Here she pauses and faces me for the first time, exposing her neck and pointing to the former location of said beautiful mark.

“I remember that one time we were with a group of friends including a boy that I liked and we were eating chocolate chip mint ice cream. We started smearing ice cream all over each other. After, when we were cleaning up, the boy noticed that I still had a chip on my neck and moved to rub it off. It wasn’t a chocolate chip, but my beauty mark. I was mortified.”

She was mortified recalling the event and I was aroused. All this talk about “smearing ice cream on each other” and “rubbing it off.” I couldn’t wait to get home to my fiancée.

I was in need of a cold shower. Instead I downed my beer and stood to leave.

“You know that I am going to have to tell one of my buddies about this, right?”

“What’s that?”

“That I met this pretty hot chick in the airport bar and she told me a story about rubbing ice cream all over her body.”

She only smiled at her laptop screen.

I extended the handle of my wheeled carry-on and moved towards the exit of the bar.

“Just ‘pretty’ hot?” she asked loudly as I left.

“Should I upgrade you to really hot?”

She smiled at her laptop again.


Jeff Hawthorne earned his B.S. from The University of Oregon where he studied Theater Arts Design, and an M.Ed. from New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire. He lives with his wife in Santa Clara, California.

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