Test Case (Still Fear the "Man," I Guess)

Duff McKagan's column runs every Thursday on Reverb.
It is no secret that I fly a lot. It is also no small secret that I have a history with substance abuse, general mayhem, and public intoxication. You know this. I know this--and I fear that every cop worldwide knows this. TSA included.

God only knows what kind of databases "they" have on us all. Homeland Security, the FBI, CIA, DMV, Scotland Yard, local police forces, and TSA all get their info about us from these huge databases. We are screwed.

But I have lived a clean life lately, and I usually have no problems going through airport security and screening. I know the drill:

1) laptop out and in a bin

2) shoes off

3) empty your pants pockets (if you are going through the "body scan" type of thingy)

4) belt off

5) coat off

6) no liquids over 3 ounces, and the liquids that you DO have that are under that weight must be in a plastic bag

7) Some airports require you to take your Kindle out of your backpack, but others do not. The ones that don't require it actually get kind of mad when you do take it out--so be careful . . . you WILL get yelled at!

The attitude of the TSA workers varies widely from U.S. airport to U.S. airport. It is a great indicator of what the working environment must be like in those different airports. The trick is to not take any of this personally. If you travel as much as people like me, you even get to know what to expect at Dallas, Newark, JFK, SeaTac, and Burbank.

You'd think that the TSA would have one sort of "party line" and pretty much stick to it. You'd find yourself to be disappointed with that assumption, unfortunately.

Did any of you read about those TSA agents that they busted out in New York and New Jersey? Officers at Newark and JFK were busted stealing money, jewelry, iPads, and laptops from passengers either directly going through the security line, or were stealing out of their baggage down below. That kind of stuff has always kind of scared me in a whole other way. What if they planted something on me so that they could get a bust? Well, that is how MY brain works sometimes.

Some people just look a little out of the norm. Whether you are dressed religiously, like a hip-hopster, or are a tattooed love god such as myself (what?), you may be setting yourself up for a tad bit closer scrutiny by those at airport security.

I travel with the same backpack everywhere I go. It has all the stuff I need. Laptop, passport, good-smelling stuff, gum, Kindle, crossword puzzle book, throat coat spray, Ocean Spray (the secret for keeping healthy whilst breathing so many germs on planes). All of these tiny liquids are even too small to have ever registered in the "3 ounces or below" category, so in my backpack they have remained . . . for all of this time. Until last night at SeaTac.

As my bag went through the X-ray, I could see the person watching the screen call over a superior. They asked me if it was my bag. I nodded. They were going to have to run it through again. I eyed the guy closely as he carried it back to the belt . . . watching for him to "plant" something on me--or steal my beloved crossword book or laptop. But my heart started to speed up too. Shit. Are there some ancient drugs in that backpack? And even though this backpack is much newer than any old drug habit I've had, I went into a shaky paranoia. "They need to make a bust, and that bust is gonna come at MY expense. They are going to plant something on me!!" I started to think if I had a lawyer to call for my "one call" . . . 

As the officer brought the bag over to me and asked if it was all right to go through it, I thought to myself all the bad thoughts about what was certain to befall me. A public fall from grace. What would I tell my kids? How was I going to write Thursday's column for Seattle Weekly?

It turns out that after the 100 trips I have taken with this Ocean Spray and throat spray . . . that these were the culprits that were tripping up the X-ray machine. So that's it? THAT'S IT?!! It took you guys one hundred times to finally catch this? Hmmm.

I was irate when I finally got to the magazine stand. "Kardashians AGAIN?! Jessica Simpson does a scandalous pregnancy photo-shoot?" What's next? Contraception being included in health insurance?

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