Thursday, June 09, 2005

WPBT Vegas - Part I: Friday

3:32PM Friday, June 03, 2005

I’m sitting in gate E6 at the Lambert airport in St. Louis. My connecting flight to Vegas is running a half hour late, according to the Departure screens. Just got here. The flight from Chicago was fine – on time, and I got a window seat with nobody immediately next to me. Nice.

I’m trying to get myself excited, as Las Vegas touchdown is only a few hours away! It’s been a bit of a rough morning. It started off fine. I had a little bit of bad news right before we left for the airport. My friend’s cat died yesterday, and I hadn’t heard the story. Jing had been sick, but he was doing better. Now, you might think, so what? A cat? But this might have been the coolest cat in the world (and I have 3 cats of my own, so to say a cat is cooler than mine… well, you know). So my friend Deb had posted the story of what happened on her blog, which I read right before we left for the airport. It took all of my power not to cry. But, I didn’t, and we went on our way.

Randy and I went to IHOP for breakfast on the way to the airport. I had cream cheese stuffed French toast (holy crap, is it divine!) Then we headed out to Midway Airport in Chicago. I got a bit choked up as Randy dropped me off – not that I don’t want to go to Vegas, but I think mostly that Randy can’t go with me. I wish he was here.

I get inside and check my bags. That went fine. I’d done the internet check-in last night, and got the coveted “A” boarding group. See, I’m flying Southwest Airlines. They don’t assign seats. If you board in the “A” group, you get first pick at seats. I got to the security checkpoint, and a gentleman was walking around announcing that all laptops must be taken out of their cases, all cell phones must go through the x-ray, and that it was recommended that passengers remove their shoes. I’m wearing Converse All-Stars. Canvas and rubber. They’ve never set off a metal detector before (I’ve flown in them before). So, I didn’t take off my shoes.

I get to the front of the line, and the woman at the detector says, “take off your shoes, or else you risk being subjected to additional search.” I started to take my shoes off, but was holding up the line, and didn’t want to inconvenience everybody behind me. So I said, “that’s ok, they’ve never set off a detector before,” and walked through. They didn’t beep. The woman then got all smug with me and said, “alrighty! Your choice! Go stand over there for a search.” I said, “Why, I didn’t beep?” She said, “Doesn’t matter! You refused to take off your shoes,” all proud of herself for catching another one.

Fine. Whatever… I said, “Should I sit down and take off my shoes?” The search area was roped off and I was standing in people’s way. She said, “Nope, just stand there and wait.” OK…. 6 minutes went by, during which time I asked her why nobody said that removing shoes was mandatory. I’d have taken them off while waiting in line if I knew it was mandatory and not contingent on the metal detector beeping (like it was last month when I flew). She said, “Because it’s not mandatory.” I said, “So why am I being searched then?” She said, “Because you refused to take off your shoes.” I said, “They didn’t beep!!” She said, “That doesn’t matter. You refused.” I said, “But you said it’s not mandatory!!” She said, “I can’t force you to take off your shoes. I can only recommend that you do. You refused.”

I DIDN’T REFUSE!!! If it’s required that I either take my shoes off in line, or take them off in the extra screening, that means there’s no way I can go through that checkpoint without taking off my shoes. Therefore, it’s mandatory that I take off my shoes. If I’d have been TOLD that it was mandatory, or there had been a SIGN saying something to that effect, I’d have removed my shoes!!

That wasn’t even the part of this episode that upset me. This snotty woman did the same thing to another guy who was, like me, trying not to hold up the line. He asked similar questions in confusion, and as we waited, he got taken into the screening area immediately, while I stood there, in the way, waiting some more.

Still not upset – wait for it….. here’s what got me. As I stood there worried about my laptop sitting there open on the security belt, too far away for me to do anything should someone choose to attempt to steal it, the security scanning woman finally arrived. She was very nice, and gave me a speech about how if at any time I feel uncomfortable, I can request a private screening. OK…. I don’t know what about taking off my shoes would be uncomfortable, but whatever. She then proceeds to use the metal detector wand on me. Nothing unusual. Until she gets to my pockets. The rivets on my jeans set off the detector, and I pulled my pockets inside out to show there was nothing in them. My back pockets, however, cannot be turned inside out, and she had to stick her hands down my pockets – “with the backside” of her hands, of course, so it should be perfectly acceptable. Alright…. Weird but whatever. Then we get to the front of my body. The underwire in my bra set off the detector. She asked if I was wearing an underwire bra, and I said yes. She proceeded to feel me up under my breasts to verify that it was my bra. Now I see why she suggested a private screening! I’m standing in a glass room wide open to all of the passengers passing through the security checkpoint, and this woman is fondling my chest – “with the backside” of her hand, of course. If that wasn’t bad enough, then comes my jeans again. I had to UNZIP my pants in front of everybody for this woman to examine the front button on my jeans.

At this point, I’m feeling completely violated, and watching the snotty woman from the checkpoint line snicker at people was just the last straw. Next thing you know, as I’m waiting for the second woman to come back with my WALLET and shoes (which required x-ray), I had tears streaming down my face. The woman asked if I was OK, and I told her I was fine, just upset about leaving somebody behind (which was part of it), but I was just shaken up by the whole thing. I know, stupid, but I couldn’t help it. I try my very best to respect people and treat them well, and that first woman was just completely awful. She was enjoying this whole process of tricking people into having to go through this extra search.

Sometimes, people suck.

So I’m not feeling very happy right now, though I’ve gotten over the crying and am probably being a little too sensitive here. I took a nap on the flight from Chicago to St. Louis, and plan to do some reading on this last leg of the flight.

Hopefully, I can cheer myself up in time for landing in Vegas!

Time to get in line for boarding….

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  1. April said...
    Unbelievable! I had no idea you went through that crap at the airport. I would've been crying too. Of course I would have been crying as I was being arrested for assaulting that first lady. Someone needed to smack her up-side the head! ;)
    Human Head said...
    O. MY. FUCKING. GAWD. I can't believe that happened, o waitaminute, yes I can, it's the TSA. I can't believe you didn't make the biggest scene in the world, get supervisors, directors, do what you gotta do, people like that shouldn't be allowed to breathe the same air!

    OK...cooling off now...Man, I'm sorry you had such a shitty time, if I would have known, you wouldn't have bought a single drink while I was around.

    It was fantastic getting to meet you! The Mrs. and I are both very sad we didn't get to hang out more, and come hell or high water we will at the next one! Thanks again for the astrology reports, they were lots of fun to read while we recovered!
    Felicia :) said...
    I hate St. Louis. Your story is so believable, having been born and raised there. The attitude is so xenophobic it reeks.

    I never would have tolerated this, but I am not you. I refuse to fly anymore, and made it clear to my carrier the last time I flew.

    As far as your overtipping, well, I'm not in favor of that. I think of everything in terms of being a winning poker player, or a losing poker player. Constantly tipping someone 25-33% will make it virtually impossible to be a winning player. You can't really win even if you win, yanno? It's a lose/lose proposition.
    Maura said...
    I'd like to second everything April said. That first lady is a bitch bully and enjoys pushing people around, I'd guess. So sorry you had to endure that.

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