The Room You Never Want to Go Into

Posted on December 5, 2010



 I seriously hate beating dead horses.  And I don’t know why anyone would want to do that anyway, but apparently there must have been a time in the past when people actually did beat dead horses, or the phrase never would have come into existence. Did they do it or fun on the farm? Or have some kind of horse-beating contest at county fairs? Or  believe that dead horses could come back to life or turn into killer zombies if you didn’t keep beating them?  But I digress.  Time to beat a dead horse.  This one about airport security.  I know I have already lost half of you who are tired of hearing about this issue.

 I left London this past Thursday.  I flew out of Heathrow.  When I checked in, the Virgin Atlantic rep frowned at my passport (I thought this was totally uncalled for.  Doesn’t everyone’s passport photo look like they just escaped from a mental institution?) but issued me a boarding pass anyway.

 I went through Security.  I set off the metal detector as usual (It’s tough not to when your body has so much metal in it that you could be your own auto show) and got subjected to the usual full body pat down for the amusement and edification of small children traveling with their parents.  At this point, I’m usually, as they say, “home free.” Not on this trip.  When I arrived at my gate, I was called aside.  My carry on suitcase was searched (Thank goodness my colorful Hanky Panky panties were on top, and not my food-encrusted clothing from feeding my grandson) and I was subjected to another full body pat down. 

 In Customs on US soil, the Customs Officer asked me a lot of questions and did a lot more frowning and mumbled something like “Well, they are going to ask you some silly questions, but you’ll just have to answer them.”  I wasn’t really paying attention because my body was, at that moment, having an unusually large reaction to having carried around my 30 plus lbs grandson for a week.  This consisted of all body parts suddenly going berserk with excruciating pain. 

 At the final checkpoint, I flashed my Customs Entry Card and said I was in a lot of pain, but aside from that, I had nothing to declare.  I started to walk through the exit and the Security Guard said, “Not so fast.  You have to go to that room over there,” and pointed to the extremely large “C” in magic marker that I had failed to notice, that was covering my customs card.

 The room that I was sent to looked exactly like some nightmare combination of the  DMV and Gitmo: Three lines (I was directed to Line C) and off to the side, at least 50 people who looked like they had been waiting there for most of their adult lives.  No bathroom, no water, no nothing.  There were about 100 suitcases piled up against the wall.  I’m a smart person, able to put two and two together and, under most circumstances, to come up with four or something darn close. This time, “four” equaled “really, really bad scene.”

 When it was my turn, after many minutes, I limped to the Large Security Officer.  We had the following exchange, as he carefully went through my passport and scowled numerous times at the computer screen:

Me: Uh, was I randomly chosen to go to this room?

LSO: No one is randomly chosen for this room.  We know why you are here, and believe me, you never want to be sent to this room.  Line A? Contraband goods. Fruit. Vegetables. Things like that. Line B? Documentation issues.  Line C? Well, let’s just say, “other” issues. Remember, we are the First Line of Defense for the United States.

Me (bowels loosening rather quickly): So what happens now?

LSO: Well, it seems your name triggered an alert in the system.  We have to eyeball you to make sure you aren’t the person we are afraid you are.

 I used mt remaining energy to try to look like a grandmother who had recently made Chanukah cookies with her grandson and was now writhing in arthritic pain.  Apparently, I succeeded.  I was able to leave The Room.  Gingerly.

 (Note to any terrorists by the name of Renee Fisher: If you could possibly change your name, I would really appreciate it.  Thanks.)