For those of you that haven't flown on a commercial airliner since 9-11, prepare yourself when you have to do so. Things have changed.
Last weekend, I decided to take a quick trip. I arrived at DFW airport about an hour and a half before my flight and immediately began to worry if I had allotted enough time. After finding a parking place (the first two rows of the lower parking garage level are still off limits - a practice that seems silly to me), I made my way to the terminal.
The first thing I noticed was a line. A very, very long line. And it's not at the ticket counter but at the metal detecting security area that was causing the bottleneck. After walking around confused for a minute or two, I finally found the end of darn thing.
So there I stood at the end of the line. I waited. Looked at the ceiling. Waited. Moved three feet. Waited some more. See a guy look at his watch in a panic. Waited some more. Checked out a hot girl. Waited. Moved one foot. Remembered that I had just turned forty. Got depressed. Moved two feet. Checked out an angry looking girl with "Princess" written on her shirt. Waited some more. Thought about the World Trade Center. Moved slightly. Listened to a mom chew out her bratty child. Moved two feet. Thought about the odds of anyone in the line having a weapon. Moved one and one half feet.
When I finally got close to the metal detector, an airport employee required me to display my ticket (you aren't getting near a gate without one) as well as a picture ID. If they don't match, you are not going through.
Then comes the metal detector. On this particular day, they must have had it jacked up to "Ultra Taliban Mode" because it was going off on everyone - including me. In the past, they would have just had you empty your pockets and walk back through. Not this time.
A kind gentleman asked me if I mind being "checked" by a woman.
"No problem," I said as I looked at Ms. Security who would soon be my personal inspector.
I walked over to her and she made me extend my arms out and spread my feet. She then ran a metal detecting wand all about my upright, spread eagle body. When it went off over my watch she felt around my cuff to make sure it was a watch. When it went off on a tiny eye contact packet I had in my pocket, she made me hand it to her so she could inspect it.
After the wand, Ms. Security suddenly patted me down over my clothes. (Even I began to feel a little awkward at this point. Heck, I'm just a U.S. citizen trying to get on a U.S. plane and go to another U.S. airport).
Then it got really weird.
"Sir, do you mind undoing your belt?" Ms. Security asked. The wand had apparently gone off while it hovered over my belt buckle (and it is a small buckle mind you, not one of those First Place in the Muleshoe Bull Riding Competition buckles), and Ms. Security needed to make sure I didn't have anything under my buckle. Without many options before me, I reached down and undid my buckle.
It got even weirder.
Pointing to the part of my pants that had been covered by the buckle, she asked "Do you mind if I check there?" I thought about making one of those "Do I have to buy you dinner first" jokes, but I'm no fool. I consented and there she went - pushing in on my abdomen. (I'm glad she didn't giggle as I tried to tighten my stomach muscles to impress her).
"Ok," Ms. Security says. "Now I need to check the soles of your shoes".
So I lean against the wall and raise the bottoms of both of my shoes (not at the same time, mind you). Even I was surprised when the magic wand went off again.
"Sir, would you mind removing your shoes."
The whole ordeal began to seem like a strange game of strip poker, but I was the only guy playing. I reached down and took off my shoes being thankful that I had on a relatively new pair of socks on. She grabbed them and walked away (presumably to run them through the baggage x-ray machine).
So there I was standing in a very busy terminal area at DFW where everyone and their dog had to pass by to get to their plane. As I stood there in my sock feet, I glanced down and realized that I still had my belt undone. I glanced around to see a woman smiling about twenty feet away. I gave her a little "how ya doin'" nod as I simultaneously fastened my belt. I don't get to do that every day.
After a minute or so my shoes were returned and I had to find a place to sit down as I put them back on.
That was it. I was free to go.
I looked around for Ms. Security but she had moved on to someone else. I felt so cheap. Not even a kiss good bye.