I'm from Mexico City and lived in the U.S. for a total of more than 24 years. Now I'm back in Mexico. I realized I was seeing my country through the eyes of a native stranger. This is an attempt to process the differences, to explain Mexico to the U.S. and the U.S. to Mexico. With digressions along the way.

martes, agosto 30, 2005

My Delightful Random Security Check at JFK

I was flying to Montreal last week when they pulled me aside for a random security check at JFK (for the second time that day). I wasn't even supposed to be in JFK, I was stuck there for supposedly 5 hours (actually 7 due to the delayed flight) thanks to the idiocy of United Airlines. I was already in a bad mood because another guy screwed by the airline yelled and insulted his way onto the next flight in first class, whereas I was on this stupid route that involved a couple more flights and got me in 10 hours later than I was supposed to be there. After having waited 30 minutes to get through regular security at JFK I was not surprised when they pulled me aside again--apparently this was to be the theme of the day.
But this was not to be your regular annoying random security search! Oh, no! This was to be the super annoying random security search in which I was asked to take out ALL my body piercings and go stand in line again! Needless to say, after laughing at their request, I refused.

I was stupid enough to volunteer that the reason the agent's magic wand was beeping near my breast was because I had "body piercings." So then she asked me what piercings I had. I'm not about to lie to these people as I value my freedom and am always at my most gracious when being searched. I answered that I had a nipple piericing and a...uh...genital piercing...which was already more specific than I wanted to get. I had gone through the random search with magic wand in the classic Leonardo position earlier that day, so I thought I'd quickly be shooed on. But no...the agent told me to sit down and wait, and she came back 5 minutes later with the announcement that I was going to have to take out the piercings. What the hell do they do to people who have a pin in their knee or a pacemaker? Surgery?
I told her no way, we're not talking about taking out earrings here...the tissue is delicate and last time I took one out for an X-ray it got infected. So she disappears again for a while and comes back with her supervisor, who sits next to me to "get down to my level" and tells me with a smug smile of pity that unfortunately, if I want to get onto that plane, my only option is to remove all my piercings.
"You've got to be kidding," I tell him. "I've had these piercings over 10 years. I've never had a problem. I travel a few times a year, and I was randomly searched this morning and there was no problem."
"Times have changed," he said.
"Since this morning???"
I told him I'd rather show him the piercings than take them out. "No no no!!!" he said horrified, "That's private!"

So I was sitting there for a while, not in a hurry at all and entirely willing to play this idiotic moment out, until I guess they got sick of seeing me there, and the guy came back and said he would "try" to find a female agent that was "willing" to look at my piercings. Ha ha. You do that, I thought, already starting to savor the story I would tell.

He disappeared and I never saw him again, because the original woman who searched me said "let's try this again" after I waited there for another 15 minutes, and she tapped her wand and waved it over me again. This time she didn't even get a reading on my nipple piercing. When she started waving the thing around my crotch it went off again, but I was like, what about the zipper of my jeans? If I hadn't told her I had a piercing there's no way she would have known it wasn't the zipper. It certainly has more metal than my little ring.
The agent then told me if I let her do a thorough pat-down she might be able to let me go. I was like, "grope away--anything so I don't have to take the damn things out." So she felt me up for a bit and then told me to have a nice flight.


Blogger Oliver said...

Geez, Nai, talk about violating! This is one of the reasons I don't fly--ever.

The joke of the deal is when they insist that "times have changed". NO, they HAVEN'T. The world is no different today than it was on Sept 10, 2001, except that we've had most of our freedoms stripped away and tens of thousands of people with brown skin are dead.

10:11 a. m.


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