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Getting to Portland from Atlanta is a lengthy proposition. Getting back to Atlanta is a slightly less lengthy proposition, if one does what I did and misses one's flight.

On the return trip, I was scheduled for three layovers and a total of nearly twelve hours in transit. However, I managed to miss my flight, and as a result flew standby on a one-layover route that was about two and a half hours shorter. So, win!

In fact, if that's what I can expect, I may have to miss my flights more often.



Portland itself was a blast. On top of being able to spend ten days with my sweetie zaiah (and what could top that?), I got an opportunity to meet a bunch of folks I've known for a long time online but never met in person before, and a chance to catch up with the_xtina for a bit, and even made some new friends (waves to gidget23. More on that later.

First, I'd like to take a few minutes to talk about our friends in the TSA.

Now, these folks have an important job. They help calm nervous travelers by providing the illusion of security at airports. Mostly, they do this by sifting through baggage all day long. It's a thankless task; and it's hard to imagine that they don't get cynical about it.

Realistically, the odds of a plane being blown out of the sky by a terrorist bomb are about the same as the odds that your grandmother can beat Mike Tyson in a no-holds-barred steel death match, armed with nothing more than a bent straw and a plastic spoon from Taco Bell. I'm sure there's a grandmother or two out there who can do it, and planes have been brought down by bombs, but seriously...is it going to happen? Really? Don't hold your breath.

These folks have never seen a bomb, they will never see a bomb, and they know it. But they still gotta sit there for eight hours a day anyway.

Alright, alright, yes, I know. Part of the point is deterrence. They don't find bombs in luggage because the fact that they're looking for it means that the folks who might have the urge to blow up airplanes don't put bombs in luggage, 'cause they know it won't work.

But bear with me a minute, here.

These guys have a boring and mostly pointless job (save for the deterrence effect), and they need some way to amuse themselves while they're manhandling checked luggage through oversized X-ray machines. Which they get by putting notices like the one on the left into your baggage to tell you that they've served the national interest by checking your underwear to make sure that it won't blow up or, I don't know, invade France or something.

And I suggest for your humble approval the notion that they do not select the baggage to search at random.

I found the note shown here in my suitcase when i reached Portland. Now, a quick X-ray plainly showed there was nothing in my luggage that could possibly go boom--not that TSA screeners necessarily have the foggiest notion of what a bomb looks like, but still.

They had, however, completely removed every single item from my suitcase. Including, among other things, a pair of handcuffs, all my clothes, a heavily modified Feeldoe, a box of rubber gloves, my entire collection of floggers, ten rolls of vet wrap, my toothbrush, and a box of sterile needles.

Not only that, but they unrolled my flogger case to see what was inside. (I carry them in this nifty case that lays down flat and has slots and elastic tie-downs to hold all the floggers, then rolls up into a cylinder that can be slung over a shoulder.)

Not only that,, but they had removed the floggers from the case. I know all this because the floggers had been replaced in an entirely different order, and my bag had been completely re-packed.

And re-packed quite a bit more neatly than I'd done it to begin with, too, but that's beside the point.

I submit, Gentle Reader, that within seconds of opening my bag, the TSA screeners knew beyond question that there was nothing in there that goes bang, boom, pow, kablooey, or even makes a low but sinister hum. I also submit that they continued to unpack my things anyway, simply because it amused them to do so. As proof of this idea, I propose that it is not necessary to remove a flogger from its carrying case to ascertain that it is not, in fact, a threat to national security, foreign relations, the national budget, or to anything else save perhaps the backsides of certain people who will remain nameless at this time.

I have visions of the TSA employees holding up the various objects in my suitcase and asking "What do you suppose this is for?" or chasing one another around with them (ah, the hilarious hijinks at the airport!) or something. All in the name of national security, of course.

And I can't help but wonder why it is exactly that these guys get paid on my dime.

And how much they make. 'Cause, y'know, if they're going to be doing shit like that, and getting paid for it, I want some of that too. Smart security saves time!

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Comments

( 52 comments — Leave a comment )
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mudcub
Feb. 5th, 2009 10:08 pm (UTC)
I'd unroll everything, too. I know I'd love to look at S&M toys all day. Ooh, look! Pretty floggers!

Maybe they were looking for contact information or an email to... you know... make a pass.
tacit
Feb. 6th, 2009 12:07 am (UTC)
*snerk* They work for the gummint...surely they could find me if they wanted to.
joreth
Feb. 5th, 2009 10:08 pm (UTC)
Immigration in the Bahamas seemed awfully confused by my own checked bag when it went through the scanner, but they searched it in front of me. They pulled out my switchblade, announced "pocket knife!" and tossed it back in. Then they pulled out my Hitachi Magic Wand, held it up, looked it over, then asked me what it was. I said, as loudly as they asked, "it's a vibrator". The woman quickly put it back in and closed up the bag.
spiralflames
Feb. 5th, 2009 10:14 pm (UTC)
hi-larious. those airport dudes, they love them some BDSM equip.

PS they make barely above minimum wage- they're employed by a security co, not the gov or an airline. so it's the only benefit they get...
ambar
Feb. 6th, 2009 08:09 pm (UTC)
When I was working for the TSA in 2002, I was making $15+/hr.

One reason they might have to go completely through a bag is if the trace detector alerts. The trace detector likes to go off at chemical fertilizers. Everyone who has ever checked baggage for the TSA passionately hates golf bags.

Also sure ways to get your baggage a TSA encounter: tangled wires, batteries, peanut butter, dense shiny paper (like expensive science texts).
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
Re: National Security Threats - tacit - Feb. 6th, 2009 12:07 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Re: National Security Threats - tacit - Feb. 6th, 2009 02:12 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: National Security Threats - winterlady - Feb. 6th, 2009 12:56 am (UTC) - Expand
xaotica
Feb. 5th, 2009 10:30 pm (UTC)

my ex-boyfriend had that happen and a nun costume was stolen.
it was on our way back from a trip to chicago where he'd been doing an art show that involved an inflatable love doll and a nun costume.

i was outraged, but he was endlessly amused by the mental image of the tsa person wearing his nun costume.
delphinea
Feb. 5th, 2009 10:57 pm (UTC)
It isn't a threat to foreign relations, but it just might improve a few!
tacit
Feb. 6th, 2009 02:14 am (UTC)
Heh. It might at that... Not with TSA, though.
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tacit
Feb. 6th, 2009 02:22 am (UTC)
You know, I think I might pass on trying that out...
(no subject) - expection0 - Feb. 6th, 2009 03:39 am (UTC) - Expand
ashbet
Feb. 6th, 2009 12:03 am (UTC)
I will never forget opening my suitcase to find one of those notices . . . and my size 40F bra laid out neatly across the top, as if on display.

CrEEEEEpy.

-- A (needless to say, I WASHED EVERYTHING before wearing it again!)
tacit
Feb. 10th, 2009 09:42 pm (UTC)
Wow. Hard to know what's worse--someone pawing through your sex toys or through your underwear. 'Bout the only thing that'd be creepier is if some of the underwear was missing.
darkersunshine
Feb. 6th, 2009 12:07 am (UTC)
I totally agree and understand! The vision of them pulling them out and going "Hey Jerry....come here!.....Now....turn around........" cracks me up.

Then you think about the fact that they get paid for all that and it makes you wonder if their job sucks or if it's awesome.
polylizzy
Feb. 6th, 2009 12:56 am (UTC)
My luggage arrived at my home 24 hours after I did after I flew to and from Pittsburgh for a fetish party. Theme was fantasy. I had carefully curled a pair of 4ft fairy wings into the BOTTOM of the suitcase (even used my moms old American Tourister because it was SQUARE). Get home, have that note, and the wings are carefully squished on top, Vibrator batteries were DEAD (weren't even traveling IN the thing, they had been inserted and used) and my toothbrush was missing.

I am pretty sure I CAN visualize something with all of that....BUT I really don't want to.

But everything was packed in better than I had managed also.
tacit
Feb. 10th, 2009 09:54 pm (UTC)
Eww. That brings to mind images better left unvisualized.
winterlady
Feb. 6th, 2009 12:59 am (UTC)
So my logical brain ticks in. Floggers have cylindrical handles. From a security perspective, it could house things such as drugs or components.

*sigh* sometimes I don't like my brain very much. Cuz your version sounds much more fun.
tacit
Feb. 10th, 2009 09:55 pm (UTC)
Hmm. I wonder about that--it seems to me an X-ray would show the handles were solid all the way through, no? (I've never seen an X-ray of a flogger so I don't know.)
gidget23
Feb. 6th, 2009 01:10 am (UTC)
/me waves hi back!
phantom_man
Feb. 6th, 2009 01:42 am (UTC)
Ya' know? Given the chance, I'd give some of those floggers a test drive, myself. Just a little quality control, no extra charge.

Seriously? I submit that it is impossible to hijack a plane, now. The passengers would tear a would-be terrorist to pieces. And, BTW, the seat cushion that turns into a flotation device, also turns into a really good shield.
tacit
Feb. 10th, 2009 09:57 pm (UTC)
That's one of the more interesting things about security, I think--it seems to me that security policies are always looking at the last threat, not the next threat.

I definitely think the era of hijacking a plane is over. The WTC attacks were a one-shot deal; that tactic will never work again. Might as well let people carry fingernail clippers and pocket knives on board--the era when you can use somthing like that to hijack an airplane is done.

On the other hand, I know I'd feel a whole lot safer if we did what a lot of other countries are already doing--make sure that every piece of luggage on a plane is matched to a person also on that plane, and screen all air cargo at the point of loading rather than relying on cargo shipping services to do the screening.
(no subject) - phantom_man - Feb. 10th, 2009 11:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
illicitlearning
Feb. 6th, 2009 02:40 am (UTC)
I received the very same notification on a trip to visit my boyfriend in Seattle. It was laid rather pointedly on top of my own interesting collection of toys, so I'm inclined to agree with you.

But, y'know, I don't blame them much. With a job that boring, I'd start getting nosy, too. Until they actually screw them up (the person whose vibrator had been used? agh!) I'm happy to make them a bit curious :P
tacit
Feb. 10th, 2009 09:58 pm (UTC)
On a trip to San Francisco, I once found one of those notifications--not in my suitcase itself, but in the separate, zippered sex toy bag inside the suitcase. I'm sure that was no accident.
teague
Feb. 6th, 2009 03:29 am (UTC)
Now I officially want to put a ziplock back of small squeek, or windup toys in my luggage the next time I fly, with a note saying, "Gratis, for your stress. Have one." And see if they disappear.
tacit
Feb. 10th, 2009 09:59 pm (UTC)
Heh! If you do, let me know what happens!
afterannabel
Feb. 6th, 2009 03:40 am (UTC)
I never before thought about airport security people actually wearing or playing with my checked baggage. I am never checking anything again.

I want underwear that invades France.

How did you modify the feeldoe?
tacit
Feb. 10th, 2009 10:03 pm (UTC)
No, you really don't want underwear that invades France. You really, really don't.

As for the Feeldoe, it had a hole bored down the center (which was a big pain in the ass, as silicone has a fractal stress geometry) which is connected to a small hand pump, so it can be made to squirt. zaiah liked that idea rather a lot. :) What sounded like a simple idea ended up taking days (and several new tools) to implement, though.
fictional_slut
Feb. 6th, 2009 08:43 am (UTC)
My husband and I had a run-in with Customs coming into Australia (he's American, I'm Australian, we live in Australia). We didn't have much, just a pair of handcuffs. Us, two customs officers, one pair of handcuffs.

About ten minutes into the conversation, Customs-dick accused my husband of being a rapist. He then told us we were lucky to be walking out; other Customs guy, non-dick, just sorta shrugged as though to indicate 'he gets like this'.

All I can think is, how small was the jerk's dick?

quaryn_dk
Feb. 6th, 2009 09:18 am (UTC)
I'm married to a Dane, and on one trip to the US sans husband, the questioning rigamarole at customs (How long have you been in Denmark? I live there. Why do you live there? I'm married to a Dane.) culminated in him asking "Couldn't be bothered to marry an American guy, huh?" *grrrrr* I just smiled and said something like, "Well, you never asked..."
(no subject) - tacit - Feb. 6th, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zaiah - Feb. 6th, 2009 10:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
quaryn_dk
Feb. 6th, 2009 09:16 am (UTC)
I still find myself wondering why the Danish equivalent of TSA felt the need to confiscate the knitting kit out of my *checked* luggage. Especially annoying, as I'd gotten most of the way done on one sock for my BiL... >
fla_sunshine
Feb. 6th, 2009 03:20 pm (UTC)
"They help calm nervous travelers by providing the illusion of security at airports."

I've heard this referred to as "security theater".

I've had my luggage searched, but it was sadly all boring stuff.

jcbemis had her laptop moved off the conveyor belt by a security person to a table that was not covered by the security camera while she was being hand searched out of sight of the laptop (she has a metal knee replacement and travels with a wheelchair). Surprise..when the search was over her laptop was missing. A police report was filed, but apparently noone could be held responsible 9not even the police who never coughed up a copy of the police report.
sbernard16
Feb. 6th, 2009 06:32 pm (UTC)
Confessions of an Ex Canadian TSA Person
I used to be one. Many amusing things we found, many things we confiscate (buckets of stuff), and yes we do see bombs in training. We also have tests that happen while we screen real people. I've seen bombs, grenades, guns all disarmed for test purposes (with the exception of the CIA agent who came through with a gun in a briefcase, that was live).

True the job has it's sucky moments (especially when irate fliers start yelling at you for taking their pocket knife), but you can learn a lot about a stranger when you look in their bags. lol And you also learn GREAT packing methods.

Thought about the items in your bag, and I can sort of see why they would have opened it. Densely packed organic materials, if it was next to anything with a battery/wires that would have set off an auto detection or suspicion system in the EDX system (large bag xray) and flagged it.
tacit
Feb. 10th, 2009 10:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Confessions of an Ex Canadian TSA Person
True the job has it's sucky moments (especially when irate fliers start yelling at you for taking their pocket knife), but you can learn a lot about a stranger when you look in their bags. lol And you also learn GREAT packing methods.

I bet you can learn rather a lot from someone's suitcase, now that I think about it.

Though part of what mystifies me about my own luggage is that, despite the very large number of various Implements of Destruction I was carrying, none of them used batteries or had wires. And my bags didn't get a hand search on the return trip.
skitten
Feb. 6th, 2009 09:20 pm (UTC)
*rofl* when I got to this paragraph:
Realistically, the odds of a plane being blown out of the sky by a terrorist bomb are about the same as the odds that your grandmother can beat Mike Tyson in a no-holds-barred steel death match, armed with nothing more than a bent straw and a plastic spoon from Taco Bell. I'm sure there's a grandmother or two out there who can do it, and planes have been brought down by bombs, but seriously...is it going to happen? Really? Don't hold your breath.

I knew it would be good even before it gt to the trulky funny stuff ;)
bless you for sharing! *hehehe*
jonnymoon
Feb. 6th, 2009 09:45 pm (UTC)
"And I can't help but wonder why it is exactly that these guys get paid on my dime."


You can actually ask this question about any government job...especially now that Democrats are in power. So far, all I can figure is that they get paid WAY more than they are worth, just so they can figure out how to dole out tax money to other people who are not worth it either.

Despite all my phonecalls to them to tell them NOT to spend $900,000,000,000, I think they're going to ramrod it right up our @SSes anyway.

(In retrospect, I suppose using that expression may defeat my point...I meant it as a BAD thing. Just so you know.)
tacit
Feb. 10th, 2009 10:20 pm (UTC)
Despite all my phonecalls to them to tell them NOT to spend $900,000,000,000, I think they're going to ramrod it right up our @SSes anyway.

I thought that was the Bush administration's doing?
(no subject) - jonnymoon - Feb. 10th, 2009 10:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
the_xtina
Feb. 7th, 2009 01:40 am (UTC)
So you're moving here, yes?
tacit
Feb. 10th, 2009 10:20 pm (UTC)
It looks that way, yes.
mseuphrates
Feb. 21st, 2009 07:44 am (UTC)
On the *other* end of the spectrum, my mate and I had to wait for a friend to meet us at the public library in Columbus OH last March (easy meeting point, easy to find,hadn't met face to face before, etc). We were in Columbus for a weekend with our ladylove (who's since moved down here), and we hadn't landed at the hotel yet, so we had all our luggage with us. And of *course* Columbus Public Libraries conduct searches of all bags. :) My mate put his duffle bag up, and unzipped it. On top - rope, zip ties, and the flogger our ladylove made for us in December. Security dude didn't even TOUCH it, just said "Okay, that's enough" and shooed him along. Didn't even *check* the "minister's kit" (his "Bob" messenger bag). :D Which would have been even *more* interesting.

Just goes to show midwesterners are prudes. LOL
tacit
Feb. 21st, 2009 05:51 pm (UTC)
Now that's amusing. So apparently, the key to smuggling contraband is to put a flogger on top of it.
(no subject) - mseuphrates - Feb. 21st, 2009 07:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
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