The TSA Wants to Know What’s On Your Hands
ADAM MICHAEL LUEBKE
If it wasn’t for having to set up the Dear Dirty America Reality Tour in North Dakota by late July, I wouldn’t have been in the airport. But there I was, stuck in the TSA line, waiting to get the nod of approval before being turned loose to find my gate. Even though in a recent test, the TSA missed 95 percent of the weapons, explosives and banned items that were sneaked through, it’s still essential they check you before you fly.
What a strange lot the TSA is. A motley crew of friendly folks, pedophiles, and hardened criminals. It’s mandatory you run into one of them for your own safety, but you never know which one you’re going to run into before your flight.
And neither did the rest of the reddened, ruddy faces that waited behind me. I always like a straight flight out of Los Angeles to North Dakota because mostly I fly with humble people. Descendants of Germany and Norway, whose ancestors had worked the prairie land and lived in sod huts before turning the major forts and watering holes like Bismarck and Fargo into mini-meccas of blissful corporate shopping.
I wondered why the security line was moving so slowly. Isn’t a planeload of North Dakotans flying home from a vacation or convention or sports tournament in Los Angeles the least threat to security the United States has ever faced? Yet, on my trip to the Midwest to visit my family and kick off a very important business venture in the upper Heartland, I noticed an extra security measure in place that made our line crawl like a wounded snake lurching under a sizzling electric fence.
Keep your heads down and your tongue out, folks, and we’ll make this as painless as possible.
A man so large he could play Jabba the Hutt with just a slight tweaking of his caloric intake was grabbing each of our hands and wiping a gauzy fabric over them. He would set the paper over a sensor and wait. Then he’d nod. I’d never had to take such pre-security measures before getting microwaved in the body scanner.
I’d heard about the hand-wiping before, but had never seen it in action.
I once told a finely-dressed Chinese man that it was put into place by Homeland Security to check how many people were washing their hands after going to the bathroom. The Chinese man’s eyebrows nearly turned vertical at that. I could see him wondering if maybe he’d misunderstood me.
“Hygiene is a big deal in the US, and you’d better get accustomed to it now. We’re in post-911 days. Carrying fecal matter on your palms because you didn’t scrub well enough after being in the bathroom is considered a public danger. It simply won’t be tolerated, unless you’re Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld or Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Nobody checks their underpants for hygiene or wipes their hands for suspicious bacteria.”
“But what if yous shakes hands with another?” he asked me, “just before they check?”
I shook my head. “Then it’s tough titty, man. Either we all hang together or hang separate. Either everybody’s clean or nobody is. Unless, of course, you have the VISA Black Card, then they might take it easier on you. At least that’s what VISA implies.”
So when my turn came, the overweight gentleman was kind. He caressed my hand with the gauze and we waited for the computer to analyze it. But the seconds went by and I didn’t get a nod. I glanced behind me wondering if anybody noticed. I saw a crowd of green and yellow NDSU Bison hats tucked over short blond hair, and one older man who was facing the opposite direction and talking to an old woman wore a jacket with a large patch sewed into the back that read: NORTH DAKOTA CENTENNIAL 1889-1989.
“What’s on that thing?” I asked the TSA agent.
“Oh nothing,” he said. “It’s just used to pick up traces on your hands.”
“Traces of what?” I asked.
“Explosives or drugs,” he said.
SEE ALSO TSA Dogs Find Drugs & Ham Sandwiches
Why wasn’t he giving me the nod? I knew very little about drugs and nothing about explosives, unless you can count that period during the teenage years when I’d dump gasoline on the highway and throw a match on it to hear the whoosh.
I started to get nervous.
What if the dollars I’d used to tip the Nigerian Enterprise shuttle driver had cocaine worked into their tightly woven fabrics and had tainted my fingers? It’s risky business at the airport if you’re innocent.
What if the driver’s hand had explosives on it? I’d shaken it and said, “Smooth sailing, pal, thank you.” Maybe he was building a device in his home in Inglewood to rock a white church somewhere in the Pacific Palisades in retaliation for the Charleston massacre. How would I explain that when the machine cursed me with an angry beep as it read my wipe?
Actually, that’s an absurd premise because there are no overtly religious people in the Pacific Palisades. But there are buildings with columns painted so white they look like giant wedding cakes. You’d think they were churches, but rather they are rented out weekly for LA County business moguls to give thanks to the dark spirits that relay information from the Unseen to help eager men and women who wish to excel in this life coordinate the most lucrative deals before regular people even get up in the morning.
Once or twice a year they sacrifice a baby or a goat or both because if you understand the metaphysics of Satan as well as someone from Goldman Sachs’ executive team does, you’ll understand Satan likes that. Mangling a baby while you’re wearing a business suit gives the Prince of Darkness a charge like lighting a gallon of gasoline spilled all over the empty North Dakota highway did for me.
In the upper echelons of the business world, Satanic politics is more politely called Getting Ahead & F–cking the Rest, and it’s a well-known practice especially in California, New York City, and Florida, and it’s one that Jeb Bush is trying to flush from his CV as he ramps up his run for Supreme Commander of the United States of America. And just think, What does he have on his hands that would startle a TSA agent?
Finally, the TSA agent gave me a nod. But how to read a nod after such a long, drawn out moment of suspense? “Am I being detained?” I asked. “What did it say? Am I guilty? I’ve already pinpointed how it happened, so just give me a second here to explain.”
The agent gave me a peculiar look. He nodded again, and again when I didn’t move. “Move forward,” he said, “you’re holding up the line.”
“Well, shoot,” I said. “That was easy.”
[TSA photos in public domain, found at Wikimedia Commons]