Tuesday, November 23, 2010
book tour - strip searched in Oakland airport
I am in a rush. I have just given a talk in Oakland, California and I have to dash to the airport to fly all night so that I can arrive and give a talk in Niagara Falls, New York. I only have 38 minutes to get from venue to the plane. I am in a panic because I am sure there will be hundreds at my talk in Niagara Falls since my first book Too Close To the Falls takes place there. It is my home town. That always draws a crowd.What if I don't make the plane and the audience are all left looking at a blank podium. It will give new meaning to Thomas Wolfe's line You can't go home again. (Little did I know at the time,I actually had nothing to worry about. I had fewer people in Niagara Falls than I had in Oakland where I didn't know anyone.)
Breathless I arrived at the gate and threw my bag on the security belt. There were two pretty young girls in their early twenties in front of me and the security guard said, "have a nice trip girls" and smiled. I am next and the smile faded from his face and now he has gone from looking jovial, if a bit lecherous, to looking like he is doing a Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry imitation and he says, "Do you have any metal parts?" I say, as a joke, "Like that metal plate in your head?" as I walk into the frame where they check you over with the magic wand. Suddenly all of the machinery stops whirring. The conveyor belt is no longer running. The guard, a white haired male in his 60's like I am a white haired female in my 60's, glare at one another. He says "Come with me." I realize I have been, as my mother used to say to me, 'digging my own grave' I decide it is best to explain my 'humor'. I ask how come he didn't ask the girls in front of me if they had metal parts? If you can't do racial profiling how come you can do ageist profiling?"
He no longer looks at me or listens to me. I am now only a talking metal part to him. He motions to two very large black women and says only two words, Strip search. I am taken into a small room and as the woman pulls on her robin's egg blue gloves, she shakes her head and says "Who did you piss off?"
I emerge from the room assured that I will never feel the same way about robin's egg blue rubber gloves, and there is the bad Dirty Harry imitator. Now he calls me to the side of the conveyor belt and he has decided to go through my suitcase. He finds a number of copies of my book in the suitcase and asks in an accusatory tone "So you like to read I see? This was said as though we were in Turkey and he'd just found a kilo of hash. I nod in the affirmative. (Once you've had the blue glove treatment you learn humility.) He has a trainee with him and I can see he is showing off for him. He says, "How come you keep reading the same book?" ( further evidence he has a medal plate in his head) I explain that I wrote it and when he looks dubious, I show him my picture in the back of the book. He takes about five minutes to check out each detail.( There are so many Catherine Gildiner impersonators out there you can't be too careful.) Then he asks what the book is about and I say it is a memoir. Then he says "Who's it about?" When I say 'me' he laughs as though the idea of anyone reading about me is unfathomable. He shakes his head and says to the trainee, "It takes all kinds."
After all of this I have of course missed my plane. I run to the gate anyhow and lo and behold they are late loading so I get on. I am so late that everyone is all belted in. They think the plane waited for me. I say to the woman next to me "I was strip searched at security.". She just looks at me and says "TMI" and does not utter another word for the flight and the other people give me a stare that said 'what is wrong with you? You are not even a Muslim and you held up the plane.