Hot stuff? No, just a security nightmare

Recently, I went on a little trip to New Orleans with some fellow students to go to a student media convention. The 15 of us knew that we were going to be searched at the airport, so we went two hours before our flight. Since we were in such a large group, Delta demanded to search us individually. The airport staff opened all of our bags and went through them one by one.

Now I understand that since the Sept. 11 disaster the airports have tightened security, but I am a horrible packer. When I pack a suitcase I wad everything up and stuff it in, then sit on it as I zip it up. You can almost hear the bag sigh with relief when I open it up when I get to my destination. It is also, of course, a little embarrassing. When the older female security officer opened my case and held up my pair of boxer shorts that read “HOT STUFF” around the band with little jalapeno peppers placed sporadically around them, I didn’t know what to say except, “Sometimes I wear those when I feel frisky.” She laughed, and then continued to look at my sock collection for the trip.

Now the most interesting part of the new security checks is the lottery check that every flight has instituted. Security randomly chooses five lucky seat holders to get their bags checked a second time. I’m proud to say that of the three flights that my group went on, I was checked an extra five times.

Imagine you’re at the airport, when you hear them saying this over the loudspeaker, “We will now be boarding for our direct flight to New Orleans. Will Passenger Miller please come up to the flight desk to check in? When I got up there a guy said, “Passenger Miller? Come with me.”

On my way to the “special” room I thought, “Maybe that woman thought my ‘HOT STUFF’ boxers were a security risk.” The employee was very nice, and explained everything to me about the security check. I was still a little frightened to walk into the room to hear the snap of a plastic glove being slipped on. I was relieved to find no gloves and no probing. It turns out that I was chosen by the flight’s computer that randomly chooses seat numbers for people to be checked again. At the Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Airport are the nicest and most professional of the security people that I have met. The New Orleans staff is a different story.

When we left New Orleans four days later, my bag was somehow even more filled, and since things were even more wadded I could even hear it expanding. As I checked my bags in, once again I won the lottery. (Maybe I should start playing Powerball more often.) “Mr. Miller, come over here so I can see those ‘HOT STUFF’ boxers with the little jalapenos on them.” I don’t know how he knew. Of course, he could have said something entirely different. (Cajun accents are like redneck accents with flair.) I warned the man that the suitcase was packed tightly. Rather than going through the entire suitcase like the Northern Kentucky Airport did, he just went through the first two layers of clothes. I felt sorry for the guy because the first two layers were just smelly socks and dirty boxers.

Next in New Orleans came the metal-detector people. They searched my briefcase, checked my ID, and wanded me. I thought the whole situation was over but, once again, I was called as a lottery winner. However, this time, there was no special room. The search was done behind the check-in desk. Since I work for WNTV, some of the student television station proteges wanted to capture this moment on tape. Apparently, the police did not see the humor in this. When they turned on that camera, they cried, “Security breach!”

Now, these people that were making the big deal about my friends with the camera, were not making a big deal about the actual security check. They did not check my ID. They just checked the plane ticket. They did not do a thorough check off the bag. They just opened it, saw that there wasn’t a bomb, and closed it. They didn’t even take anything out of the bag. I could have easily slipped a pair of box cutters in there. The New Orleans Airport staff was horrible at this.

We left New Orleans and went to Atlanta, where the extra security searches were done by random picking out of a crowd. So I didn’t get picked for the lottery this time. Hey, you can’t win them all. However, this was the first time I got to board the plane like everyone else. I almost stood in the wrong line, which would have sent me to Phoenix.

Now some final tips on being chosen for the extra security checks. Be happy. You won!! Remind yourself that you’re special. Not everyone gets the luxury of being hassled the entire time until the plane leaves. Next, be kind. These security people hate their jobs right now. Finally, be glad that they are doing it. Even though it did become annoying to me, what seemed to be, the one millionth check on the same bag, in the end I was glad they were doing it. Let these people do their job.

This little experience has led me to some conclusions. One, no one will be able to hijack an American plane for sometime now. Two, my boxers with “HOT STUFF” written on the band and the little jalapeno peppers all over them are quite popular. You should get some.