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“Sir, is this your bag?”
I smiled my best condescending smile and said, “No, actually it’s not.”
(Long pause for effect.)
“It’s my rig,” I replied smugly, doing my best to appear as though I thought that should explain things completely. What can I say? I’m an asshole and I hate the TSA.
In truth, I don’t really have a problem with authority when it’s thoughtful, intelligent, and designed to help and not hinder. Hence the reason I despise the TSA, and loathe everything they think they stand for. What I do love about the TSA is how fun and easy it is to confuse, annoy, and be downright rude to them, all without actually doing anything wrong.
“Well sir, we are going to need you to open this up for inspection” The TSA agent said as he pointed toward the reserve portion of my rig. Again the condescending smile. “Actually, no, you won’t.” As I handed him the CYPRES card provided with the unit, along with the printed TSA guidelines on skydiving equipment with AADs installed. He looked intently at the card and did what appeared to be his best impression of someone who knows what’s going on. He read the letter with “Transportation Security Administration” printed across the top. He looked at the card again, then the letter, then me, then he went and got his supervisor. The unlucky kid clearly had never been faced with someone who’d done their research before.
I managed, after about 20 minutes of explaining the purpose and construction of a reserve, along with the TSA guidelines I’d printed out, to get the manager to agree that the reserve could not be opened as it was lifesaving equipment and couldn’t be reclosed on site. He also grudgingly agreed that he couldn’t actually force me to check it either. I must have been a pretty pompous ass about winning my small battle over the reserve, because the manager obviously saw what I’m sure he thought was an amazing opportunity to get back at me for acting like a dick. “Well what about that section of the container? Can that be opened and then closed again?”
I pointed at the main pin and asked him quite clearly, “You would like me to open the main container for your inspection? Is that correct?” With an obvious smile on my face. The manager was clearly caught off guard by my apparent excitement over this prospect, but he’d cornered himself by asking in front of his subordinates and answered, “Yes sir that is exactly what I’d like you to do.”
One hundred and three square feet of a Performance Designs Velocity lay shining in its zero-porosity awesomeness in an already cramped security area in the Sacramento International airport. It was glorious! The manager had attempted to halt the impending disaster about the time the last stows were popped off the bag, but I pretended not to hear as I grabbed the tail and gave a good solid heave to expose my baby and completely cover the secondary screening area. The crowd was mixed between being amused and nervous to see what was now clearly a parachute lying on the ground as they prepared to fly away, and the TSA staff were at a complete loss. The manager actually had one of the agents take a wand over the parachute in an attempt to not look like a complete tool, but failed miserably and quietly asked me to put it away and go. You can imagine the smile I had on my face as I stood with my Velo draped over my shoulder, having used a pull-up cord to tie my leg straps to the metal TSA table to keep it from sliding around as I pro packed slower than when I was learning how. It was the most fun I have ever had with airport security!
I of course am not the only skydiver to run into serious problems with the TSA while traveling with gear. Take Barry Williams for instance … Yes, Barry, the wife of Blue Skies’ amazing columnist Sydney, and great professional AFF instructor. Barry’s problem isn’t gear related usually, but it’s a problem that emphasizes just how difficult and incompetent the TSA can be.
As a child, Barry had surgery performed to repair a rare genetic anomaly. He’d actually been born as a Tyrannosaurus rex, and required a surgeon’s assistance to give him a hip that worked more like a human’s. (You can actually see Barry revert to a T. rex. every time he drinks too much). The end result was that Barry ended up with a whole lot of metal down there, and now actually manages to set off the metal detector when he travels. To combat the issue, Barry carries with him not only a diagram of exactly what the screeners are detecting, but documentation from the surgeon detailing exactly what he had done, yet without fail TSA never listens.
I had the opportunity to witness the whole debacle firsthand on a flight he and I took to Alaska when we attempted to become crab fisherman on the Time Bandit (another story). As Barry approached the screener, he presented all the documentation he had concerning his hip, showed the agent that he not only had nothing in his pockets, but in fact no pockets, and then stepped through the detector, which of course went off, just as he said it would. On the second trip through the machine it went off, just as he said it would, and, “No, I still don’t have anything in the pockets I don’t have,” was the answer to the inevitable stupid question asked.
After the third trip through the machine, they moved to the one-on-one wand and pat down search, which is where things started to get really interesting. As they escorted Barry into the secondary screening area, he signaled to me that I should pay attention to what came next, and I thought, possibly signaled toward his junk. As the rather large and round bald man (he had to have weighed 275 lbs. at least), began the wanding, I thought that I perhaps noticed a bit of a, shall we call it a jiggle, in the basketball shorts which Barry wore as slacks (‘cause he’s on the short side) but dismissed it as a figment of my latent gay side’s imagination (which doesn’t actually exist). When it came to the pat down though, there was no more imagination needed.
First I noticed Barry’s face. It was beginning to look like the face Meg Ryan made in “When Harry Met Sally” when she started having the fake orgasm in the restaurant. He started making it before the TSA agent’s hands were lower than his arm pits. By the time the officer’s hands had reached Barry’s hips, he was not only audibly moaning, but the imaginary jiggle had turned into a rather prominent full-mast-fuck-ready boner which he was swaying back and forth very slowly so that everyone, including the TSA agent and all his coworkers, could see.
As it turns out, Barry is a master cocksman, with boner control well beyond that of most men. It seems that Barry can raise or lower his mast pretty much on command. A fact I’m sure Sydney can attest to! He explained to me that he’d been sprouting wood for TSA agents for years, because no matter how much he tried to explain to the TSA what the issue was, they always asked the same stupid questions, without any independent intelligent thought, and deserved having to stare at the business end of his baby maker while they slid their hands all around it. By the time we boarded the flight, we had not only had a hell of a good laugh at the TSA’s expense, but half a dozen girls had bought Barry a round at the airport bar, having seen his impressive display of manly control. As we boarded the aircraft, Barry, courtesy of the airport ladies, was most of the way back to T. rex. status!
The truth of the matter as I see it is quite simple. We need actual security at our nation’s airports, and not just the illusion of security. Which among us actually respects an authority figure so fat that he or she has physical difficulty getting out of the chair they have been planted in for hours? How are we to respect an organization that relies on metal detectors that require us to remove our rubber flip flops which must then be separately X-rayed to make sure that Billabong isn’t actually a terrorist cell? Who hasn’t seen someone’s 80-year-old grandmother being patted down by an obese woman who looks like a Smurf’s unmade bed? If the TSA wants us to respect the job they say they are doing, then how about starting to earn that respect! Stop putting some pimple-faced kid who barely managed to get his GED in a blue shirt and letting him pretend he’s the boss by being a rude little fuck, and put some real authority out there.
You give me an intelligent soldier type. Healthy, well-kept and carrying a gun, who can think independently and show respect to me and everyone else …Well that, my friends, is exactly what I’d give in return. RESPECT. Until that happens, the TSA will get nothing but disgust from me. And let’s face it folks, if that little old lady the fat chick is searching actually is a terrorist, we are all completely FUCKED!
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