Friday, April 8, 2016

Guatemala: You Are a Random

Airport in Mestia, Svaneti, Georgia. 2012.

I was on the first leg of my flight journey to Guatemala. Columbia, Missouri.

"You are a random," he said.

On one level, I loved this. It was all science-fictiony, like I was an android. Immortally frozen at a good age, of course. Intelligent. Everything smooth and shiny.

I also got that it's a lazy term of art within a particular profession, in this case, the Transportation Security Administration. Like psych staff might call a patient with a certain affliction "the catatonic down the hall" or an automotive job "the oil change in bay 2." Humanity stripped off.

Hologram at Istanbul, Turkey airport. 2011.

There were no buzzers or bells or lights that I saw when I walked through the scanner portal. It was something whispered by the machine only to the TSA agent, I guess. "She is a random."

OK, no problem. I got the full-body pat down and then another TSA agent swiped the palms of my hands with a round wipe cloth. Fascinating.

Something on the palms of my hands set off an alarm.

It changed my status from a random to an alarm.

This meant a thorough-thorough search of all pieces of my luggage, including wiping down the insides of my carry-on bag with one of the round wipes. I felt some trepidation at this, trying to remember where I might have been and what I might have packed in the bag in prior trips, trying to imagine what could rattle the security sensors. Berbere from Ethiopia? That incredible fish seasoning I brought back from Caucasus Georgia, given to me by friend Sandy, who'd received some from a friend with family from west Africa, who had carried it to Georgia after a visit to her relatives there? Svaneti salt?

Bole Airport, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 2011.

Final outcome: My brand-new tube of toothpaste was confiscated for being too large.

Security theater.

Airport cat at Baku Airport in Azerbaijan. 2012.

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