It was almost a two-hour drive to Kennedy airport yesterday. The driver cursed the entire way in a language I am glad I don’t speak. I was later than I like to be for check in. Then of course there is always the TSA to deal with.
I am carrying Bob and Squeaky with me on the plane in a specially designed case that fits easily in the overhead. (Basically it is the Punchinello parts of both guys, the workings, so to speak) I have traveled over 2.5 million miles on American Airlines alone, and probably half that many miles on other major airlines, carrying this case. Until yesterday I was never identified as a threat.
They are confused by the x-ray and want to do an explosives test on my case. That usually means they run a cloth over the handle and latches and if it comes up negative you are on your way. This is not uncommon in my experience. Few people have ever seen inside the workings of a vent puppet before. It can look strange.
The test is of course negative. However, I see the very large lady (I did not know they could make a TSA uniform that big) start to open the latches while the case is up right. This means the heads will fall and bang on the table if she continues. I gently lay the case on its side and she informs me that I am not allowed to touch the case. She continues but she can’t open it without the combination to the lock. She allows me to unlock it and I open it in the right position.
With as much charm as I can muster I say these are puppets and they are very valuable and fragile if not handled correctly. I would appreciate her caution, consideration and care. I have been through this drill countless times before, usually without incident. Most of the time I am able to strike up a conversation with the screener and trade a joke or two. This screener, however, looks at me like I am her next meal, which will have to be killed before consumed.
She wipes the control stick of each puppet with a motion that makes the mouth trigger snap open and closed. I ask her once again to be careful. She doesn’t respond. My charm is not working. She is treating me like I am being booked into LA County Jail. This explosive test is negative. I figure I will be on my way. Not so.
She starts to grab for Squeaky’s eyes to pull him out of the case. I stop her hand and say once again that this will damage the puppet if she continues. She tells me that I need to back off and not touch anything. She calls a supervisor over. I think perhaps I will spend my last New York night in custody.
The supervisor is much nicer. We have an instant rapport. I explain, she asks me questions about ventriloquism. She has heard I am in town doing a Broadway show and she lets me lift the heads so they can look under them with out damage. The fat lady says nothing and is still pissed off about something. The test again is negative for weapons of mass destruction.
The supervisor leaves. I figure I am finally done but the fat lady starts to slam the lid of the case before the guys are in position. I stop the lid with my hand and say, “If you are all done I will close it up.” She says, ”Sir I am here for your safety.” I say “And, Lady, I’m here for their safety.” She pushes the case toward me and walks away.
Now I don’t want to do this fat lady’s job, but apparently neither does she. I am glad to cooperate in any way I can to keep airplanes safe, I travel on them a lot, but can’t we all just get along here. It’s bad enough that every traveler must submit to a search and be presumed guilty until proven otherwise. But I draw the line when my instruments are placed in jeopardy by a disgruntle, under trained, personality deficient, search monkey with no regard for other peoples possessions.
Merry Christmas TSA lady, don’t forget Santa still keeps a list.
As you were,