Well, never did I think I would be writing as radically as I intend to write in this letter. I had a WONDERFUL time in Florida, which I'll write about later. This particular blog is about right and wrong and a cry and protest and alarm in regard to what is happening in our country.
I have read our citizens' worry papers about our loss of freedom as American Citizens. I didn't think much about it. I have gladly supplied many TSA agents with months worth of fingernail clippers, writing pens, lapel pins, stiff paper nail files (I don't use metal ones) and have even submitted to having my breasts patted down because my underwires apparently set off an alarm. But, I figured this was minor compared to being blown up in the air by foreigners who were in the US without proper visas, and who apparently waltz through security easily. (But wait a minute, on June 1, did I look particularly middle eastern? All six foot two of my plump 61 year old grandma self?) Was the stuffed animal goodbye present from my tearful grandson suspected of being full of methamphetimine to pay for my elder care? Or what?
I did swear that the breast pat down was one insult I would not submit to ever again. Picture the ramifications of making old ladies board airplanes without underwire bras on - their boobs drop and suddenly turn into deadly weapons, possibly even WMD!!!!!! Or, old lady surrepticiously takes stitches out of underwire bra, extracts same underwire and pokes a stewardess. Heavens! Off with her head! (Or breast.) Hey, how about on-board masectomy for the elderly?
As I went through clearance at the Pensacola airport on Thursday, June 1, 2006, my camera bag and my purse were taken from me and dug through and emptied, not once, not twice, but thrice. An inch and one-half metal rounded dark room tool that opens film cannisters so you can develop the film was taken from my camera bag by a Gestapo agent in the guise of a security agent and I was informed that I had a knife. Not only a knife, but a "concealed weapon." "Ok, no problem, keep the thing if you want it, but PUHLEESE quit going through my bags - my credit cards were tumbled about, my PDA, my memory card, my personal items were in jumbles, phone cords tangled - PUHLEESE, I am getting close to boarding, I need to get on the plane, I want to hold my credit and bank cards while you do this." "I want to see a supervisor." A bald, fat, redneck informed me he WAS the supervisor. "Uh oh." Then they spied my key ring - an old horse blanket pin about 3 inches long with a dull end that won't even poke through cloth anymore upon which multitudes of keys hung. They took my keys off, threw them on the counter and sneering, proudly displayed another "concealed weapon." I am starting to think that any moment I will wake up to find that I had been stuck into an Orwellian dream. The horse blanket pin would only open wide enough to slide a cloth through or a key onto - in no way could it penetrate flesh (or cloth anymore) and it was much too thin to contain a bomb, unless there are some real skinny bombs out there I don't know about.
I informed Baldy that the key ring was a gift from my grandma who was now deceased and truly was not a covert arms dealer. No, I really did not say anything about arms dealing, but ohhhhh, I wanted to. I explained this recycled key ring, having been in the family for several generations was a good luck thing for me, an ardent key loser, and my family awaited me (being alarmed over the amount of time transpiring, and growing circle of Gestapo and shocked onlookers, as I endured harrassment) and they would CERTAINLY be glad to take the pin/key ring and offending inch and one-half metal film tool home. And if Baldy really wanted the film tool, since he was very agressive and was able to think up some interesting uses for it - like violence - (no I didn't say that part either) it was his, but the key ring was my property and I wanted it. Baldy started squeaking about calling the "po-leece." "Please do," I begged, thinking "Is this not America?" "Yes, it is, and the police will protect me because I have done nothing wrong." WRONG. Baldy told the police I had a knife and a concealed weapon that I was trying to take them onto a plane. The police were not real City of Pensacola Police, they would not even look at the items. They were also Gestapo and began to join in the fun! I thought maybe I would not have to go to the dentist anymore - that they would begin extracting teeth on the spot looking for spy transmitters.
Now, you have to picture this: a 61 year old plump grandma, with a great Hattigrace haircut, being harrassed by 3 security officers, plus the two "police" which were not real "police," but part of the Gestapo, and actually had the power to jail me on criminal charges. A crowd had also gathered to watch very tall, plump 61 year old severely harrassed grandma looking down on Baldy Redneck who was going from red to purple. I decided to stand my ground and demanded that said "concealed weapon" be delivered to my family, which family was freaking out by now and that "knife" and "concealed weapon" be shown to the phony "police" to prove these items were harmless to begin with. All camera equipment is on the "allowed" list. And the dull ended safety pin/key ring is not - but other definitely sharp and longer objects are, so what was going on? I needed help translating that.
I was getting mad and was prepared to be jailed. I figured, even though my family is Conservative Christian, they, just for me, might call the ACLU for help. All these things going through my mind when all I wanted to do was fly home and go back to work, finish growing older and retire. THE SHOCKING PART OF THIS IS - ACCORDING TO THE GOVERNMENT GUIDELINES, IT IS COMPLETELY UP TO THE GESTAPO TSA AGENTS AS TO WHETHER ANY ITEM YOU MIGHT HAVE ON YOU IS A "WEAPON" - OR NOT! ANY ITEM! ENTIRELY ARBITRARY. (See below copied exerpt from the TSA website.) THEY CAN JAIL YOU, PROSECUTE YOU AS A CRIMINAL, AND YOU ARE HELPLESS.
The "police" refused to give me my tickets - although Baldy did finally walk the items over to my family after what seemed to me hours of harrassment. The clock said it was only 1/2 hour to boarding, and I was shaking and sweating and doing my best not to burst into tears and give Baldy & the rest of the Gestapo their kicks for the day. I appealed to a woman Gestapo, but true to form, as true as Hitler's true love, she coldly said they had a right to do anything they wanted to me. I again demanded of the "police" that they give me my tickets or I would sue their asses off. Yeppers, I DID say that. I finally was really, really, really, really mad. The jerk held the tickets out but would not let go. I finally wrestled them from him, tearing the jacket in half and he and his fellow Nazi told me to have a good day. I held my shoulders tight, wondering if I would be shot as I turned my back. Fear made me have goose bumps.
Yes, this story is going to the Pensacola News Journal, to the Wyoming and Florida State Reps and Senators, and to the President of the U.S. as well as a complaint to the TSA for whatever good it will do me. I am a United States Citizen. This is a government for the people, by the people, and of the people. I even have a right to bear arms if I want to as long as I don't hurt people. But I don't want to, I have no stores to rob, no crimes to commit, why would I want a weapon? So why do I not have a right to just mere courtesy at a check point? Are we profiling the elderly now? Or was it because I am a woman? There are always those who will kill the weak just because they can. Many questions go through my mind as I consider the scenario. Mainly, WHY? I escaped becoming a criminal narrowly - some of my keys are missing along with a packet of personal information with all my credit card numbers and banking information. Where are these items?
Know this folks and beware: (from TSA website) Prohibited items are weapons, explosives, incendiaries, and include items that are seemingly harmless but may be used as weapons – the so-called “dual use” items. You may not bring these items to or through security checkpoints without authorization.
If you bring a prohibited item to the checkpoint, you may be criminally and/or civilly prosecuted or, at the least, asked to rid yourself of the item. A transportation security officer (TSO – formerly a screener) and/or law enforcement officer will make this determination, depending on what the item is and the circumstances. Bringing a prohibited item to a security checkpoint – even accidentally – is illegal. (Get the accidentally!!!!!!!!!!!!! That gives them unrestrained authority for harrassment if they come to work in a bad mood!) (And the GESTAPO gets to choose what will be the illegal item of the hour.)
Your prohibited item may be detained for use in an investigation and, if necessary, as evidence in your criminal and/or civil prosecution. If permitted by the TSO or law enforcement officer, you may be allowed to: consult with the airlines for possible assistance in placing the prohibited item in checked baggage; withdraw with the item from the screening checkpoint at that time; make other arrangements for the item, such as taking it to your car or mailing it to yourself; or, voluntarily abandon the item. (I was not offered any options for my confiscated belongings.) Items that are voluntarily abandoned or confiscated by a law enforcement officer cannot be recovered and will not be returned to you. Property claims for these items will also be denied by TSA.
The following chart outlines items that are permitted and items that are prohibited in your carry-on or checked baggage. You should note that some items are allowed in your checked baggage, but not your carry-on. Also pay careful attention to the “Notes” included at the bottom of each section – they contain important information about restrictions and exceptions.
The prohibited and permitted items chart is not intended to be all-inclusive and is updated as necessary. To ensure everyone’s security, the TSO may determine that an item not on the prohibited items chart is prohibited. In addition, the TSO may also determine that an item on the permitted chart is dangerous and therefore may not be brought through the security checkpoint. (HUH????????)
The chart applies to flights originating within the United States. (Oh great! A foreigner can bring in to the United States whatever they want? Well, obviously, yes. Is this rather ironic, turning innocent U.S. Citizens who want to travel on a domestic plane into criminals by arbitary decisions made by underpaid, disgruntled, possibly power mad jerks?) Please check with your airline or travel agent for restrictions at destinations outside of the United States.
For updates and for more information, call our Consumer Response Center toll-free at 1-866-289-9673 or E-mail TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov.