Friday, December 31, 2004

Terminal Security

Yesterday when we reached the Northwest Terminal our family had been at the Detroit airport for 6 hours and we still had two hours before our flight. There were very few people at the airport and no one on the security line when our family of four went through. This young 20-something Beatle-haircut guy takes our passports and tickets before the x-ray machines. He looks everything over and when he looks like he's going to drop everything, I ask if I can have the passports he's done with. He tells me "NO," you're not getting these back. He revises and says, "I mean you're not getting the passports back now." After he reviews everything... about 5 minutes... he says "you've been selected by your airline for a full-security check." YEAH! Doesn't that sound like fun after twice checking in, already going through security at the United terminal and actually already boarding one plane.
Of course, we take off our coats and shoes and anything metal. Fine. They are just doing their job. We have to wait for everything to go through the scanner before we can go through the metal detector. I get a bit ticked off when they laugh at our checked on items (specifically the "attack" air hockey game my son got for Christmas). They were having way too much fun going through our stuff.
Once they are done and NO buzzers going off, I start to grab my stuff off the counter. "DO NOT TOUCH YOUR THINGS. WE ARE NOT THROUGH WITH YOU!" Each of us is told to sit down in chairs separated by a table. My husband and I are told we will be searched and patted down. I'm told I can ask for a private room if I'd like. I'm nearly losing it now. The woman is checking my bra and every other part of my body with the wand followed by her hand. FUN! Since there was metal in my pants and I told her, when asked, that I wasn't wearing a belt, she requested that I flip my pants over (where the button and zipper was located). I'm starting to feel a bit violated at this point, but I'm just angry.
Then when she was through with me she said she was going to do the same thing to my daughter. I asked if she was crazy. She offered that I could speak to her supervisor. I should have taken her offer because I really believe it's just wrong to pat down a four-year old. She also wanded and patted my seven year old son. The whole family got the full arms out-legs spread-hand grope treatment. I was really, really upset. I'm not sure why. I'll have to think about it some more, but it just seemed wrong to pick a family out. No alarms went off when we went through the metal detector, why us? What age is too young for a patting down? What sign does this give young travelers? That travel is dangerous and you should be treated the same way a potential criminal is treated (because even police can't pat-down the average citizen, they need a cause, right?). What does this say about America? I just felt really violated last night, maybe I was just over tired, but does anyone agree with me?

-- said Auntie M in Paris
8:05 PM



It's weird because I both agree with you, and don't. I mean, I think it is awful that four year-olds have to be subjected to such invasive and offensive body searches. However, why should families, even if they look like good old american families, be absolved from this type of security. I remember the last time I made a trans-Atlantic journey. Maybe it was because of my ethnic appearance, maybe because I was travelling alone, maybe because I was sullen, but I was searched not once, but three times. I felt somehow that I was being prejudiced by the way I looked (not-white), and it frustrated me. But, your government is currently in a frenzy about security. That respectable intelligent honorable people will feel the brunt of this idiocy is only one of the sum unfortunate results of american security policies. I love and admire the americans who I know, who I respect, and feel it shameful that they have to suffer the after-effects of the government's idiotic policies.

Speaking of which, going to the Pompidou yesterday, I noticed what I joke their security was. I mean, the guy put his hand on my bag, while looking behind me, and then told me to go through. What was that??? What if I had spraypaint in there, ready to deface, or something even worse? Ridiculous too.

Anyways, that's my noisy two-cents. Have a lovely new year!!! And don't forget to help out the victims of the tsunami.

# posted by NARDAC : 8:54 PM  

Oh No!!! Sorry you had to go through all of that security. This is what my hubby does here at CDG airport. There is rarely a time when they would stop a family and put them through what you went through there in the States!!

# posted by Pat : 11:20 PM  

I am so sorry for you. I think they should have some cause as you say. Maybe they select your family but if metal detectors and baggage xray check out then you shouldn't have to be physically handled like that. And your children!!! Your kids must be pretty cool to have been ok through that.

I understand safety but that is excessive IMHO.

# posted by BohemianMama : 6:21 AM  

That is unreal. I am with you. I do believe that security is needed, but we are bending so far the other way at times that it is ridiculous... Especially when we look at how your four year old was treated. And their “nice” attitudes… Not cool, not cool at all. There should be a happy medium, and there just isn't. The airlines are all going broke, gee, wonder why! You don't have to treat people like crap in order to maintain security. There is absolutely no reason for it. And I have traveled the WORLD for the last 11 years...so I feel pretty confident in saying this. We (the US) do need stricter security, but I think people believe strict means RUDE, MEAN and Insensitive. Sometimes I think that airport workers forget exactly WHY they are getting paid. No, they don't need to hand out lollipops to each passenger as they take off their shoes, but come on. Where did the decency go?



# posted by Carrie : 6:25 AM  

That's too much. I mean really, your kids will be lucky if they don't come out of that situation with a complex about air travel.

Security is expected, and security checks are as well, but seriously, that's way too much, especially for a family with young childrenthat's obviously just on vacation.

I think we've gone too far, especially after hearing this.

# posted by mai : 3:00 PM  

Thank you for your comments. I guess my biggest problem was giving a 4 year old a pat down when nothing went off with the metal dector. Otherwise, I think random checking is an unfortunate necessary. I could also have done without the insulting attitude -- raising their voices when I tried to touch my belongings. They didn't explain the process to me. That could have been helpful, especially with young children watching. There were just so many things that bothered me about the process... I didn't like the fact that the two men were laughing when they looked at my stuff go through the x-ray machine. I didn't like when, at Westchester NY airport earlier in the week, the security people unpacked my bag in front of a bunch of guys in another line... pulling out bras and underwear while the men watched. I'll stop now. As my father says, life is too short.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 7:30 PM  

Hi Auntie M,

I just discovered your blog. I'm another Blogging Mommy living in Paris (ftraintoparis.motime.com). I'm looking forward to reading through your archives and comparing notes.

# posted by Lisa : 3:37 PM  

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