Something strange happened in SeaTac on the day before Christmas. As I approached the security line at the airport, the wandering, town-crier-like TSA agent announcing the rules and regulations told us to keep our shoes on. As we approached the security line proper, the woman in front of me asked if her tablet had to come out of her bag, and an agent too her not only could the tablet stay in, but laptops could too. I asked if my two laptops were in fine in the bag, and was politely told this was alright. I asked if my belt had to come off, and the answer, surprisingly, was 'only if it sets off the detector'. Hmm. I left it on, hoping for the best. As I approached the line, I looked for a bins in which to put my winter coat. They were all with an agent standing behind the X-ray machine, and said agent told me to just throw the jacket on the conveyer. As I walked through the metal detector, I realized that I had my hat on. No one cared.
I wasn't sure then and I'm still not sure what was going on. Was it an early Christmas present to us long-suffering travelers beaten down by living in the era of backscatter radiation and enhanced pat-downs? An attempt to relieve congestion on what could be a busy travel day? Maybe I had gotten diverted into some special line--I didn't get a chance to observe what was happening elsewhere. And if that was the case, what had I done to demonstrate this worthiness to the TSA? I have an honest face? Can the NSA read my thoughts and intentions now (hey guys!)? Perhaps a rogue TSA supervisor was running the show? The terrorists won, so why bother? The terrorists lost, so why continue? Nihilism? Mission accomplished?
All in all it just seemed so absurdly reasonable. I'd like to think that in general the world operates in a fairly reasonable way, based on facts, and understandable by me. But an airport, fuck, that's like the epicenter of arbitrariness. Will this continue, or when I fly out of Boston, will I get an extra grope for recompense? Or will life just go back to being the same. Each laptop in its own bin; belts off; hats off; holding my hands up above my head, my thumbs pointing in at my ears, standing in my stocking feet? I strongly suspect the latter. And that day before Christmas will be looked back at as some fleeting and confusing thing, as I jockey three bins and two bags down that very same security line.
But fuck, there'd be nothing quite like a world where airport security goes and changes.