It’s Who You Know That Counts
By Mick Trainor
The TSA agent walked down the line of Christmas travelers awaiting screening at Dulles airport. He ran a swab over the palm of randomly selected individuals. I was one of them. As I hoisted my luggage onto the surveillance conveyor another agent asked me to step aside while a third agent abruptly commandeered my travel suitcase.
“Did you use hand cream this morning?”
“Yes,” I replied, “Why do you ask?”
“Because there is a trace of nitrate on your hands. That is not uncommon with some hand lotions. Nitrate is an element of explosives.”
“OK,”.I thought. “I have soft hands, but not a bomb.” Notwithstanding such logic, I was informed that I would have to have a full body search. With that two agents escorted me to a private room while other agents began to tear apart my luggage.
“Is this really necessary?” I enquired. “I’m an eighty four year old, native born American citizen who spent forty years in the Marines and fought in two wars and retired as a general.”
“Oh, you were a Marine.” said one agent. “My father-in-law is a retired Marine colonel of about your vintage. His name is Webster. Did you know him?”
“I knew a Charlie Webster, who went as ‘Chuck.’ We went through Quantico together as new lieutenants.”
“That’s him.” replied my interrogator ….. as he proceeded with the full body search.