I had a birthday last week, and with it my driver’s license expired. I learned this at 6 AM Saturday morning at Dulles International Airport as Jen and I were trying to fly home to Chicago for a family reunion. While Jen moved quickly through the security line, the security contractor (non-TSA) marked my boarding pass for further security screening and took me all the way to the last security station.
I quickly realized I was in the terrorist suspect line. There were over 50 people in front of me in the line, and except for maybe 6 or 7 individuals, everyone else was either speaking in a Middle East language or wearing a head scarf. I’m absolutely not exaggerating. I counted 6 women with headscarves, and there were two or three groups of Israelis traveling together. Some others in the group appeared to be Pakistani or Bangledeshi, and a few Malysians seemed to be present as well.
There was a middle-aged white woman named Lorraine (according to her boarding pass) standing behind me in line. She was wearing a sweater the color of vanilla ice cream and a wooden crucifix necklace and matching crucifix earrings. Lorraine made small talk but then fulminated when another contractor was unable to tell her why, exactly, she was under additional scrutiny. At this point, Lorraine became indignant, which is a rather idiotic strategy and one that rarely achieves a positive outcome with law enforcement.
I was actually pretty calm, because I’d accepted that either I would get on the plane or I’d miss my flight. Everything was beyond my control at this point. When I finally went through screening process, a TSA screener greeted me cheerfully and even chuckled as she wished me the “happy birthday” that allowed me to spend an extra 40 minutes with her team that morning.
I cleared security, met Jen beyond the checkpoint, and we ran over a half mile (on my still recovering ankle) and made our flight by minutes.
The TSA was actually very professional and thorough. The contractors were clearly paying attention but I can’t help thinking that they were highly aggressive with the demographics of individuals chosen for extra screening. I believe “profiling” is actually the proper term.