Last month my elderly uncle passed away. His memorial service was in Portland, Oregon. So I drove two hours over to Sacramento airport. It’s only a little farther away than San Francisco and it’s got a lot of things going for it. It’s a tiny airport compared to S.F., you can usually find a parking place within 100 yds. of the door, and the last vendor before the gates is the Cinna-Bon place. Mmmm. So I arrived at the airport at 8:00 pm for a 9:00 flight to Portland. I walked in, found the “e-ticket” machine, put in my credit card, and it printed out my boarding pass and returned my credit card. I slogged up to the “security” line, which at that time on a Monday night had two people waiting. I handed the security fellow my boarding pass and my California Driver’s License, which expired on 3/3/03. Anyway he stared at me, scrutinized my driver’s license and handed them back. I walked out along the terminal, stopping at the Cinna-Bon place for a huge caramel and pecan sticky bun, and sat down next to Gate A-2 to wait for my plane. Soon they announced that no I.D. would be needed at the gate. Cool. I wandered onto the plane and sat down. OK. Now I’m thinking, heck, anyone who looks vaguely like me, could have used my credit card and I.D. to get on the plane. It felt like driving without my seatbelt on. Not like you’re going to fall out of the car, but somehow, not safe.
I arrived in Portland by 10:30 that night, and the next day attended my uncle’s funeral. So at 7:15 Tuesday evening I was back at the Portland airport, headed for home on the 8:30 flight. Same deal – walked to the e-ticket machine, got my boarding pass and went up to the security line. I handed my boarding pass and expired license to the nice lady. She glared at me and asked if I had any other I.D. Uh, oh, busted. I searched around and came up with my health insurance card, a couple credit cards, the video store card, a 10% off at the bookstore card, all with my name and address printed on them, but of course, none had my picture. After the security person reviewed what I had given her, she handed them back and told me to step over to the line on the far left. The bad passenger line. My boarding pass had been stamped with NO I.D. in bold red ink in four places. My fault entirely, so I set my overnight bag on the conveyor belt, unloaded my laptop from its carrying case, took off my shoes and my jacket, and set it all on the conveyor into the x-ray. I walked through the arch, nothing beeped. A nice lady walked up and had me stand with my feet apart and my arms out so she could go over me with the metal detector wand. There was a gentleman with a military bearing, in a security uniform 10 feet away from me watching the whole procedure, when the metal detector beeped once, and then another couple times. At that point, he started to look like a hawk with a rabbit in its sites. I explained to the lady doing the search that I had metal plates in my ankle and she felt all along my leg and foot. I showed her the scars from the operation from when I broke my ankle two years ago. Beep beep beep. The lady doing the search told me why it was beeping again - did you know that your under-wire bra will set off the beeper? Not a problem for you, eh? It was a problem for me, but she didn’t search that one, thank you very much. Meanwhile, after my stuff came out of x-raying, two more people did a complete hand search of my bags. Not much there, an extra shirt, trashy romance novel, underwear, hair dryer, the AC and recharging stuff for my cell-phone, laptop, digital camera, lots of electronics, but nothing exciting. They also went over it with one of those chemical sniffer wands which was kind of interesting. As I watched, I sort of wished I’d tossed in a pair of black lace underwear to entertain them. I was chatting with them and one of the fellows asked if I liked that laptop, and I opened it up to show him that it has a large keyboard, which is nice if you do a lot of writing, and a big screen too. So I got everything stuffed back into bags and was told that I could collect my boarding pass from the gentleman who had been watching me with intensity. I walked over and requested my boarding pass. He looked me in the eye and asked for my name. I looked back, said “Julie B” and he handed me the pass. As I walked away I realized that he had been watching my face for any hesitation in my response. It was a bit chilling to be treated as someone from “the other side”. But it was also re-assuring. There really was someone keeping an eye out. I liked that