Oct. 17, 2011
Albuquerque International Sunport Security Checkpoint:
I pass a camera crew filming the ticket counter. I stop and consider telling them what I am about to do, but decide against it. They probably won't care. Instead, I wheel my baggage to the security area.
I can feel my heart beat in my chest. I've never done anything like this. I've always said "Yes sir," even when I didn't agree. Even this simple act fills me with conflicting emotions.
New Mexico is far warmer than my native Pacific Northwest. I'm sweating by the time I reach the first inspection of my ID. I'm sure I already look like a terrorist. The TSA agent, perched on his stool, takes no notice. I look enough like my driver's license and I have a valid airline ticket. He black lights my ID and lets me pass with hardly a glance.
I've come here to moonlight from my real job. My daughter had an operation, and I had to come up with thousands in deductible. She's in college and, so far, I've managed to keep her from becoming a debt slave, like her mother. I took eight extra weekends of work in the Land of Enchantment to cover the cost. I'm lucky, I guess, I can do that. Others, with fewer job opportunities, have no choice but to go bankrupt.
My heart kicks it up another notch when I get to the conveyor belt. Shouldn't have had that coffee this morning but thank God I didn't eat anything, or I'd be hugging the trash can right now.
Come on, I tell myself, what are they going to do? Confiscate your toothpaste? Say something mean to you? So what. Relax. You can do this. You should do this. You have to do this.
I take off my shoes and strip my backpack of computer and the baggie of incidentals. I stand in line while my armpits grow embarrassingly moist and I feel my heart race. I think, Get a hold of yourself. You're being a drama queen.
When it is my turn, I decline to go through the monitor that scans under your clothes, as I always do. The TSA agent starts his spiel about how safe it is. I've done my research. His statements are questionable, but that is not why I am doing this. I start my own spiel.
"The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution reads: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrant shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, an particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
I'm speaking loud and clear so those around me can hear. Before I get to "unreasonable search" a man in an ill-fitting suit and a tie marches up to me. He tells me I was disrupting his operation. I have no idea what his position is. He stands in front of the metal detector--the first place they usually screen me. He tells me I am holding up the line. I drop my voice and tell him to go ahead and screen me. I'll take the pat down. But that's not what he wants. He wants me to shut up. I continue reading the Fourth Amendment.
He asks me to go with him to some undisclosed location to "talk". He indicates with his hand somewhere back toward ticketing, away from being screened. I decline. He tries to gently guide me with a hand on my elbow, like we're on a date, pushing me back up the line. I stand firm. I want to go forward, let them pat me down while I read the Fourth Amendment to my fellow citizens.
He asks me what airline I'm on. I have seen no badge or ID. I ask him if he has a warrant for the information. He looks at me dumbfounded. He sees the United boarding pass in my hand. He tells me he won't allow me to fly. I have no idea if he has that sort of authority.
I say as loudly and clearly as I can, "I am being told I can not fly for reading you the Fourth Amendment."
He says, "If you keep this up I'll call the police."