It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. Took 2 Short vacations to see family, attended a Class Reunion, ran a Kids’ Summer Camp, and still managed to get through all (or most) of my emails, trainings, appointments, and other “real” obligations. I should be exhausted! Ironically, I’m not. I’m a little jazzed. I’m looking forward to the winter. I feel like I’m headed for a really good Fall. (As in the season, lol.)
You will all be glad to know that all is well in Pocatello, Idaho – and that Pocatello is virtually iron-clad safe from terrorism.
Let me explain….
The Pocatello Airport People have their act together! First of all, when I called the ‘rents to tell them what time to pick me up, I told them the airline and flight number, which they immediately disregarded and forgot, saying that the airline I was flying on was the onlyone that flew to Pocatello, and there were only 3 flights a day anyway, so it wouldn’t be hard to find me.
The plane itself which flew me from Salt Lake to Poky had about 10 seats on it, and offered barely enough storage space for a small purse. The engine was loud; it was turbulent and scary, and – let’s just say it was not the most relaxing flight I’ve ever been on. But it was better than when I flew into Idaho Falls a couple of years ago, where the seats on the puddle-jumper plane I was on had wooden fold-out seats. Like those in a sports arena but not anywhere near as comfortable.
The Pocatello Airport runway is short, and our little plane pulled up so close to the “airport” I could practically tell you what magazines were on the coffee table in the waiting area. The airport itself looked to me more like a double-wide trailer than a mecca of air travel. The plane was small enough to park right at the door. It was as if we were just casually pulling a car into a driveway. When we landed and the engines turned off, I could still hear the purring of an engine. I looked out the window of the plane, and found the source fo the noise: an older guy not 50 yards away was just casually mowing the grass, completely oblivious to the existence of our monstrous (lol) mode of transit from which we had narrowly escaped death (okay – perhaps that’s a little exaggerated…)
The airport personnel was friendly, and plentiful. Uniforms everywhere. Watching. Supervising. Keeping the Peace. As well they should! They practically carry your luggage to your car for you (not that you have far to walk; the parking lot is smaller than that at my local Walgreens.) And all parking – even in the long term parking lot – is completely free. I didn’t know that was possible!
Anyway – I found out just how iron-clad the security is when I returned to the ‘port for my flight home. My flight left at 12, so we determined I needed to be at the airport by 11:45. I got there early – 20 minutes before the flight. I checked in at the check-in desk, where they asked for my I.D., twice, checked my bag for a proper identification tag, and then promptly instructed me to take my bag to The Security Clearance Desk, which is, quite literally, a metal desk, less than 10 feet from the check-in counter. Keep in mind that there is no other potential passenger in sight. I was pretty much alone in the airport. Just me, my bag, the ticket agent, and The Security Clearance Desk lady. I’m not sure – but it may have even been the same person who checked me in that searched my bag after I lugged it to The Security Clearance Desk.
I must have looked threatening because they felt the need to open my bag, and rummage through it. Imagine my horror when I realized my delicates were right there on top for the world to see, had anyone else in the world been there just then. They searched the bag, swabbed it extensively – exterior and interior, up and down, over and across (used like 6 little doily-things) looking for evidence of some kind, I guess, and asked me if I was transporting any weapons or drugs. Does Prozac count? (Just kidding.) They didn’t seem to appreciate kidding. They were VERY, VERY SERIOUS.
I still had a few minutes before they boarded the plane, so I found a chair. When they called Boarding minutes later, they checked my I.D. and boarding pass before they let me proceed to the security gate, which is really just a very narrow hallway, like that that exists in a double-wide trailer – uh, manufactured home. Sorry. That was no big deal – it happens pretty much everywhere – but a lot of times I’m fairly certain that the gate agents are only pretending to verify a match of the I.D. to the boarding pass. In Pocatello, they don’t pretend.
The gate agent looked at me, and then the I.D.; then at me; then at my I.D. He asked suspiciously, “Ms. Beutler?” (My maiden name.) “Yes?” My voice cracked. I couldn’t help it – I started to get nervous. I knew, rationally, that I had no reason to be. I’m a law abiding citizen. I am who I say I am – but I started to sweat and act nervous, which made me even more nervous, since I knew that they were studying me for suspicious behavior. And the more nervous I got, the more suspicious I acted – I’m sure of it! Then the irrational thoughts started. What was wrong? Why were they talking to me? Maybe they don’t think I’m me. I got my I.D. nearly 10 years ago, and the picture shows it. What if I look different and they think I’m using a fake? I should have gotten an updated one! Where’s my passport? What if they ask me for my passport? My Drivers License as an I.D. doesn’t expire until 2027. Dang! Why didn’t I get a newer photo taken? Would they believe that I was who I said I was? What if I accidentally forgot that my I.D. says my maiden name on it, and if they asked me, I gave them my married name? Would that be suspicious? What if they tested me and asked me my driver’s license number? Would I know it? Would that be suspicious? A million fears delved new synapses into my brain. Quit acting suspicious! I told myself. I couldn’t help it. I was a wreck.
I walked down the narrow hallway to the Security Checkpoint trying not to pee my pants. Awaiting my arrival at the metal detector were three guards – more of those than passengers, it seemed to me. One was the “Put all your stuff in these tubs” guy. Tubby. He asked to see my I.D. and boarding pass. He looked a couple of times, but when I reached out to take it back, he didn’t budge. I let him keep it. They had plenty of tubs, and he made sure I made use of them. Shoes alone in one. Purse in one. Camera in one. Laptop in one. Empty laptop bag in one. Belt and loose change in one. I watched my stuff disappear behind the black curtain of x-ray security, and I innocently, but foolishly, made the mistake of stepping through the metal detector to collect it on the other side. Bad idea! Tubby grabbed my arm, and barked, “STOP! Wait behind the line!” Huh? What line? Crap! Where’s the line??
It scared the living heck out of me!
By this time, all my tubs of stuff were starting to back-log on the other side of the X-Ray machine. (I know it’s not really an x-ray. Don’t e-mail me about it.) They were piling up. The conveyor had completely stopped, trying to accommodate all my tubs on the exit ramp, but they wouldn’t all fit. I felt strangely naked. The separation from my purse was paralyzing. I could see all my stuff – those precious, precious (not really) belongings, and yet it felt as if I might never see them again. I desperately wanted to be reunited with my stuff. Then I felt weird for having such a strong reaction – separation anxiety? From being 5 feet away from my purse? Maybe I’m crazy! Maybe I look crazy. Maybe that’s why they’re suspicious of me!
Tubby handed my I.D. and my boarding pass to the female Security Agent who was manning the PMD post, (Pre-Metal-Detector.) She was sitting on a stool in front of the thick white line, might have even been masking tape. She was about 8 1/2 months pregnant, and wouldn’t have been able to chase a bad guy, even if there had been one. She did the whole I.D. – me – I.D. – me – I.D. thing, and again instructed me to wait behind the white (masking tape??) line in front of the metal detector to await further instructions. “Tucson?” she asked. Was she testing me? “Yes.” I got nervous. My boarding pass said Salt Lake City. I tried to overcorrect. “But Salt Lake first.” I was babbling, and I couldn’t stop. “I mean, I go to Salt Lake, and change planes, and then I go to Tucson. So Tucson… uh, yes. Final Destination is Tucson. That’s where I live.” Geez – I’m an idiot.
She then passed my I.D. and boarding pass to the post-metal-detector post, who also did the ID-me-ID-me-ID check, who then puffed out his chest, stood directly in front of me, on the other side of the metal detector, and inhaled deeply before calling my full name- much too loudly for the small space. It felt like I was standing at the pearly gates, and St. Peter had just called my name, summoning me into heaven – to FREEDOM. Except that the PMDD (Post-Metal-Detector-Dude) had grossly mispronounced my name. St. Peter wouldn’t have done that.
Panic set in. Is this a test? Did he mispronounce it on purpose? Do I correct him? Do I let it go? If I do let it go, is that suspicious? And when he called my name, was that permission to go through the metal detector, or was he just saying my name? If I tried to go through the metal detector I was sure I’d get in trouble. If I didn’t, and just kept standing there like an idiot, it might make me look suspicious. Crap! Do I go through? Should I ask permission? I took a step. Nothing. PMDD just looked at me. I took another step. Still nothing. I watched him carefully for a reaction. One more step and I was nearly in the middle of the big metal detector thing that I was sure was also programmed to be a lie detector. Geesh. What if it went off? Was everything out of my pockets? I didn’t have any pockets. What about my barrette? Would that set the thing off? I prayed that there were no metal grommets on my day’s apparrel. My phone! Where was my phone? Oh – it had gone through in a tub – in its own tub, of course. Thank heavens. “Proceed slowly, Miss Beutler” I was told. I did, accutely aware that at any moment I could be thrown in jail for not following directions. The metal detector was silent. But on the other side, he wanded me anyway – just in case.
I made it! He gave me back my I.D. and boarding pass, and it took what felt like an hour to collect my things. But I didn’t care. I was happy to see my stuff. There were dozens of tubs of stuff. All mine. My hands were shaking, and all three of the Super-Scary Security Force were staring at me. I could feel their suspicious little eyes waiting for me to make one false move. I walked out the glass doors to the fresh Pocatello air, trying not to drop anything. I didn’t. I climbed the rickety five stairs (which felt like a gangplank) into the plane and sunk into a tiny little seat, happy to be there. I couldn’t wait to get home.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love Pocatello, and I’m glad that they have the funds and personnel to enforce all the security measures that they do. But the ordeal left me feeling a little violated, to be honest. No one had asked to pat me down or anything, but it still felt a little – well, a little wierd and over the top for a community like Pocatello (population: 50,000.)
Later, in talking to my sister, I learned that money for Homeland Security is distributed to states for their airports NOT by population of the state, or size of an airport or community like you might expect – but by how many miles of Interstate exist in the State. Therefore, despite Pocatello being a town of 50,000, it happens to exist in a state with TWO major highways, meaning that they have lots of money to spend on Airport Security – even though it means that there are often many more security personnel present than airline passengers. Whose idea was THAT, I ask??
So Pocatello-ans, sleep well. You can rest assured that Pocatello is safe from sneaky, weapons-smuggling no-good suspicious airline passengers with bad intentions. Although you might want to consider locking your doors from now on. After all – it won’t take long for bad guys to figure out that with 2 major Interstate Highways and Airport Security like Fort Knox , the best route to Poky if you’re a bad guy is by car – not by plane.