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Using humor to deal with the frustration of airport security

I was on vacation at last, savoring the idea of a week in the mountains enjoying the snow and the freewheeling feeling of skiing downhill. However, before even getting to the slopes I had to endure the tedium of airport security. With every trip I’ve taken since Sept. 11, I have felt my irritation mounting at the absurdities endured at security in order to insure safe arrival at my destination. I finally realized I had become too serious about the security precautions now in place as we Americans struggle to learn how to protect ourselves sensibly and efficiently. I realized that if I were to continue traveling by air, I needed some ways of lightening up about the process.

Since security is literally so serious, I knew I needed to develop techniques to lighten things up that I could use quietly in the privacy of my own mind. Security personnel who are appropriately grim-faced and monosyllabic in their infrequent attempts at communication frown upon verbal playfulness. Therefore, I began the process of coping by imagining that the security people’s faces brightened at the mere sight of me and that I was perceived as the most enjoyable passenger participating in the search process. In my mind, the security agents were humble and apologetic for the irritating process they were putting me through, and I, in turn, grandly forgave them.

When I was chosen for the random shoe search, I self-consciously grinned to myself at the feeling of nakedness at having my shoes off before other passengers. I felt proud that my socks had no holes. I also thought that the old warning by mothers to make sure your underwear is clean in case of an accident should now include clean and mended socks in case of the random shoe search. Sock it to me, baby, I thought as I held my feet up for inspection even though I have no idea what could be secreted in my socks that can bring down an airplane.

As I stood there in my bare feet waiting to have the wand passed over my body, I wondered if they could possibly develop wands that could also shave pounds off strategic parts of one’s body. I know that such a wand would lend much needed patience to most of us as we undergo the humiliating inference that we could plot to kill our fellow passengers with our safety pins, eye lash curlers, finger nail clippers, and other potential deadly weapons that we carry thoughtlessly concealed in our make up bags and shaving kits.

Once thoroughly cleared at the security gate, I felt comfortable hauling out my tape player, book and other odds and ends that I planned to use during my trip. Then, to my chagrin, something made them choose my once innocent-looking, Anglo-Saxon face for the random search at the gate. Piling everything down with a good a grace as possible, I tried to meditate during the process. When that didn’t work, I thought about laughter in my mind. I think that worked but, if not, at least it distracted me until the ordeal was over. Once again my socks and shoes were searched for weapons. My orthotics were pulled out of my boots this time, and I tackily revised my idea that clean socks were a good thing. Maybe watching the security person gag at smelly shoes and socks would give me a little satisfaction.

As I left the security table, I was verbally validated to the ticket-taker as okay to board. As I walked to my plane, last to board of course, I facetiously remarked to myself, "Drat! I won’t be able to terrorize anyone this trip." I was able to grin at my silliness as I bravely walked on board the plane feeling somehow slightly criminal as I walked down the aisle with all eyes upon me as the One Who Was Searched Again. I comforted my seatmates as I sat down by reassuring them that I had no weapons on my person or in my socks as I had been thoroughly searched twice. We laughed together as we commiserated with one another about being singled out in the security process. The fact that it is random offers little comfort if you are chosen. Perhaps it would help if they gave out pins saying, "I was searched and am clean as a whistle."

As in every human endeavor, we are going to extremes as the security learning curve steepens. I can only hope that we will ultimately stop the more absurd security stuff and do what will truly protect us as we travel. In the meantime, I say thank you on a daily basis that no terrorist has attempted to blow up a plane with explosives secreted in a body cavity. If that happens, we’re all going to need more than light thoughts and a touch of humor to even contemplate traveling by plane.

©2002 Enda Junkins

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Enda Junkins, LCSW, LMFT, BCD
PO Box 684, Ouray, CO 81427
Telephone: 970.325-0050
ejunkins@laughtertherapy.com