Before this past weekend, I'd been on four airplane flights (LA and back, SLC and back) since Sept. 11. For three of those, I'd set off metal detectors despite my best attempts to remove metal from my body, and had to be patted down and have my shoes put through the X-ray machine and so on.
So at SJC on my way to WisCon, I removed all metal from my person (including my earring) except for my glasses, my belt buckle, and the zipper of my pants. And I still set off the metal detector and had to be searched. I don't get it; that's so little metal that I can't figure out how anyone gets through without being searched. I did have my driver's license with me, which includes a magnetic strip of some kind, but since you're supposed to show picture ID to all sorts of people, I'm not sure how I would avoid carrying that through.
At MSN on the way back, I didn't remove the earring, but I did remove my belt, and I didn't set off the detector. Whew. (I realize this is just one data point; every airport seems to have differently-tuned detectors, so it could just be that Madison's detector isn't turned up as high as those at SJC and LAX.) I was very pleased for about two seconds.
And then the security guy told me I'd been chosen for a random check.
Which turned out to be more thorough than the normal check (but at least I didn't have to take my shoes off and send them through the X-ray machine): after the normal check, he said something that I thought was about my bag. I half-turned to look at him quizzically, and he said "With the back of my hand," and I realized he'd said "back" and that he was now running the back of his hand across my back. Okay, whatever.
And then he said, "It's not that I enjoy it, but I have to do it." Which I thought was just a bizarre thing to say; he must've thought I'd looked upset at the notion of him touching my back. Or else I just misunderstood the comment about enjoying it, which is entirely possible.
Perhaps I should've said, "Oh, but I enjoy it! Do that some more!"
But joking is a federal offense in airports, and I have no desire to get myself interrogated (presumably in the obliquely-labeled "Discreet Search Room" that I passed a bit later), so I kept my mouth shut and took it like a man.
(It never quite occurred to me before that in a homoerotic context, that phrase doesn't mean what most people would mean it to mean. . . .)