Anyone who's danced the airport waltz is probably familiar with random delays, overpriced everything, and security precautions that flirt with idiotic excess. The only thing that could make this ordeal any more infuriating is if the people working at the airport conspire like some fraternal order of travel trolls to worsen everyone's experience with all kinds of juvenile stunts and stupid behaviors.
SPOILER ALERT: This totally happens all the time.
#6. Airport Body Scanners Have Been Used to Rate (and Berate) Your Junk
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The advent of airport body scanners, broadly manufactured by the appropriately (albeit disturbingly) named Rapiscan Systems, has forced passengers and lawmakers alike to question the use of Superman vision to inspect people's junk for terrorist plots. But the TSA has long maintained the necessity of this creepily intrusive technology in the war on underwear bombs. Besides, it would be handled by only the most mature and highly trained individuals, right? Otherwise body scanners would render security screenings little more than an irradiated striptease for every puerile jackass with a voyeuristic streak.
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Not your grandpa's porn. But possibly your grandma.
Former TSA screener Rolando Negrin would probably beg to differ. While undergoing body scanner training at a Miami facility, his co-workers noticed on the screen that Negrin was packing a petite pecker. Naturally, Negrin's colleagues hounded him about this for months, withering his penis to an insecure husk and demonstrating the stalwart professionalism with which every airport patron is likely treated. Negrin, ill-equipped to dick-whip his assailants into contrition, cornered one of his co-workers in the airport parking lot, whipped out an extendable police baton, and proceeded to beat an apology out of his harasser. In doing so, he landed himself a stint in jail and guaranteed that any person confronting the probing eyes and hands of airport security would be examined in a dignified manner.
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"This way, sir. My finger will be with you shortly."
Or not. According to ex-TSA agent Jason Harrington (and every fiber of common sense in your exposed body), body scanners are much more effective for mercilessly ridiculing passengers from behind closed doors than they are for spotting terrorists. Plastic explosives were apparently indistinguishable from fat rolls, leaving screeners with little more to do than make a sport out of laughing at overweight passengers and guessing the sex of ambiguously shaped bodies passing through scans. And when they aren't laughing their asses off at man boobs and crotchular irregularities, screeners racially profile your genitals in the name of ... national security, or, as Harrington explained, "All the old, crass stereotypes about race and genitalia size thrived on our secure government radio channels." Which makes us feel markedly insecure. In our pants.
But all of that has changed, at least in theory. As of 2013, the practice of using passengers like X-rated Rorschach tests came to a long-desired end as the naked scan gave way to L-3 scanning technology, which produces cartoon-like renderings of bodies being scanned. And we have no reason not to believe them when they say this -- if we can't trust the TSA, who can we trust?
The CI- nope. The AT- nope. The IR- nope.
#5. Baggage Hijinks and Wholesale Theft Happen More Often Than You Think
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One of the more harrowing aspects of air travel, aside from unforgivably subpar food and the prospect of falling out of the damned sky, is luggage checks. Anything could be going on while a passenger isn't looking. And it turns out that secretly screwing with your stuff is par for the course. But for lawyer and Internet writer Jill Filipovic, that secret was crudely revealed when her checked bag was randomly selected for a TSA screening. The inspecting agent apparently uncovered the vibrator in Filipovic's bag and decided to offer words of encouragement:
Jill Filipovic via CNN
"Also, you'll probably want to wash that now."
If you can't read the photo, a disturbingly unsubtle note was written on a TSA slip and inserted in Filipovic's luggage: "Get your freak on, girl." Despite what the TSA agent must have seen as a bonding moment between joker and punchline, Filipovic didn't like knowing that the stranger paid to wade ear-deep through her panties probably imagined her in the throes of mechanized self-love and felt the need to share their reaction. On the bright side, at least the message was privately relayed, and the agent responsible was quickly dispatched like a gangrenous testicle. The same can't be said about the unknown baggage handlers who left a rather indiscreet message for a passenger retrieving his suitcase after a delayed flight:
Sleepysaurus Rex via Sydney Morning Herald
"Well, Samsonite, I'm surprised, but you're my suitcase and I love you no matter what."
But some commit far greater trespasses in the form of blatant thievery. While it probably comes as no surprise that people left alone with valuable objects occasionally succumb to the five-finger itch, some elevate that shit to crazy heights, like the TSA agent convicted of snagging $800,000 worth of items from travelers' bags. There's also the baggage handler who was caught on film adding to the $84,000 stash of stolen guns, jewelry, and watches he amassed over eight months. So it's not like it's easy to get away with it or anything.
#4. Southwest Airlines Traumatized an Employee With a Fake Arrest
With all the stress of preparing to cram yourself and your loved ones into a flying sardine can, it's probably easy to forget how hard some of the airport employees have it. For example, if you work the ticket desk, your job is to keep a serene face as every breed of ill temper and halitosis invade your space and slide you passports with booger-tainted hands. It gets even worse if your employer's idea of a good time involves handcuffs and manhandling.
But at least you'd have an excuse to wear your gimp suit on Casual Friday.
This was the awkward predicament Southwest Airlines employee Marcie Fuerschbach found herself in after completing her training to work at the ticket counter. A company known for a jovial, quirky atmosphere, Southwest apparently also specialized in elaborate pranks, like having its employees arrested in the middle of work.
With the aid of two real police officers, Fuerschbach was unceremoniously interrupted in front of all of her co-workers and the customers in line and dragged off in handcuffs after her badge and other belongings were confiscated. The charge? A crime that had allegedly been uncovered during her background check. This was all a shock for the mortified Fuerschbach, who began to weep uncontrollably, if not from fear or humiliation, then due to the physical pain of being forced into handcuffs.
"Oh, sorry, we'll stop now ... I mean I kinda spent a lot of time setting up a whole mock execution thing, but it's fine ..."
Before Fuerschbach completely morphed into a giant ulcer, she was let in on the joke with a chorus of congratulations and clapping. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to dry her tears, which gushed so profusely that she had to be let off work early, only to return the next day and begin crying all over again. In the end, she was so overwhelmed by the impromptu initiation ceremony that the only way she could adequately express her gratitude was a lawsuit.
Unfortunately for her, the court ruled that Southwest was not liable for any damages (she would have had to go after the cops who did the arresting), and at most she was permitted to seek worker's compensation for injuries suffered. The lesson? The legal system is mostly OK with pulling pranks at airports that involve armed men. So go try it!*
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*Do not do this. You will be killed.
And speaking of terrifyingly ill-conceived airport fuckery ...