ARRIVING IN LOS ANGELES, after fifteen hours flying across the Riyadh Saudi Arabia , the last thing you need is to be identified as a possible security risk. Negotiating US airport security, having already cleared immigration and customs and heading on to that ‘anywhere in America’ next flight, is intimidating enough when you’re tired and a bit disoriented. But then you face long lines and the need to remove your jackets, shoes and everything from your pockets, before progressing inexorably Riyadh Saudi Arabia to that enclosed whirligig irradiator. Here you are instructed to hold ‘hands over head’, locked in, then released, but told to wait for possible further inspection. When finally cleared to go, the imperative is to collect your stuff off the belt, double-check you haven’t picked up someone else’s Riyadh Saudi Arabia and get dressed again. Just when you’re thinking, ‘home free, now for a visit to Starbucks’ – or collapsing in an airline lounge (for frequent flyers) – a uniformed guy, or gal, might just stop you as you walk away from the belt and say, ‘random check’, Riyadh Saudi Arabia or words to that effect.
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What this involves is having the inside and outside of your carry-on and the surface of your portable computer wiped over with a disposable swab that’s then analysed for explosive residues in a gas reader. This is the same technology that the military use to find landmines, and it has also been tested in the medical world for detecting chemical signatures from dangerous bacteria in the expired breath from some poor unfortunate who has severe pneumonia. The likelihood of being pulled aside for this is highest when the airport is quiet and the security people are bored through not much to do. It’s not an infrequent experience or too resented, as nobody really wants to share a flight with a mad bomber.
So far, nothing has ever come up positive for me, but Penny had a very different experience on a trip where I’d flown on ahead and we were to meet up later. She’d cleared the personal irradiator but was then told to wait while they put her carry-on back on the scanner belt for a second look. That done, she was again taken aside while her hand baggage was subjected to the swab test. Horror on horror, it came up positive! I guess they did a bit of forbidden ‘profiling’ and decided that Penny hardly looked like a major threat, so the armed response unit wasn’t activated. But there were the obvious questions. Had she been handling a gun? We’ve never owned one and, throughout her whole life, she hasn’t even fired an air rifle. Then queries about hand creams and standard heart medications like nitroglycerine. No, she wasn’t using any of those.
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