My mistake(s) - I took the A not the E train (from Manhattan to JFK) and due to an earlier incident as the train operator referred to it, the train and its passengers, including me, were late arriving barely 45 minutes before my scheduled flight to SFO. So I ran, and made it into the corral by presenting my home ink-jet boarding pass and my drivers license. Im really not sure how the situation deteriorated so quickly; I wasnt pushing anyone or even sighing in frustration. It seemed to be going OK, I had fed my belongings to the machine in the proper tubs and such - until when emerging from the metal detector a TSA employee asked me Sir, do you know where your property is? to which I mistakenly responded without thinking about whether I was carrying luggage or property, Uh, I think its right there, where else would it be? pointing in the direction of the x-ray machine and its related treadmill apparatus.

Well, that was apparently probable cause because after another TSA person turned to say looks like we got live one, or something to that effect, I was shifted into a holding pen, in which, in retrospect, I realize I was to cool off despite the fact that I had 5 minutes or so to board an aircraft, or miss it. After a couple of minutes another TSA employee ran the hand wand over me for a few minutes, patted me down and informed me that he would need to touch some areas. Then I was told to follow the first 2 workers to another area for the dig-through-everything session, where I was told to sit down and first man (who Ill call Mr. Moustache), and who I was learning liked to ask far-reaching and seemingly irrelevant questions, asked me Why are you so angry? At this point, my traveling companion, who also became suspect because of my insolence, was also being searched, and reported that three different people spent some time sniffing her bag of chocolate brownies. Meanwhile, my digging went on, with a series of other questions about where I live, how many times do I come to NYC, whats the difference between NY and California, etc. Then Mr. Moustache became very concerned, while spreading my sundries all over the table, to find a small bag of powdered laundry detergent. Well, you can imagine my colossal blunder in thinking I could get away with this. It of course could be fertilizer or at least cocaine. Let me just state here and now that it is not lost on me that carrying this was idiotic. And that the soap has probably gone all over the world in my travels of the last 10 years, and prior to 2001, and been examined numerous times by security personnel including a flight 6 days prior.

Anyhow, I was in for it and running down the jet way was out of the question. So after 2 or 3 more TSA personnel and some 5 or 6 of NYCs finest took good looks at the laundry soap, asking me what is was, what would I do with laundry soap, what kind of laundry soap it was, etc. Then Mr. moustache asked me again Why are you upset?, pointed out a number of times that I shouldve left earlier and then asked for my phone number, ya know, in case we need to call you. Of course the police needed to know my contact information as well, I assume so if I ever travel again I can go straight through to the detention center. Then we all sat or stood there for a while, I guess to make sure my airplane took off without me. Only after I asked the droopy-eyed notebook cop if we were waiting for anything in particular, did he inform me that we were waiting for the bomb and/or narcotic sniffing dogs.

Some time later Mr. Moustache asked me if I had any tattoos, which although I guess he expected me to rip off my shirt to reveal NRA and KKK logos on my chest, at the moment the question struck me as absurd to the extent that I sort of went on a mini-rant, wondering if it was likely that Id turn up in the east river and he would be present to identify my body. That exchange was over when he shared the fact that he didnt have any tattoo when I inquired. I came to realize that he mustve been trained somewhere that people in a hurry are angry men with tattoos and violent schemes.

Some time after that I asked if the dogs were coming over from Manhattan, hence the delay, but surprisingly they werent offended by that remark either.

Finally in an appearance of 30 seconds, the lanky German Sheppard showed up, was set upon my things that were strewn out on the examination table and was excited enough to fling the grey tub that contained my shoes and jacket onto the floor. At least it wasnt the tub with my laptop in it. The handler cop then said He aint got nothin or something to that effect and led the dog away.

Mr. Moustache went on to call me Sir, inviting me to reassemble my bag, suggested that I have a nice day, if possible and the droopy-eyed notebook cop looked at me and said Its just standard procedure and then left me with this amazing offering, you can just write your president.

Im not sure that I have president or if I do whether he would care about my airplane problems or laundry soap. But feeling like I would prefer that the cop had said You are powerless, you may as well forget about it, I slinked on to my gate to figure out how to get home.

gibbs chapman

SF CA 2/2008