Airport Security
Everybody bends the rules, so which rules matter?

Every so often the paranoia emitted by some privacy advocates gets to me. They don’t seem to get out often enough to check their assumptions - and those that do, complain about the theater of it all, more than anything else.

I travel A LOT. Just by being me I’ve long figured I should be tweaking out everything that would set off an alarm from a big gov perspective. Certainly everywhere I go, bureaucracies malfunction, at least. When I get on a plane to somewhere with backpack and guitar in hand - I typically have:

  • No checked baggage: ✓

  • Scruffy beard, several days growth: ✓

  • Black pants & black T-shirt from the Hackers Conference: ✓

  • Large (but legal) amount of undisclosed cash from multiple nations: ✓

  • Small bottle of genuine Swedish massage oil just over the legal 3oz? ✓

  • Cables, batteries, and pounds of electronics that look weird on X-ray: ✓

  • Laptop with encrypted filesystem: ✓

  • Scarf - admittedly wrapped around my neck, not my head: ✓

Yet… Nothing happens worthy of a song.

In 5 years of intensive travel between the US and the EU the only thing I’ve ever been even slightly hassled for was my cane and my old taylor backpack guitar. (Central America is another story, and yea, once I had a bit of passport trouble going to Germany)

TSA agents would look at me at me leaning up againt the counter, at the cane (the last one had a pretty sharp tip), and seemingly want to do something - but lacked a reg. The guitar? - THAT got inspected every time. Usually they’d pry open the battery compartment, too. I have no idea what they are looking for - drugs? Most places I’ve gone have pretty good drugs already, some of the good stuff is actually over the counter and there’s no need for me to transport a 9 volt battery’s worth - Diamonds? If I had that much money I’d be carrying a much better guitar, instead. Matter/anti-matter? If I had something like that, I wouldn’t need to use an airline to fly!

Admittedly the solid body in that taylor could be used as a club, and at least 4 of the strings as garrottes, but that never stopped anyone from letting me bring it on board. (I lost that guitar - I switched to carrying around a nylon 6 string instead. Easier to inspect, harder to use as “El Kabong”, and holds a tune at 10,000 feet)

I worry, sometimes, incidentally, that instead of being on a blacklist, I’m on a whitelist - and that when Big Data really gets rolling, and CISA is fully integrated with the advertising community, I’ll get greeted at the airport with:

“Nice to see you, Dave. Are you fixing a router somewhere that we care about? Where you’d leave your guitar this time, dude? Did you remember to pack the right kind of power adaptors?”

(when I have checked luggage it always has a nice note from the examiner inside)

“And… Good blog entry for tomorrow, ha-ha-hah! MI6 loved it. Chisel has a bug in “place and route” you should look into at the risc-v conference. Would you like us to send someone over to return your library books? And… sorry to tell you this, but we don’t think those condoms you bought last week are going to do you any good on this trip. Have a nice flight!”

And … while being scanned… instead of having to stare at the stick figure of a person with his hands in the air, a digital screen will try to sell me nicorettes, or something else that I actually need.

So anyway, this trip, I’m bending a one more rule than usual. Despite having a job invite to Sweden as a “Visiting Researcher” for 3 months, which is a “free visa stay” - it also conflicted with the schengen rules - which is also a 3 month stay, and every way I try to add things up since june, with all the travel to England fit in, (which has a 6 month stay), I’ve overstayed the researcher visa or overstayed the schengen one, both, or neither by +/- a week. The embassy and my employer couldn’t figure out how I fit, either, they just asked me to try and keep it simpler next time.

So I figured this trip out was ok. Worst thing that could happen is they could deport me. Do they charge airfare to do that? I’d have liked to have saved on airfare.

I just have to make it to Copenhagen and then to a plane back to the states, in time for the New Year. Another thing - in that endless security line - the advertisements could take a lesson from Disney - or advertise destinations with shorter lines like Syria, or Antarctica.

If you don’t hear from me in 72 hours, you’ll know I finally got busted for something, finally. Probably for the oil.

update: yep, triggered a search due to the oil. And my passport didn’t work on any of the scanning machines between here and there. The last passport officer said “hmm…” polished the code at the bottom of it with his sleeve… and then it worked. I also did indeed get selected for that thing where they wipe you with something then put it in a machine - or is it vice versa?

“Testosterone booster and commercial-immunity paste applied” -

“Do you think he suspects anything?” - “No, he still thinks all this extra rigamarole is us looking ineffectively for drugs or bombs. “ - “Jeeze, how long will people keep falling for that trope? Is his DNA still intact from the alien virus?” - “yes - well, good… Make sure there’s no internet at his destination, he needs the time off” - “We have informed Comcast.”

Find me elsewhere.

Best of the blog Uncle Bill's Helicopter - A speech I gave to ITT Tech - Chicken soup for engineers
Beating the Brand - A pathological exploration of how branding makes it hard to think straight
Inside the Internet Mind - trying to map the weather within the global supercomputer that consists of humans and google
Sex In Politics - If politicians spent more time pounding the flesh rather than pressing it, it would be a better world
Getting resources from space - An alternative to blowing money on mars using NEAs.
On the Columbia - Why I care about space
Authors I like:
Doc Searls
Jerry Pournelle
The Cubic Dog
David Brin
Charlie Stross
Eric Raymond
The Intercept
Chunky Mark
Dan Luu's rants about hardware design
Selenian Boondocks
Transterrestial Musings

December 28, 2015
978 words

security sarcasm travel