TSA Tango in Wichita

Full Disclosure: The Clown was raised in Kansas from the age of 2 until the U.S. Army swept him away at 23 to more exotic places such as Missouri, Oklahoma and Indiana. The Clown has a soft spot in his heart and other organs for the Sunflower state. Kansas boasts amber waves of grain, purple mountains of majesty (well Coronado Heights) and, of course, that towering figure of political rectitude, Governor Sam Brownback. The Governor has clung to an economic theory that has made his state the poster child for the ravages of Supply Side economic policy. Perhaps some Kansas farmers will marshall a squad of John Deere tractors and pull Brownback and the state Treasury out of the fiscal ditch and on to higher ground (Coronado Heights should do it). Because the Clown still has a parent and other relatives in Kansas, he travels there with some frequency, flying in and out of ICT (The Eisenhower International Airport in Wichita).


Given that the Clown’s search for truth requires that he span the globe, sort of like ABC ‘s Wide World of Sports used to do, he has significant experience dealing with dozens of airport security operations. The Clown’s domestic security encounters are with America’s TSA personnel, a highly trained, skilled and professional group. They are known for their attention to detail, critical thinking skills and their calm, patient and helpful directions to the traveling public. Wait, maybe I was thinking of National Park Rangers. Let’s move on.

Each airport in America has its own “TSA personality”. The larger the market, the more likely this personality will be seen as “brusk, bossy but efficient”. These markets are dealing with tens of thousands of beleaguered travelers every day and therefore have no time for silliness. Smaller markets, however, have plenty of time for silly.

For those readers who have traveled internationally, you may agree that this same pattern can be observed in passport control procedures country to country. The smaller the country, the more formal, bureaucratic, slow and suspicious the process. From these observations, the Clown has developed the 13th Theorem of Airport Security: the size of the market is inversely proportionate to the amount of security silliness, insufferable self-importance, lack of social skills and martinet behavior.

Based on a series of trips in and out of Wichita over the years, the Clown has reached a firm conclusion regarding his home state: the only domestic market worse than Wichita, as regards TSA buffoonery, is Gunnison, Colorado. Now, here we’re talking about Gunnison, a really small market, so it has the advantage, according to the theorem.

In Gunnison, the Clown was so vigorously and thoroughly felt up, I mean patted down, that the agent eventually shared his contact information in case the Clown wanted a date the next time he was in town.

The Clown’s most recent trip to Kansas was prompted by his father’s 98th birthday, an occasion featuring multiple golf outings, dinners out and pastries galore.

Bidding farewell to his amazing old man, the Clown and his current wife headed for ICT for their return home.

The Clown, because of his frequent air travel, has invested in the TSA Pre-Check Program wherein one is fingerprinted, iris-scanned, background checked and must swear an oath never to start a fistfight on the plane (in the jetway is a different story). As a TSA Pre-Check passenger, the Clown can leave on his big red shoes, belt with empty seltzer bottle, Mickey Mouse wristwatch and funny little pork-pie hat. The Clown always uses the full-body scan device when available for two reasons: (1) the thought of TSA personnel being forced to view what is essentially a naked clown gives him pleasure and (2) the only “hot spots” that need checking are the wristwatch and belt buckle. Quick check and he’s on his way.

In Wichita, however, it’s “Not so fast, Bozo!”.

While the scanner showed the two hot spots, a rubber-gloved TSA man wanted more verification that there wasn’t an Uzi-toting terrorist lurking beneath the clown costume and grease paint. The pat-down was reminiscent of Gunnison. Additionally, the Clown’s hands were swabbed to check for traces of explosives. The process detected some B-B-Q sauce.

While these security activities were taking place, another of the crack Wichita TSA crew was rummaging through the Clown’s carry on portfolio. Here, terrorist pay dirt was struck: the Clown’s money clip, the same clip that has been through airport security systems from Bejing to Havana.

The money clip cleverly includes a fold-out pointy-ended nail file, such as one finds on fingernail clippers, and a similar-sized knife blade, primarily for nail care while waiting in the queue on the tarmac. Neither blade, when whipped out in full terrorist attack mode exceeds 1 1/8″. Nope, can’t get through Wichita security with this lethal weapon.

The Clown’s observation to the TSA agents that this money clip weapon of mass cuticle destruction had never been an issue in all the other TSA locations through which it had successfully passed was met by the claim that those other TSA operations “….just weren’t as thorough”. Right.

The money clip does have some sentimental value. It was a graduation gift when the Clown received his Masters Degree of Small Car Stuffing in 1976. It was given to him by a relative who noted that , “Maybe now you can do something about those disgusting nails”.

So, here’s to Wichita’s, “More Thorough Than All the Rest”, TSA team. The city can take pride in the fact that Gunnison, Colorado is worse. That’s a very low bar, however.


Observoid of the Day: There is a fine line between courage and stupidity, particularly when preceded by “Hey, watch this”.



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