So I was looking forward to traveling to South America, and was flying off to Miami from Logan Airport, Boston to take a connection to Lima, Peru. The excitement began at the security check itself, really. After I cleared security, I was asked by a TSA officer to step aside as there was an additional step of security that day. I wondered why I was the “chosen” one – it was quite obvious since I was the only south-asian guy in the long queue.
First, another TSA guy frisked me. He explained in detail how he was going to perform the check, and I obliged. After the frisk, he ran his gloves through a detector, which seemed odd. Later I would find out that it was an explosives detector. Wow!
Now it was time for the fun part – questioning! The orignal TSA officer had a side-kick who began searching my carry on back-pack, while the main guy starting asking me questions. Some were normal, some weird, and some outright amusing. Here is how the conversation went:
TSA: How did you get to the airport?
Me: My friend dropped me here.
TSA: Have you had anything to eat?
Me: Yes, I had lunch a couple of hours ago.
TSA: Can I see your documentation?
Me: Yes (I showed him my passport)
TSA: How long did you take to pack your bags?
Me: A little amused, I said a few days.
TSA: So you have been planning this trip to India for a while now?
Me: Again a little amused about his assumption, I said I was not traveling to India but Peru.
He and his side-kick exchanged glances, and smiled, and acted as if they had never heard of Peru. To keep it light, I continued to say that I was meeting friends there, and we were planning to go to Brazil too.
He smiled, and seemed convinced, but I could sense he was getting a little desperate.
TSA: How do you react to caffeine?
Me: (This cracked me up) I hardly drink any coffee, so I don’t know how I react. But I did have a cup of coffee today.
He mumbled something about he can look at the person, and tell whether they had coffee or not.
TSA: How do feel about flying?
Me: (Now a little irritated) If you are asking me if I’m scared of flying, then I’m not!
He laughed, so did his yes-man side-kick.
TSA: How do you feel about airport security?
Me: I’m okay with it, but this is the first time I’ve been asked to step out. Do whatever you need to do.
TSA: Why are you carrying cash in your bag?
Me: I need the money to convert into local currency once I get to Peru and Brazil. Am I allowed to carry it?
TSA: Oh yes, that’s no problem.
By this time the side-kick had finished removing and checking each item in my carry-on with the explosives detector. So it was time for them to say goodbye. They did seem annoyed that they could not find anything. There was no “thank you” or “sorry for the inconvenience”. And they just walked off teling me that I could go ahead.
I wanted to ask for a feedback form to ask the reason why I was picked, and if there were extra steps for security that day then why wasn’t everyone searched the way I was. But I suppose all that would fall on deaf ears anyway. I was not stopped elsewhere on my journey, so that was good. Turns out its a new ‘behavior detection’ initiative by TSA that borders on racial profiling to justify the program according to this article.
And, I now know how SRK felt! ;)