June 03, 2012

The Polish female officers in the airport are needlessly over-attractive for the job’s requirements”€”they”€™re needlessly over-attractive for almost any job that requires clothing. They recall the icy-blonde fembots from Austin Powers. Some of them even have guns, albeit not jutting out of their brassieres. The dour, taciturn officials of both sexes are as friendly as Slavs tend to be”€”which is to say, not at all. Still, their listlessness makes it Europe’s most efficient border crossing in my experience. I pass through the security gate after a curt acknowledgement of my passport.

Frankfurt Airport is a dark, dreary, foul-smelling place, sort of like the airports of Warsaw or Moscow but with alarmingly less attractive female staff. The official at my gate, a woman who could be the unholy love child of Ayn Rand and Steve Buscemi, hollers at everyone in German to board the plane, then to not board the plane, then to board more slowly, then to hurry up, then to slow down, then to start a new line and begin all over again. Frau Blücher barks her commands with that distinctly German blend of good cheer and tactfulness that makes even the simplest travel procedure feel as though you”€™re being herded onto a cattle car to Auschwitz.

For all the derogatory things one can say about their cuisine, their climate, and their dentistry, the English at least have the right idea about how to make airport travel’s humiliations slightly more bearable. The security at Heathrow are so excessively polite that being fondled, grabbed, and patted by them is almost enjoyable, and I mean that in an entirely non-homoerotic way. As the agreeable man in uniform gives me the once-over while groping for suspicious bulges, it’s one long litany of “€œterribly sorry”€ and “€œforgive me, dear sir”€ and “€œfrightfully sorry about all this bother.”€ I feel like apologizing for having carelessly allowed my scrotum to wander into the path of his hand.

In stark contrast to Chicago and Detroit’s abrasiveness, DC’s security takes a different tack in trying to stop bomb-hurling fanatics from boarding planes. Let’s call it the stupid-question method:

Are these your bags? Did you pack them yourself? Did anyone else help you pack these bags? Are you certain that nobody but yourself packed these bags? And these bags are definitely yours, right? Did you pack them yourself?

It goes on and on with such mind-numbing repetition that I find myself wondering if I did in fact allow a swarthy Middle Eastern gentleman wearing aviator sunglasses and a keffiyeh to help me fold my underwear but had somehow forgotten about it in all the day’s excitement. 

But perhaps this approach isn”€™t as stupid as it initially appears. Like the East German Stasi or Russian KGB agents who could supposedly interrogate an innocent suspect until the poor fellow would admit to anything just to make them go away, this may be the future of airport security”€”weeding out potential terrorists by boring them to death.



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