Friday, September 16, 2005

Now I'm starting to get really pissed off! Not with the tour. Not with the lovely people we've met over the last couple of weeks. Not with this country of extraordinary contrasts. I'm talking about the TSA. That's the Transport Security Administration.

Now you might say that it's not their fault. That the person to blame is really Osama Bin Laden. And I wouldn't disagree with that. But it's the way we respond to him that I object to. Not only do we hand him victory on a plate by turning our society upside down, and denying ourselves the freedoms we have fought for centuries to secure, but we give free reign to thugs and morons to go through our personal belongings, with impunity and complete disregard for their well-being.

In Phoenix we were - yet again - subjected to humiliating body searches - stripped almost to our underwear, prodded with electronic wands, luggage searched in minute detail. Our tickets were marked for special attention, because they were one-way.

Now, I've got to ask - do we really fit the profile of the suicide bomber?

I don't think so (I hear Ellen's voice).

None of the 9/11 bombers were pink, fair-haired, blue-eyed Scots. So why are we so scared of racial and religious profiling? This is political correctness gone mad. I see little old ladies being stripped down almost to their underwear. Security staff are stretched to breaking point. They can't cope with the numbers.

But they're looking at the wrong people!

A little non-politically correct profiling would save them a lot of time and effort, and focus limited resources on those most likely to be a danger.

So now we're standing at the carousel at Seattle Airport. I retrieve my suitcase, but there is no sign of La Patronne's case. Eventually the carousel comes to a halt. Still no case. We go to the office of America West - the airline that brought us from Phoenix. "Is that not your case?" the lady says, pulling a taped and battered bag from the conveyor.

La Patronne gasps. It is. The lock - easily openable by someone with an IQ of less than 20 - has been ripped off, taking the zip with it. The case has been torn open, roughly searched, and then secured with bindings of sticky tape. It is completely ruined and unusable. Inside is a note from the Transportation Security Administration, notifying us that they have inspected the bag, and accept no responsibility for the vandalism they have committed in so doing. In other words, "Fuck you"! It's not our fault, it's the terrorists.

I don't think so. Again.

The only terrorists we've brushed up against are the TSA. They might claim that they are not liable, but I think the courts might decide otherwise - were it ever to go there. Of course, it never will. The poor airline has to face the wrath of the passengers who have been violated - and violation is what it is. Terrorists might behave like morons. That is no reason for us to ape them.

Fortunately the lady in the office at America West - an Australian - was hugely sympathetic. "You can't possibly travel with your bag in that state," she said. "Wait here."

She returned moments later with another suitcase. Bigger. Better. "Here," she said. "You'd better have this."

We nearly kissed her. May karma return to her in buckets. La Patronne transferred her stuff, and we still managed to catch the shuttle into the city.

Tired, stressed, and nearing the end of our shortening tether, we ride into Seattle, gazing out across the acres of docks, and the ferries plying their business back and forth across the water. We pass two stadia, side by side, and drift into downtown, tall buildings soaring around us.

This city is built on hills that drop steeply to the water's edge, and it reminds us of Glasgow. The sky is overcast, a hint of rain in the air, and we feel very much at home.

Luggage safely ensconced in our hotel, we head off to the fish market to feast our eyes on the shoals of fresh fish piled on ice, and our empty and aching stomachs on wonderful seafood chowder, before finding an Irish pub and pouring much needed alcohol into our faces.

And after a brief siesta (a hangover from the tropical south), we eat in Seattle's finest seafood restaurant - grilled wild Pacific salmon and cod and crab and shrimp cake - all washed down with a fine Rioja, before collapsing exhausted from travel and turmoil into big soft beds to await the adventures of tomorrow.

California - and a reunion with Susie.

Fish Market, Seattle


ARGIL said...

Heureusement qu'il y a le vin, les fruits de mer, Janice et Susie!!!!
Tiens le coup, Peter. Ici tout va bien. Chinese Whispers avance à grands pas. Nous allons boire un coup à votre santé à tous les trois, et à la suite de vos aventures...
Nous comprenons bien qu'il y a des choses que l'on écrit... et d'autres que l'on préfère raconter de vive voix.

Leonard said...

Leonard said.....
The TSA need to go on a training course run by El Al. They've been handling flight security for years without resorting to ripping suitcases apart.
Seems as good a time as any to say I am enjoying your daily blog. You do seem to have to travel a lot of miles to sell a few books.