Security check

On recent trips, I’ve noticed how airport scanners are taking their jobs more and more seriously.

On my last trip, this scanner in Manila actually stopped my bag, ordered it opened for inspected, then scanned again and opened again. He was looking for a “round, metal thing” which he seemed to have seen on his screen.

“What’s that round, metal object in your bag?” he asked, looking at the frozen picture on the monitor.

“I don’t know.” I honestly did not.

That’s when he ordered the second scanning, then the second opening, after which he asked: “What’s that round, metal object in your bag?”

“I don’t know.” I still didn’t.

So he let me go. Maybe he figured that a terrorist would have a more elaborate answer to the question “What’s that round, metal object in your bag?” and that I obviously wasn’t smart enough to be a terrorist.

And maybe he could sense that I was blushing not because I was about to get caught, but because I pack terribly and my underwear always seem to find their way to the top of the heap. That’s the reason I find those x-ray machines terrifying. My stomach turns at the thought of scanners snickering behind my back, making judgments about the kind of person that I am.

I told my wife this, hoping she’d do the packing herself. All she said was that I was so paranoid I should consider a job as an airport scanner.

And have you noticed how, in Manila, their metal detectors are gender-sensitive? There’s one for males and another one for females. I once mistakenly walked through the one for females and the crack security men ordered me to go back and walk through the other one. (The metal detectors looked identical.)

“Why?” I asked. “I just walked through and the alarm didn’t go off. Is it possible that it would on the other side?”

They looked at me with humorless eyes. “Airport policy.”

Which, as a response, was quite disappointing. I sort of expected them to prove that the female body had a higher metal content than the male body. I wanted them to scoff at my ignorance about gender sensitivity vis-à-vis ferromagnetic fields.

But they were curt, and I had to walk through the other metal detector. The alarm didn’t go off. But only because the metal detectors were not sensitive to electric currents emitted by sarcasm and gloating.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad airport security people are taking their jobs more seriously. I was pleasantly surprised that scanners were actually looking at the monitors more closely now, unlike before, when they looked like they were itching for a remote control to change the channels.

My last trip was a week ago. I’ve unpacked my bag, turned it inside out a hundred times, and my wife is beginning to give me funny looks. She wouldn’t understand. I’m scheduled to fly back to Manila next week and I’m sure the first thing that conscientious scanner would ask me after I’d cleared security would be: “Well, sir, what was that round, metal object in your bag the last time?”

And I still don’t know.

SunStar Cebu
4 August 2005


  1. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.


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