C.H.I.P.S. or just a “chip” on your shoulder?

28 Mar

I think this is called "poor planning."

What is it about law enforcement that attracts power-hungry people? Yesterday, passing through the security at the Library of Congress, we encountered a guard who clearly enjoyed any way she could flex her power. Never did she smile, or accompany her bossy words with anything other than a belittling sneer.

As I prepared to go through the metal detector, she called out, “Put your coat on the conveyor belt.” Guess where I was standing? Next to the conveyor belt with my coat in my hand, ready to place it there without her instruction. At that moment I decided she was the type of person who would say, “Breathe!” just so she could claim your body’s functions were entirely of her doing.

I made it through metal detector just fine, as did my mom. But when we turned back to check on my dad – who generally has not one but four different items (glasses, radio, binoculars and clipboard) hanging around his neck at any given time – it was clear that we might need to sit down.

Alas, that wasn’t an option. “You can’t stand there!” the crabby woman snarled at us. “Keep moving.” (Never mind that there was not a line of people trying to enter the building and the area was in no way congested.)

Then to my dad, “Take off your belt!”

My dad wears suspenders, so instead of just ignoring her and walking through, ever-obedient, he lifted his shirt to show his suspenders, asking, “Do I need to take these off?” And before the question left his lips, she barked, “Take them off.”

As my mom and I moved to the next room to wait for him, we saw my dad unclipping his suspenders and threading them out through the neck of his sweater. A few minutes later, he appeared, needing to find a bench so he could redress himself. I was still seething, hoping that the sweetie running security would be subjected to a full rectal exam every time she goes to her doctor for an unrelated illness in the future.

Half an hour later our tour kicked off with a brief video about the Library and its collections. “Where else can you find the contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pocket from the night he was shot?” the video boasted, as it went on to show a handkerchief, pocket knife and — my dad suddenly tugged on my sleeve. “I didn’t get my pocket knife after we went through security,” he whispered to me, patting his pockets.

Since I wasn’t enthralled by the video, I told him to keep watching it and I’d see if I could find it. BIG MISTAKE.

I went back to the security station, where Sweetie was still working. “My dad forgot his pocket knife after he went through security. Did you happen to find one?” I asked.

“You can’t have knives in here. Even if we found it we wouldn’t let him have it.”

“I understand that. He hadn’t realized there was this kind of security. It’s a sentimental knife though, so I’m sure he would’ve run it back to the car. Is there a lost and found where I could claim it and run it outside?”

She looked at me like I was stupid, and I’m pretty sure she was about to say something like, “I ain’t seen no knife,” so I looked beyond her and found another guard. I explained the situation to him and he said, “Was it a Swiss Army knife?” I nodded. “Then it’s in that garbage can,” he gestured to a waist-high brass garbage can.

Sweetie piped up, “You can’t keep if it if you find it. No knives in here!”

Awesome. I turned back to the man, “If I’m able to find it, will you let me run it back outside? I’ll go right out that door with it?” He nodded.

So I pulled the lid of the trash can and started going through its contents. When I found the knife, I walked out the door, resisting the urge to stab Sweetie in the eyes with it. She’s probably the entire reason they don’t let knives in the building in the first place.

Because our tour was starting, I didn’t want to waste any time by going all the way to my car to stash the knife, so I hid it in a cinder block anchoring a construction fence about 20 feet outside the entrance, then turned around and went back into the building.

As soon as I stepped through the door, Sweetie immediately said, “Take off your coat and put it through the x-ray machine.”

I resisted the urge to a) flip her off, b) ask her for more explicit instructions, or c) remind her that technically my tax dollars pay her salary so she might want to be nicer to her employer.

I thought that was pretty big of me.

Now as for those rectal exams I wished upon her? I just hope they’re performed by someone with a huge hand and jagged fingernails.

3 Responses to “C.H.I.P.S. or just a “chip” on your shoulder?”

  1. Alicia March 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    Poor dad. This is the guy who broke out in a sweat every time we had to put change in a toll booth cage. Maybe it’s good she was so mean. Then he could let his anger carry him through, rather than terror.

  2. Judson March 28, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    You really should memorize the Japanese word for cow’s vagina, just so you could use it at times like these…

    • pithypants March 29, 2011 at 6:52 am #

      Excellent point, Judson! Or, I could just memorize the English phrase for “cow vagina” so that she would know exactly what I think of her.

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