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MSP: Checkpoint 5

Long live the crisscross tie.

Long live the crisscross tie.

< by Anna of Wanderlust in Chicago >

My first summer out of high school, when the rest of my classmates were returning to typical 17-year-old girl jobs as lifeguards, baristas, and camp counselors, I became a security guard at the Minneapolis airport.

I answered an ad in the Pioneer Press, passed a drug test and… that was about it. This was pre-9/11, mind you. After a few days of training in topics such as “Identifying Grenades” (some look like pineapples, some look like baseballs), “Parts of a Bomb” (explosive material + timing device + blasting cap), and “Walkie Talkie Lingo” (What’s your 20?), I was ready to assume my post at Checkpoint 5.

Dressed in company-issued black slacks with a chic maroon stripe down the leg and snap-on tie, I was authorized to pat people down, tell frantic travellers they couldn’t go through certain doors, and run the x-ray machine.

The x-ray machine was the highlight of the job. Someone put their small dog through the machine, carrier crate and all. Many people almost put their babies through. Medical couriers came through with ominous looking coolers. Rumors circulated as to which flight attendants travelled with “marital aids.”

Many of my co-workers were not native English speakers and I had the task of explaining what an urn was to my Ethiopian teammate. Apparently the urn was made of a material that wasn’t x-ray-able, so he was insisting to the mourning passenger that we had to open it and inspect it.

“No, no. It’s for ashes,” I said.

“Ashes?” he questioned, head cocked.

“You know. A funeral. Ashes.”

“Ashes? … Ashes! … ASHES!!!!!!”

Commence freak-out.

For weeks after that, he would look at me with wide eyes and say, “Anna. I almost touched ashes. In an urn.”

This is going to get me put on an FBI watch list, but an urn is a pretty good sneaking vessel for things. And that’s just not something you learn as a lifeguard, barista, or camp counselor.