The Secret Service has been handling security at Barack Obama's campaign events and it's a big deal -- a really big deal. I never realized how serious these guys were until I was told that TSA, the touchy-feely folks at the airport, were also screening reporters covering Obama's campaign rallies. And for the record, let me say if you haven't been felt up by TSA at LaGuardia International Aiport, you don't know what you're missing.
I'm not a big fan of security check points, but I do try to resist the urge to personally thank them for trampling through my luggage among other things.
A few weeks ago, I was sent to Chicago to cover Super Tuesday. I was assigned to Obama's campaign headquarters at the Hyatt Regency Hotel -- a big fancy place near Lake Michigan in downtown.
In my defense, I was having a particularly difficult week in the Windy City. I had been on the road for about four weeks, I was coughing up a variety of body parts and my hotel had somehow managed to misplace all of my dry cleaning.
To round out the day, I had to walk five blocks in sub-zero snow storm and stepped into five inches of icy slush. You know, I'm sure Chicago is a fine city once it thaws out --- but I'd rather vacation in Detroit than go to Chi-town in the winter. Anyway, by the time I arrived at the Obama rally, I was soaking wet, sick as a dog, and the security line stretched on for an eternity. To maintain my sanity and health, I was chugging Liquid Tylenol shots and Advil chasers. It wasn't a pretty sight.
As you might imagine, I was bobbing and weaving by the time I got to the screening booth.
First, I had to allow a dog to sniff my equipment --- about 30 pounds of bells and whistles organized and crafted by the fine folks at Fox News Radio's Master Control. Then, came the fun part.
They stopped short of making me strip down to my skivvies, but it was close. Out came the wallet, camera, Blackberry, keys, loose change, pocket lint. Once I had unloaded by bounty, the agent motioned for me to step through the metal detector. I took one step forward before I was ordered to stop.
"Sir, we need to examine the contents of your paper bag," said the agent. I had forgotten that I had grabbed an Italian Beef sandwich for dinner. It was wrapped up in a paper bag. I suggested to the officer that he had to be kidding. He wasn't. I unwrapped the sandwich and presented it to the officer for inspection.
I had no idea an Italian Beef sandwich was considered a weapon of mass destruction. Of course, you never know what devious device could be lurking beneath the tomatoes.
Once my sandwich cleared security, I was ushered through the metal detector which promptly beeped. Ever since my open heart surgery, I have a tendency to beep --- what with all that metal in my chest. And that -- my friends --- led to the infamous body search.
I gladly complied as they ordered me to assume the position and prepare for the pat-down. I suppose now would be a good time to explain that I am quite ticklish --- quite ticklish.
Once Officer Cold Fingers hit the waistline I began to fidget. From that point it was all downhill as I began to uncontrollably jerk and twitch --- all the while trying to stifle an embarassing laugh. "Is there a problem," he asked.
I politely explained that I wasn't used to someone rummaging around in my nether-regions. I don't believe Officer Cold Fingers was amused.
A few minutes later, though, all was well. I was deemed "all clear" and allowed to proceed with my duties, so I thanked the officers, took a bite out of my sandwich and went about my business.
I've been reflecting on my experiences with the TSA and frankly, I'm a bit jaded. And I have a feeling I'm not alone. They've left a string of wounded hearts at airports across the fruited plain. We bare our souls to these strangers in the night. They probe the very cockles of our hearts and caress our bodies with their sanitized rubber gloves. And for what? Is it all for one meaningless intimate affair in the sterile confines of a security checkpoint standing there emotionally drained in our sock feet?
After all of that, you'd think the government could spring for a pack of cigarettes --- or at least a curiously strong breath mint.