“Sir, you do read and write English?”

“Yes, officer.”

“So you are aware that this is a no-standing zone?”

“Yes, officer.”

“And you are aware that it’s five days after 9/11?”

“Um…yes, officer.”*

“And that our country is at war right now?”

This pleasant exchange went down at Dulles yesterday evening between a vindictive TSA officer and yours truly. Went down at length, too—I was accused of terrorism, detained outside the terminal at which I’d dropped a friend, offered cuffs, and informed that I would “never see [my] car again.” All of which struck me as, you know, overkill: My crime was standing in a no-standing zone for five minutes after entering the terminal to say goodbye.

Now, sure, I had blatantly disregarded a traffic sign and dithered slightly longer in the airport than I’d planned. But I’m not, nor have I ever been, a terrorist. And I’m usually good with cops.

This fucker was mean, though—and out to prove a point. First, he insisted that my car had been driven by a mystery individual, who—after parking illegally—had leaped into a cab and disappeared into the night. After that narrative tanked, he fell back on invocations of 9/11, Afghanistan, and “wiseasses like [me]” whom he’d dispossessed of their vehicles, freedom, dignity, &c. over the years. After demanding my driver’s license, he refused to accept it, barking that I should stand “ten feet back.” When I called him “sir,” he accused me of “attitude.” When I told him my address, he accused me of lying.

I don’t hate cops. I don’t mind removing my shoes at security and getting my toothpaste confiscated. I like the fact that I’ve never felt less than completely safe in an airport.

What I resent is the Crusader Rabbit attitude of boneheaded, ball-less individuals who think they’re single-handedly staunching the tide of extremism by being tasteless pricks. No matter how much respect you show them, it’s never enough—and if you’re lucky enough to keep mum under their soulless tongue-lashing, you’ll think twice next time you’re tempted to needle your libertarian friends.

“You’ve got 30 seconds to get off my airport,” the fellow finally told me. I gave him no lip and drove off, thankful that he had parked too far back to notice my missing headlight.

*Five days and eight fucking years, officer.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons