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by Bob Brooke

It was 6:30 A.M. as I prepared for what I thought would be a routine flight to Mexico City. My first clue that this flight wouldnít be so routine was realizing that all entrances to the Philadelphia International Airport, except one, had been closed to vehicular traffic. The airport had been placed under Code Orange.

After a round-about detour, I entered the airport only to discover I had to check in electronically at the new kiosk at Delta Airlines. The agent on duty, whom I shall call Brunhilda, insisted. Luckily, the gruff impression she first made was softened a bit when I discovered that the credit card I inserted in the reader for identification didnít seem to work. I later found out it was because of extra lettering on the front of my card which the reader misread. Brunhilda suggested I use my driverís license, which finally worked.

Even though I had traveled several months previously, lots of things had changed. Security, which had been rather thorough, had become even more so. Giant new security machines under sunlight bright lights manned by a team of security personnel had replaced the small, dark machines and pairs of security personnel previously used. Gray bins, looking like oversized heavy-duty dishpans, lay everywhere. One security person told everyone in line that all items had to go into the bins. I expect that soon passengers will just lie down on the conveyor belt and be scanned like their luggage, similar to a pass-through MRI. But, so far, thatís science fiction.

The reality is that security has gotten tighterĖa lot tighter. I mistakenly left a set of small screwdrivers in one of my carryon bags. I knew they didnít belong there, but, nevertheless, there they were. This caused a major commotion. At first, the security person said she had to confiscate the set. I told her I needed it and would put it in my bag at the next stop. It took four security persons and a supervisor to come to a decision to let me keep the set.

But my adventure didnít end there. On my way to Mexico City, I had to change planes in Atlanta. Unfortunately, I had no way of knowing that Atlanta had been put under a major security alertĖCode Red. From the woman sitting next to me on the plane on the way to Atlanta I found out that police were stopping and searching all cars and passengers entering the airport. National Guard personnel stood guard everywhere.

I was told to collect my bag and check it again in Atlanta. When I did, the agent said to take it to a large machine to have it scanned. This machine was large enough to scan an elephant. After my bag went through the machine, another security person said he had to check inside. I had to stand behind a white line and not touch the bag as he unpacked it to get to my shoes. Using what looked like a four-inch paper disk, he rubbed it over my shoes and then placed it into a reader to see if I had anything hidden in my shoes. By this time, my neatly packed bag was a shambles.

After all this, I definitely felt safer, but at the same time, I realized that I had not packed for security.

Some Simple Rules for Code Orange



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