In which I seem to be somebody, and the Shanghai security guy finds my lost scissors

Got to Newark airport at 7:00 am for a 10:00 am plane because it was Monday, and the lines on Monday mornings can be longer than a Tan Dun opera. You can’t check in online for a flight to China, because they need to see the famous visa; so after the usual difficulty about finding my reservation (I don’t know, but it always happens when I check in at the airport) I got my ticket printed and headed to security. I fly enough to be Premier Silver on United, which gets you very little except access to the Premier security line which is shorter than the normal line. So I head over there, but the guard glances at my ticket and says, “Not that line. TSA Pre-Check, over there.”

“What’s TSA Pre-Check?” I ask.

She points and says, “Over there.”

I head over there, not knowing what’s going on and grumpy because I’m thinking this is just another level of screw-up and I want my Premier short line. When I get there I ask the guy behind me what this means. He says, “Oh, it’s great, you’ll love it.” And he’s right. Turns out the TSA has a program whereby, using reasoning known only to themselves, they elect some passengers for Pre-Check, and your ticket will say so. Mine did, but I didn’t notice. This means they find you so unthreatening you can go through without taking off your shoes, taking your liquids out, taking your laptop out, any of that. It’s like you’re actually somebody, though I have a feeling it’s really reverse profiling. I fly so often and I haven’t made any trouble yet, so they’re cool with me.

So I breeze through and have two full hours to spend before my plane even boards, much less takes off. Then fifteen hours in the air to Shanghai, where I’m transiting to Singapore. That’s where I am now. They have this ridiculous system in Shanghai where you have to go out through immigration and customs, then go upstairs, go back in through i & c a minute later, and security again, and find your connection. Most airports make you do that only if you need to pick up a bag and re-check it; otherwise there’s a secure transit zone from one gate to another. I have only a carry-on. Still, there I was, doing all this nonsense, and it’s a good thing I had the time. But the better thing is, the X-ray lady didn’t like my bag because it had a scissors in it. No it doesn’t, say I. Yes it does, says the man she sends me to. He unpacks all my fabled packing, can’t find it, keeps checking her X-ray photo — and holy Toledo, if he doesn’t find, in the torn lining of my small backpack that was packed in my suitcase for use when I arrive, my favorite tiny scissors I lost six months ago! And he let me keep it!

I needed to re-pack, of course, which wasn’t easy, but it gave me something to do in the Shanghai airport. And now I’m waiting for my plane to Singapore. Talk to you from there.

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