Monday, November 22, 2010

They laughed at my junk 

I had just passed through the Gate B checkpoint at Louis Armstrong International Airport when security told me to stop and wait. Their scanner had detected an abnormality. Oh brother, I thought. So I glanced over at the agent monitoring my image and saw her leaning forward in her chair, squinting hard at the monitor. It was if she was trying to decipher some very small print in an odd font. She began rotating and enlarging my image, inspecting it from all sides. Why do I merit such full-spectrum scrutiny, I wondered, and is this the uncomfortable prelude to a probing “pat down” session?

The security agent called her associate over for a second opinion. They conferred, squinting at the screen together. Then they conferred some more. Finally they settled on an interpretation of my image, and they began to snicker and snort. They laughed out loud, and made an announcement: “We got Wonshiv! Wonshiv!! Ha ha ha, Wonshiv!”

My worry turned into humiliation. After all, airports are cold places full of nervous people. No one’s really at their best. Why must they laugh so hard-- can’t they save the mockery for the break room? And what the hell is “Wonshiv,” anyway-- some slang term or inside joke?

Laughing, the security ladies waved their boss over. He just had to see this one. I faintly hoped he would lambaste this cackling duo and tell them to show some bleepin’ professionalism. Instead, he studied the monitor. After a long moment he looked my way, sizing me up. Then he muttered something to the crew and they re-erupted in laughter. “Wonshiv! Wonshiv! AH HA HA HA! Wonshiv! ”

I stood there and tried to affect a smile, but my face wouldn’t cooperate. It was all silly putty in different directions. I felt painfully naked and considered fleeing down the hallway. The passengers behind me were intrigued, and wanted in on the joke. I was clearly the unfortunate punchline... but why, precisely? Is my “junk” so laughably strange? Did I set some sort of ignominious record, formerly held by Mr. Wonshiv?

This embarrassment really occurred, but it took place in 2004, long before the current controversy over body scanners and pat-downs. In short, asymmetry was the issue. I’d placed a mismatched pair of shoes on the x-ray machine conveyor belt. One of them contained a metal insert which the other one lacked. Thus the scanner detected only “one shiv,” and the security crew realized my shoes were mismatched. They found the disparity highly amusing. (Alternate version here. Read my Lens column tomorrow for more.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Somewhat silly NYT article on the increase in surprise onside kicks in the NFL after the Saints did it in the Super Bowl. (There's 4 more than usual so far this year-- wow!) The NYJ special team coach says the Saints were lucky to recover the kick, which they were. But that's mainly because Roby completely whiffed the most crucial block in the whole play-- a block you HAVE to make so that your other teamates can field the ball without pressure. So, yes, it was a "lucky" result, given the execution. Morstead's kick, of course, was near-perfect, but the blocking and fielding were less so. It wasn't a bad play call, though. That kick would've succeeded most of the time in that situation, assuming that block is made most of the time.