Barry Smith: On guard at the Vegas airport |

Barry Smith: On guard at the Vegas airport

While waiting for my flight in the Las Vegas airport last week, I heard the following recorded announcement over the loudspeaker:

“In order to assist with increased airport security measures, please comply with the following guidelines: Know the contents of your luggage. Do not leave your baggage unattended. If someone asks you to carry a bag for them, do not accept. If you see any unusual activity, please report it immediately using any airport terminal white courtesy telephone and thanks for your cooperation.”

It was that last part, the part about unusual activity, that really caught my fancy. Once I started to pay attention, I noticed unusual activity all over the place. I decided I’d better make a list, so I’d be prepared with a full report when I finally picked up the white courtesy phone.


* The airport seems to be littered with these beeping, clanging, ringing, screeching, flashing machines. Rather than cowering in the corner to avoid them, people are actually sitting right in front of them, shoving money into them. This is not only unusual behavior, but also it’s just so blatant. You’d think security would have noticed this already, but apparently no one has, so I guess I have to make the call.

* There’s this large Plexiglas-enclosed area off to the side of the main walkway where people are congregating, and they seem to be (near as I could determine without staring) lighting little sticks on fire and inhaling the smoke that’s produced. They then exhale this smoke, which I can only assume was in their lungs all that time, and inhale some more. The Plexiglas cubicle is swirling with smoke, yet people appear to be entering it willingly. That’s a little unusual, isn’t it?

* Sitting across from me (watching me make these notes, perhaps?) is a large woman, who I’d say is in her late 60s, wearing a most unflattering leopard-skin-print outfit. Seated next to her is a man, early 50s, wearing a Hawaiian-print shirt, white shorts, sandals and black socks. Why were these people allowed through security?

* In the men’s restroom, there was this guy standing there who handed me a towel after I washed my hands, then made a subtle gesture indicating that he’d like me to give him some money for doing this. Red alert!

* I personally witnessed someone hand over seven U.S. dollar bills in exchange for a small cup filled with coffee and steamed milk. Sorry, buddy … not in MY America! If necessary, I could easily pick this man out of a lineup.

* That announcement about watching my bags and reporting unusual activity is repeated about every three minutes. That’s a little unusual in itself, isn’t it? I mean, what is this, preschool?

* My traveling companion, Mark, is seriously unusual. Just a few minutes ago, while eating lunch, he complained constantly about how his chicken sandwich was the worst he’s ever had, then went into great detail about how it contained all the little joints and ligaments and bits of the chicken that are unchewable. All the while I was trying to enjoy my non-chicken sandwich and found it very difficult to do so, to the point where I had to wrap it up and put it away for later. Maybe someone could give him a robust cavity search while I finish eating.

* While passing through the security screening, I watched as a man was instructed to sit down, take off his shoe, hike his pant leg up to his knee, then lift his leg off the floor so the sole of his foot could be gone over with the detector wand. What was unusual about this was that no one shouted, “Are you all completely insane? Just because some nut case crudely duct taped a stick of dynamite to his Birkenstocks two years ago, now you think everybody has exploding toe jam? I just can’t play along with this heightened security charade anymore. Arrrhhhh!”

[Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail address is, and his very own Web page is at]

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