Getting CLEARED |


I had my defense all ready. Whether or not it would hold up in court would remain to be seen:”I’m not a terrorist, I’m just a guy who loves stickers!”Yes, of course, I’ll need to back up a bit.A few weeks back I had a travel itinerary that went like this: Aspen-Denver-Vegas-Los Angeles-Ontario (Calif.,)-Denver-Aspen, with a few days each in Vegas and Ontario. My plane into L.A. was delayed, so I missed my flight to Ontario.I went to the ticket counter, explained my situation, and they put me on a shuttle bus to Ontario, a mere 40 miles away. Cool. I can’t even imagine the crop-duster they were going to load me on to fly 40 miles, anyway, so a bus was fine by me.A few days later it was time to complete my trip. The woman at the ticket counter had no record of me or my circular ticket. I told her about the missed flight, and she explained that this would have caused the rest of my trip to be “zeroed out.” But since it wasn’t my fault, she issued me a new ticket.So far, so good. I proceed to the security line.As I handed the boarding pass to the TSA agent, he pulled out a blue marker, made a big check mark and told me that I had been selected for secondary screening. Fine.Two agents dove into my backpack, while the third instructed me to face the other way and stick out my hands.”If you’re going to search my backpack, I want to watch,” I said.Ordinarily, if my bag is being searched, I’d be wondering if I’d left my one-hitter in it, but in this case I was nervous that I may have neglected to empty it of sinister devices which could bring down the greatest superpower on the planet – nail clippers, a Bic lighter, more than three packs of matches, a spork. But my bag was clean.The agent then asked if I wanted to go into a private room for the once-over he was about to give me, but I declined. Why would I deny my fellow travelers the chance to watch me stand around with my pants unbuckled while some guy pats around my testicles? That would be selfish.I asked why I was being searched, and was told that you’re flagged automatically when you buy a last-minute ticket. I considered explaining that I had not purchased a last-minute ticket, that my plane was delayed and my trip zeroed out and that blah blah blah … Why bother? He patted, I passed, and he gave me back my shoes, belt, backpack and boarding pass. Everything but my dignity.I walked to my gate, sat down and pulled out my boarding pass. There, on the back, I saw a sticker that said “CLEARED” on it. The sticker that the agent had placed on my pass to indicate that I was not a terrorist. A shiny, shiny sticker. And I wanted it.Part of me, a tiny part, knew that this was a bad idea. But the part of me with a sticker fetish has veto power.You fellow sticker lovers will understand – the novelty of adhesion, the industrial smell of vinyl, like the smell of gasoline when you were a kid: synthetic and harsh and beautifully intoxicating. I carry a little book in my back pocket which I fill with notes, numbers, ideas, sketches and, occasionally, stickers. Not teddy bears and kittens and the lame stickers you get from pre-fab scrapbook stores, but cool, random things, “Keep Refrigerated,” “Delicious on Fresh Peaches,” “Void if Removed,” and so forth.And this little gem of a sticker would be the crowning glory of my collection. Oh, how it shone, metallic gold and blue – there’s even an eagle on it, and an official number, and “U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration.”And I suddenly wanted it more than I wanted to use good judgment.To be continued …(Next time: “I’m not a terrorist, I’m just a guy who loves stickers!”)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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