Life After September 11th

Suffice to say as you travel through life, a myriad of things are going to change. In the 60’s, they changed radically but not that quickly. In the 70’s, they skipped along, but again there wasn’t that much urgency. In the 80’s, I think we fell asleep – I’m not sure. Most of it was a blur. Hmm… could have something to do with – oh, never mind. Then along came the 90’s and I don’t know who it was, maybe it was 3, 4, or 5 people from silicon valley that decided to inject our eyes, ears, and noses with the most advanced super-amphetamines that were available. We all took off on a light speed adventure with no brakes. Well, here we are in 2011 and every once in a while I feel like I’m on the world’s largest Mercedes Grand Touring Bus, alone, sitting in the last large seat by the lavatory and the bus is made of paper mache. I can’t see the driver,  but we’re on the Monte Carlo Formula One Street Circuit. I’m not wearing a seatbelt, and am being bounced up, down, left, and right like a cue ball in a maze with zero control. Right about now many of you are wondering, where the hell is he going? Hey guys, I ask myself that at least 20 or 30 times a day.
Sunday was a normal workshop day. I went to sleep the night before at 10PM, got up at 4AM, was on the road by 6AM, got to Battery Park at 7:30AM, met with the group at 8AM, tickets by 8:30AM. I remember one of the last things I said was “Let’s try and stay together until we get to Liberty Island.” I was 6 people behind John and there were 3 or 4 people of age between him and I. So, I made an executive decision not to be a bull in the china shop and wait my turn. As I approached the security line, I darted right to get behind John. A security gentleman, approximately 5 feet tall, said to me “GO ON THIS LINE!” I said, “Sir, my class…”. He said “I’m not going to tell you again, go on this line.” I went on the line. Approximately 7 of the 8 lines were moving rapidly. My line didn’t move a millimeter in 15 to 20 minutes. At this point, I should mention to you that I had no jewelry shoes or belt on, no wallet, no cellphone, no camera, & no keys on me. For all intensive purposes, I was naked but clothed. My wallet was open to a laminated card to inform security that I had 2 titanium hips. The card was issued by the New York Hospital for Special Surgery. When I finally arrived to go through my screening, I asked the young lady to look at the card she said “No, we don’t have to.” I also carry a letter with large type from the Doctor for security checks concerning my hips and offered it to her and she said “No, we don’t need to look at that either. Just go through the screening.” I said that the machine was going to go crazy. She insisted I move to the duct-tape mark on the floor, which I did. 
 At this point, I should say something – I don’t deal well with indiscriminate power authority but, I do have the utmost respect for my fellow human being – man or woman, especially in this type of work. I made a decision at this point to keep my big mouth shut and just say yes to everything. My class had now disappeared, somewhere on the 9 o’clock ferry, and I’m still in security. A gentleman called me forward, the machine went crazy, he asked me to go back and I did. The machine went crazy again and he asked me to repeat this a third time. I said I had a card to explain things. He said, “No, we don’t need to see that.” The machine went mashugana! He told me he was going to pat me down, I said fine. He patted me down approximately twice on the back and sides, and 3 times in the front and sides. At this point, he didn’t understand why the left and the right side was going crazy on his meter. So I simply opened my pants and dropped them down to above my knees to show him I had nothing to hide. In retrospect, this probably wasn’t the best idea I had on a Sunday morning. By the way, there’s an expression- TMI. When I’m on a shoot, or location, I always wear my running shorts under my normal pants. And it’s not uncommon for me, especially on a hot day, to take my trousers off and proceed the rest of the day with my running shorts on. I did not moon anyone. Now I’m thinking “Okay, another 10 seconds and I’m out of here.” Boy, was I wrong! There were 4, 5, or 6 people huddled around the x-ray machine. The 4, 5, or 6 people then called 3 or 4 more people with different uniforms. They looked at the screen, got on the walkie-talkies oops! I guess they’re radios. Several other people came in, also with different uniforms, all looking at the screen. The first 5 peeled off, the next 3 moved away, the new 3 looking at the screen and then 2 gentlemen came over to me and wanted to know what was in the tray. I said “A camera, my beret, a small black bag, an extra battery, a Power Bar, lens cleaning cloths, several wire ties, an electronic cable release, business cards, a 6-inch homemade monopod, a small Sartek video light, lifesavers, a film can with some potassium pills in it, and 4 Aleves. Last but not least, one red and one blue bandana.” The police officer asked me “what else,” and I told him that was it. He said “there had to be something else in there.” I said “Not that I can remember- oh maybe some business cards and some small photo postcards”. “What else?” he demanded. I said “Sir, that’s it.” I asked to make a suggestion and he said no. I mentioned that I would take everything out of my bag for visual inspection. He said, “No, don’t tell me how to do my job.” I said that I was sorry and didn’t mean to tell him how to do his job, I was just trying to help. “I don’t need any help from you. Stand  in the corner and don’t say another word.” Well, I stood in the corner and didn’t say another word while 3 or 4 more people came in, now a total of about 30 plus. They cleared out everybody from the staging area, both left and right side. I was then asked to move to a holding spot about 50 yards away, which I did, accompanied by 2 police officers. Then, in came Rin-Tin-Tin. Rin-Tin-Tin is a bomb-sniffing German Shepherd. A beautiful dog, but unfortunately my guess is that he was over 11 years old. He could not jump up on the belt to smell my bag. They tried 4 or 5 times calling him up and then finally picked him up and put him on the belt. He went over to the X-Ray machine and smelled my bag. He turned and appeared to be perplexed. They put his nose back on the bag, and again he turned, as if to say, “Why am I here? There are no explosives”. To be honest, I think 40 or 50 people were disappointed that I did not bring a b— into the holding station for Liberty Island. I’m still 50 yards away from my wallet, accessories, and camera, and they decide to do a visual inspection. I asked the police officers if it would be okay, if I could go over to watch the inspection. They grudgingly said yes. They took everything out of everything! My potassium pills mixed in some some kind of lint – not good. They then questioned me on 4 items and wanted to know what they were. I held it up, showed them the name, and told them. “It’s a Canon electronic cable release.””What’s this?””That’s a replacement battery for the camera and what is this? “It’s a homemade mini-monopod that I use to insert into the base of the 1/4 twenty, which, I then showed him how I did it. They wanted to know what the pills were for and whether I had a prescription for them. I said no, they were over the counter stuff and it was potassium for cramping and Aleve if I got a headache. I said, “Are we done?” and they said “Not exactly.” They said I had to go over to the X-Ray machine and show them what something was. They pointed to me where the b— was. I asked if I could take a picture of the screen to show him how never to pack a bag, trying to be funny now being over 50 minutes into the ordeal. I threw everything together back into my bag, and he goes, “We need to fill out a report in main office.” I asked if it was really necessary, and he said he needed to see my identification. I showed him my press card and he said that he needed something better than that, so I gave him my driver’s license and went to his office.We filled out the forms and he asked me if he could he photocopy the inside of my bag. So, not thinking, I said “Sure” So, he laid everything on the photocopy machine – duh! You can’t photocopy 3-D stuff. I suggested to photograph it. I took his iPhone and took a picture for him to send to his boss. Now, the ordeal is now over – but not exactly! The police officer said, “Have you ever done any TV shows?”  I said yes, and he said “are you a photographer?” At that point he asked if I would give his daughter some private lessons. I gave him one of my instructional DVD’s and my phone number. He gave me his card and a free ticket to the top of Lady Liberty for my inconvenience. He put his hand out, I shook it, and he said that he was only doing his job. I said, “Yes, I understand”. As I climbed to the second deck there were approximately, stretching around Castle Clinton.  
I guess this is the price we pay for September 11. (See below a recreation of the so called bomb in my bag)

One response to “Life After September 11th

  1. Sounds like an interesting day, Joe.I still remember in 1989 I had come home from med school in Iowa to visit my parents in Phila.On the way back I decided to take my bicycle with me and packed some of my bike gear including the tire pump in my large carry on bag.It had a pressure gage attached to it so when it went through X-ray it showed up as a metal tube with a smaller metal tube attached. A security agent asked if I had something in there. I told him it was a bike pump and asked if he needed to see it. He said it was OK and waved me by.

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