Friday, May 21, 2010

The homeland security threat level today: pink?

My wife and I recently took a short vacation to Cancun, Mexico. On our way home, we learned something new about how our borders are protected.

Before I get to this insight, I’m happy to say that Cancun is delightful. Clean and new – only about 40 years old. Admittedly, what we saw was not Cancun proper but “hotel row,” an island shaped like a 7, lined with both moderately priced and luxury hotels, malls and theme parks, and connected to the mainland by bridges at both ends.

And the beach is postcard beautiful – sparkling white sand and the Caribbean a brilliant turquoise in the shallows and a rich blue in the deeper water.

Our itinerary included overnight stays both ways in Los Angeles, there being no direct flights between San Francisco and Cancun. So we went through both outbound security and inbound customs at LAX upon our return.

The TSA people were especially alert as we left. At the security point, they pulled my wife’s luggage for detailed inspection. The offending substances: Nordstrom delicate fabric wash, a white powder in a small plastic container along with alleged facial creams, all in approved 3-ounce plastic containers. The fabric wash didn’t pass the X-ray test, so the inspector had to take it out for hands-on inspection.

No problem. We complimented them on their diligence. Hey, they were doing their job and we thought they were doing it quite well.

After a wonderful stay in Cancun, we came back to LAX. After the usual long wait to show our passports, we made our way to the exit where a customs agent was collecting the tourist card you must present to authorities when you return from Mexico.

My wife, dressed in comfortable travel clothes that included a pink tunic top and pink pashmina wrap, handed the document to the guard.

He gave it a quick glance, said, “OK,” and waved us through. The speed surprised us.

“Is that it?” my wife asked.

“That's it,” the guard smiled. “Terrorists don’t wear pink.”

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