Magazine article Newsweek International

Spread Your Legs, and Smile!

Magazine article Newsweek International

Spread Your Legs, and Smile!

Article excerpt

Byline: Shashi Tharoor

I've been a frequent flier since I was 6, when my parents packed me off to a boarding school far from home. Working at the United Nations for the past 20 years has only confirmed my blase attitudes toward air travel. For me, airport terminals have become almost as familiar as my own living room.

At least, they had until recently. Security checks existed long before 9/11, of course. But lately they seem to have entered another dimension. One friend is so fed up that he simply refuses to fly anymore. He can't stand the routine--taking off his shoes, putting them through the screening device, lacing them up again. Not to mention the frisking, or that bleeping wand pushed into awkward places.

A less fastidious sort, I've simply taken to wearing slip-on loafers. Not my style, but less of a hassle. The war on terror demands concessions from us all. But must they be so... embarrassing?

Once upon a time, I'd check all my luggage so that I could casually stroll aboard with a newspaper and thick paperback. A sturdy suitcase secured with a combination lock ensured that I arrived with everything I'd packed. Now security wants you to leave the bag open so they can examine its contents. Could this be linked to the stories of pilferage that have proliferated on the frequent-flier circuit? I now pack so many of my valuables into a carry-on that I struggle onto flights more like an overburdened donkey than the carefree traveler I once was. As for my book, not long ago they took it away to a one of those new-tech compressors to see if they could blow it up!

Of course, your hand luggage is subject to the most thorough check of all, especially if (like me) you might pass for Middle Eastern. I don't mind strangers (even wearing latex gloves) sifting through my possessions. …

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