Sunday, April 4

My Enthusiasm Almost Got Me Arrested!

I sat slumped in my chair slowly dying.  To be completely honest, it was my laptop battery dying, not actually me, but it felt the same.  The writing bug had bitten me in the rump, and it was not about to be ignored. I looked around the waiting room at the gate for my next flight.  It was enormous, but amazingly dated.  Even the carpet looked like the ‘70s.  No outlets to be seen anywhere. 

In this age of technology and battery-powered everything-in-your-pocket, an airport needs to have outlets for the modern traveler, especially this traveler who was lucky enough to get a three-leg flight with nearly three-hour layovers between each leg of the journey.  Well, there was one outlet at the front overlooking the runway outside, but a couple already sat there with their battery-powered something-or-other happily drinking the electrons.  The room was empty otherwise, except the agents at the end of the room.

I approached the agents, hoping for directions to a wireless section somewhere with plug-ins or some other similar modern amenity.  Too much to hope for.  Apparently, when your layover is in Maui, you should enjoy it and lay off the technology, never mind I never left the airport and have yet to set foot on Maui soil.  They looked about the room as well, noting the lack of electrical outlets.  Finally, the agents noticed a very large unmarked thing plugged into a set of outlets.  The thing looked like a big locker that appeared to be empty.  They made a command decision to unplug the thing so I could use the outlet.  Normally, there’d be a pair of plugs in the outlet, but one of them had a ground broken off in it, thus rendering it unusable.

Yes!  Power.  Good.  As I hit the end of my first paragraph, I heard an angry voice in front of me demanding to know who unplugged the big, unmarked thingy.  Instinctively, I knew by the tone not to throw my new agent-friends under the bus.  They were, after all, only trying to help me out, and they had jobs there to lose.  So I said I did it.  The transportation professional proceeded to berate me and call me names before he stormed away.

Taking my cue, I reluctantly unplugged my laptop and plugged in the thingy.  Very reluctantly.  It crossed my mind (several times) to shrug it off and keep writing.  It’s a shame to get in just one lonely little paragraph, but it’s really a good thing I did unplug because the guy returned about fifteen minutes later with a posse.  Yes, a posse.  He had about six people with him from three different organizations, the Maui Police, Homeland Defense, and Transportation Security Administration.  They all swarmed in to investigate the “tampering” incident.

Apparently, the thingy was a computer with ultra-sensitive secure information on it, and they were concerned I may have gained access to the information.  After nearly an hour of grilling and ID-checking and “investigating,” they indicated I was most likely not a terrorist.  Now here’s the worst part: I’m a 13-year US Navy Electronics Technician with a Secret clearance and was just returning home to my husband and five children from a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf.  I had three photo IDs and my boarding pass verifying my identity and witnesses telling the investigators that I only plugged into the outlet and no one knew what the heck the thingy was.

Why would a computer bearing sensitive information be sitting in a waiting area in an unsecured space with no markings on it whatsoever anyway?  Wow.  Our tax dollars at work.  I never realized until that incident why so many people say the TSA and Homeland Security were wasting our money.

So, the outcome to date: they decided not to arrest me, but reserved the right to press charges at a later time.  Magnanimous of them.  Whether I go to court over this incident still remains to be seen. I’ll update if they ever contact me with a final disposition (I’ll probably never hear from them again).  In the meantime, I can say that given a chance to change what happened, I would still have unplugged that unmarked locker-looking thingy. 

It was a damn good paragraph.

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