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On the Advisability of Swearing

Deborah Prum

Recently, after four attempts, a TSA agent failed to collect a non-fuzzy image of my fingerprints. No matter how firmly I pressed and no matter how I positioned my hand, the device would not record my prints crisply. Maybe I should be grateful. My inability to leave clear fingerprints might be helpful if I ever decide to become a criminal.

I was signing up for a known traveler number, which grants you a TSA pre-check on flights, allowing for easier passage through airport security. Since Desert Storm, I’ve never been able to get through a checkpoint without incident.

A few years ago, during a poorly planned trip abroad, we had to contend with airport security eight times. My husband waltzed through each checkpoint with nary a guard even squinting at him. However, I got stopped, searched and sometimes questioned.

Why? My son claims that I look shifty. He says I exude an aura of guilt. Although I disagree with his assessment, my experiences suggest otherwise.

A while ago, my family flew to Bahrain.  Once again, everyone but me strolled through security. A soldier pulled me out of line then someone came by to question me. My first thought was, “Put me on the next plane out of here.”

Turns out, I’d listed “writer” as my occupation on the entry visa. After the events of Arab spring, the government did not harbor warm feelings toward journalists. After I explained that I wrote fiction and essays, not news, they let me go.

Flash forward to a couple weeks ago. As I checked in to the Santa Fe airport, I noticed the beloved words, “TSA PRE-CHECK” stamped on my boarding pass. Randomly, I had been assigned the designation. Delight welled up in my travel weary soul. I didn’t have to remove my shoes or open my bags or talk with anyone. What joy! What relief! I skipped through the process, but then….

On the other side of the checkpoint, just past the conveyor belt, I dropped my keys.

Let me pause here to say that lately world events have inspired me to swear a lot. The week before I’d decide to try to stop using bad language. So, when I dropped my keys, I said, “OH SHOOT!”

A nanosecond later, a TSA agent appeared at my side,  “Ma’am?”

Before I could finish saying, “Oh, ha ha, I dropped my keys….” another agent had escorted me back through to the check in area, where I had to remove my watch, empty my pockets, get wanded, and stand in that X-ray arch of doom. Then I had to have a little chat with a guard wherein I explained my current effort to clean up my language. She was not amused. Maybe I just should have sworn.

Last week, despite the fuzzy fingerprints, I received my Known Traveler Number. Maybe it will make a difference. I am not complaining. I know we live in a frightening time. Despite our diligence, horrible events continue to occur.

Frankly, sometimes swearing feels great. However, it doesn’t accomplish much, except contribute to the already rampant incivility. Maybe a better use of my energy would be to stop cursing the darkness and light a candle or switch on a floodlight or better yet, vote on election day.