There was an S on my boarding pass today. S for Search, S for Suspicious; I’m not sure what it stands for but when there’s an S on your boarding pass they’ll single you out and search you specially. A friendly check in man once explained that the airline automatically selects S passengers – if you buy your ticket less than n days before the flight, or pay with cash, or have a one-way ticket, you’ll get an S for sure. I suppose either there are other rules that covered me or they assign some Ses at random.
Once siphoned into a special searching space I was asked to sit while my shoes were x-rayed, my bags were perfunctorily searched and a metal-detecting wand passed along my body. I’ve been searched as closely in ordinary security checks. It wasn’t the searching that was bad. It was being stamped as Suspicious that made my adreneline rise till I felt guilty and angry though I still forced a smile that kept the security guards smiling too. When I got on the plane and showed the flight attendent my boarding pass I cringed to know that she too saw the S.
Most of the time I’m fortunate that I can pretend I’m a free citizen in an open and trusting society. Crossing borders, that illusion becomes very thin.