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.

2 thoughts on “S

  1. Elin

    Oofs:-( Sounds like the scarlet A, kind of.
    Perhaps they marked you because you travel frequently. I wonder if we’ll ever have a border free society. We’re blurring borders with the www and emerging kinds of digital societies – being tied to and identified by the location of where we once were born is beginning to feel like an old fashioned idea.

  2. Jill

    Borders do seem strange, doesn’t it? My Australian passport certainly doesn’t express my full identity. Probably just as well.

    I searched Google for “S on my boarding pass” and discovered the S stands for Selectee, and either it means that I’m on a list of suspicious people and will henceforth be checked every time I fly in the US, or it means I’m a randomly selected person intended to even out the discrimination inherent in the Selectee list – because of course, having a muslimish name gets you on that list faster. I don’t know whether they randomly add people to the list too as antidiscrimination. Ha.

    I hope I’m not on the list. It would totally suck to get an S on my boarding pass every single time.

    It’s called CAPPS-II profiling. The Practical Nomad blogs about this kind of stuff all the time (very critically). Dontspyonus.com likewise has heaps. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has what appears to be more objective or at least better documented information than the emotional dontspyonus.com.

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