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Sweaty, but safe

Body scan detects excessive perspiration

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Image from an airport security full body scanner.

CANADIAN AIR TRANSPORT SECURITY AUTHORITY Enlarge Image

Image from an airport security full body scanner.

I am delighted to report, thanks to new security procedures, Canadian air travellers have nothing to fear from overweight, middle-aged terrorists who perspire like Mike Tyson at a Grade 3 spelling bee.

I made this damp discovery after being subjected to an intense level of scrutiny from eagle-eyed airport security personnel recently when I flew to the West Coast for a two-week holiday with my wife, She Who Must Not Be Named.

The annoying thing is, my wife always breezes through airport security, because she has one of those innocent faces staff at security checkpoints find reassuring, whereas my face resembles a clenched fist and conveys the notion I have just done something -- or am about to do something -- of which I am deeply ashamed.

Adding to this overall aura of untrustworthiness is the fact, what with being the size of a major kitchen appliance, I can become soaked in sweat merely by thinking about tying up my shoelaces.

Still, things were going smoothly as I strolled through the metal detector -- a device designed to prevent travellers from sneaking loose change on board an aircraft and then rolling it down the aisle to alert busy flight attendants to the fact they need a cold beverage -- until a security worker waved me over to one side.

The guard sized me up and then, in the sort of voice you would use to inform someone they had just won the Reader's Digest Sweepstakes, snorted: "Sir, you have been selected from some additional random screening."

Which is when I was ushered into one of those high-tech full-body scanners, which is kind of like a phone booth where they make you hold your hands in the air like a bank robber surrendering to police and take a scan of your naked body in case, in the interests of national security, they need to post it on their Twitter accounts.

After being scanned, I was allowed to walk out of the phone booth, then I had to stand around anxiously waiting while the security worker frowned at the image of my naked middle-aged body.

It quickly became apparent he did not like what he was seeing. "Hmmm," he grunted, before waving over a second guard, who joined him in frowning at the image on the computer screen. "Hmmm," the second guard muttered, glancing at his colleague with professional concern.

I am not a national security expert, but I think it is safe to say it is not a good sign when two airport security workers are required to frown simultaneously at an image of your naked body.

What with being a crusading newspaper columnist, I casually sauntered over to see for myself. "Hmmm," I chirped, glancing over their shoulders at what appeared to be an image of my hefty torso, in the middle of which was what I can only describe as a very large, very red blotch mark.

"Sir," one of the guards finally said, shooing me away from the screen, "we are going to have to give you a pat-down."

Which is when one of the workers -- I'm going to guess he was the junior worker -- began gently but thoroughly patting down my XXL golf shirt in an area that, as most of you have already deduced, was clammy with sweat.

After wiping his hands and deeming me sweaty but safe, he finally let me join my wife on the airplane, where it occurred to me our state-of-the-art airport screening procedures might be in trouble if, God forbid, international terrorists are ever able to get their hands on a can of spray-on antiperspirant.

I didn't have time to worry about that, because I had to start worrying about the rest of our vacation, the highlight of which was a weekend on B.C.'s wildlife-intensive Gabriola Island, where a group of old friends had gathered for a reunion at an ocean-front lodge on a precipice surrounded by some seriously alarming cliffs.

Our main activity at "Geezerpalooza" -- so named because all the guys, except me, had turned 60 -- involved sitting on top of these cliffs clutching glasses of wine and peering down as angry waves crashed on the rocks far below.

Thanks to my recent brush with security, I spent most of my time offering helpful safety hints such as: "Please take 20 steps backwards because it would spoil my vacation watching you plunge to your death." Or: "Is it just me, or does that seal out there look hungry?"

The real highlight of the reunion -- other than listing our physical limitations on the huge "Ailment Board" set up inside the lodge -- involved climbing onto inflatable chairs and rings and drifting aimlessly in the nearby bay.

As we floated and baked in the sun, a family of eagles -- there were six of them, each the size of a recreational vehicle with wings -- circled uncomfortably close overhead and sent me the following telepathic message: "Yummy! We like the ones with the soft centres!"

Despite these very real threats to our safety, I was extremely brave. Still, I'm relieved no one bothered to pat down my golf shirt.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 13, 2014 A2

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