Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Selected, Screened, Scanned

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Selected, Screened, Scanned

In Vegas airport, I was selected for extra
security-screening, or netted in the screen
for securely extraordinary surveillance. I felt
like an unusual combination of numbers
that had arisen against common gaming odds.

"We want nothing in your pockets but air,"
said the woman. (The same philosophy
guides the gaming industry, which doesn't
gamble.) She then left me standing like a
mannequin in the scanner's glass exhibit,
my shoeless feet set in someone's yellow
footprints. A device rotated around

axis-me, dusting me with radiation, my
hands up and elbows out like those of
a salamander climbing a clammy stone.

I emerged with nothing in my pockets
but air and a few sad items in my
hands, such as a handkerchief and
scraps of poems. A man greeted me

severely when I came out from the
momentary cell. He examined stuff
in my hands. He spoke into a walkie-
talkie: "Copy the male," he said to . . .
someone, somewhere, who had placed
a kind of bet on me.  Why?

Was it my dark and brooding brow,
my atavistic 50s buzz-cut, my constant
befuddlement as, in line, I moved bits
of paper, coins, lint, and pens from pocket
pocket to pocket like a Dickensian
fidgeter?  What raised the odds on me,
aside from my oddity?  Ah, it could have
been my gaze, which, fascinated, fastens
itself on persons, all of whom interest me.
To stare, after all, is part of a writer's
routine.  In front of a screen, the

surveilling man or woman either was or
was not relieved to lose the wager placed
on the male, the me-male, the I, the copied
male, the selected, suspected, screened,
scanned, and surveilled male with only
air in his pockets, socks on his feet,
and curiosity in his head.

Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom
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