Don’t underestimate the value of your driver’s license

Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune.
By Maramis

Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune.

Well, I flew back to Las Vegas last Wednesday after spending several weeks in Cedar Park, which is right outside of Austin. Most people know Austin, the capital of Texas. While its airport is small compared to McCarran, it is apparently more heavily guarded against terrorists than LAS. Let me tell you why I say that.
I lost my wallet, which contained my driver’s license, shortly before I was to fly to Austin. I went to the local DMV to get a replacement, but they said I can only apply for the replacement since it has to be sent through the mail, and would take a few days. They gave me a piece of paper that they said would serve as a driver’s license until my actual one showed up. Because I no longer drive, I didn’t bother reading all the words on that piece of paper, such as words that said: “This document is not valid to establish identity….”
I have actually traveled several times, going through McCarran to that exact same Austin airport without anyone even once asking to see my driver’s license, and I always had it with me. I also carry my VA card, a photo ID card from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which does not expire until 2024. Yet this time, not only did they ask to see my missing driver’s license, they asked to see any other photo ID I had but did not accept my photo ID from the VA.
Then it started. They pulled me out of line and told me I had no acceptable ID so I would have to go through some additional screening.
The additional screening turned out to be the kind of screening they put suspected terrorists through. First, they made me go through the X-ray machine (which I generally decline); then they made me remove my hat, my neck brace, and my boots, which they X-rayed separately, along with my backpack. In addition to that, they passed a detector wand over all parts of my body and then put the wand into some kind of machine that would pick up any suspicious data from the wand and indicate such was found. They also put that wand inside my backpack into every nook and cranny.
The TSA agent then told me that she had to pat me down and would have to be thorough. She was very thorough, and I really can’t imagine where a terrorist could hide a weapon or a bomb on their person in a place that wasn’t checked. She even patted my hair. After the patting down, she also put me through some various positions for who-knows-what, maybe balance?
I almost got the feeling that they wanted to find something, so they could say, “See? We did a good job! We caught this woman trying to slip through without proper identification.” I don’t know what they would then say as to what I was trying to get away with, or what I planned to do after I slipped through without that official driver’s license.
It’s a darn good thing that I was there extra early. I only hope that they are not afraid to be so thorough with others who might really be possible terrorists. Several of the passengers who saw me go through all that wanted to know what my problem was. I told them it was a failure to have my actual driver’s license. So I guess the moral of this episode is to not lose your wallet (with your driver’s license in it) right before you need to take a flight anywhere, especially out of Austin’s airport.
But I don’t want to end this column on a downer note. While my actual visit there was, as always, all I thought it would be and more (much more), the best part of it was just hanging out with my son and his wife. Even if we didn’t have side adventures (which we did), or get in a fair amount of after-Christmas-sales shopping (which we did), just being with my Texas family (my only two grandchildren live within a few miles of them, and they are my favorites), was more than enough for me.
It’s always refreshing to be in a different environment for an extended period of time, and I really loved every minute being there.
Even though I had that experience at the TSA site on my way home, I met two women along the way to boarding the plane that more than made up for my TSA experience. I sincerely hope they email me since our chats definitely made me feel they were both possible friends in-the-making, and they both live in Las Vegas.
Since I want to keep the ending on a high note, I will just say I’m also glad to be back and I am already looking forward to my next visit to whichever of my three sons make my arrangements first, unless they all plan on coming to Pahrump instead, possibly for a surprise birthday visit!
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at maramis@lasvegastribune.com.

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