David McNew/Getty Images News/Getty Images David McNew/Getty Images News/Getty Images
By Tatiana Pérez

Last Friday, Ilena was on her way to meet her mom in Honolulu for spring break. She’d made it through airport security at LAX when she was selected to be the subject of a random search. After doing a seemingly unprecedentedly thorough survey of her wallet, the TSA came across her fake IDs (dun-dun-dun…).

By eleventh grade, if you go to a private school in the City (and if you’re not charmed enough to have an older sibling who happens to be both over-21 and your doppelgänger), you most likely have a fake ID. You probably paid upwards of 125 dollars for it, bought it from some shady friend-of-a-friend who sells these absurdly priced pieces of plastic to the privileged masses, and requested it be issued by the mock-up government of Pennsylvania or Delaware or some other stodgy state whose seal has been overworked by New York’s fake ID industry. And being a well-tutored, informed product of one of the City’s finest educations, you were savvy enough to incorporate the most crucial tips on how to make yourself look older into your photo: you pulled your hair back, wore a dark and unembellished top, allowed a slight smile, and avoided wearing too much makeup (and, of course, you used your real name on the ID, because if you were to get caught using a pseudonym, you could be charged with identity theft, which is distinctly no bueno). Voilà! Now you look 18 rather than 15, and 18 can pass for 21.

Everyone we hung out with in high school had fakes, and while we kept them handy for our summers spent back home (if I hadn’t lost my first, I’d be turning 26 in Maryland this July), many of us haven’t had much need for them during the nine months of the year that we spend in our respective colleges. So when the TSA started rummaging through her carry-on items, Ilena didn’t flinch; she hadn’t seen her fakes since New Year’s, and quite honestly, had forgotten that she’d stashed them behind her credit cards.

“Oh, shit,” she blurted out as a decidedly unamused TSA agent discovered three counterfeit driver’s licenses, “those are fake. I’ve only ever used them for buying alcohol. I didn’t even remember they were in there.” She wanted to cut to chase. But, unsurprisingly, it seems that airport security has tightened even further in the wake of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight. Consequently, it seems that the TSA isn’t taking too kindly to the possession of falsified government documents.

However, it also seems that the TSA found Ilena’s fake IDs in an unsavory fashion. That detailed search through her wallet was totally gratuitous; they didn’t have any reason to root about her cash. Naturally, though, the TSA didn’t give a shit about this minor fuck up. Instead, seven of these fine officers proceeded to squander 32 (Ilena kept her eye on the clock) minutes that could’ve been spent identifying real threats to national security on a 5’1”, 98-pound, Louis luggage-toting college kid.


The Threat: Ilena Akiko Vigden 5’1” 98 lbs. Image courtesy of New York Natives, Photographer: Tatiana Perez

The Threat:
Ilena Akiko Vigden, 5’1”, 98 lbs.
Image courtesy of New York Natives, Photographer: Tatiana Pérez

During those painful 32 minutes, Ilena sat (and managed to conjure some theatrical tears) as the TSA grilled her repeatedly with the same two questions:

“Which IDs are fake, again?”

“The ones from California, Texas, and Pennsylvania. My passports and New York license are real.”

“I see… so, if you have two legitimate passports and a driver’s license, why did you use a fake ID to enter the airport?”

“As I’ve told your colleague several times now, I didn’t. You guys found those IDs—which I use exclusively to buy drinks—at the back of my wallet.”

This charade continued until Mike—apparently a head TSA guy—pulled Ilena to the side: “You seem like a decent kid, so I’m gonna let this slide… but I want you to cut up your IDs, wrap them in a paper towel, and dispose of them immediately.”

Okay, what the fuck. Clearly, this depressing dude was on some bizarre power trip. He knew he couldn’t punish her since she hadn’t used her IDs for anything; his employees found them while digging through her things. But instead of letting her go and continuing to attend to more pertinent affairs of airport security, he decided to mess with her.

Ilena wasn’t about to argue with this hulking, bald officer of the law, however, so after his staffers spent five minutes locating a pair of scissors, she did as instructed. As most travelers don’t, though, she didn’t have a wad of paper towels on hand, so as she rushed over to the garbage, she sprinkled the floor with bits of her fakes. A highly displeased Mike called Ilena back to his station.

“When a TSA agent helps you cover up evidence, you cover it up well. I told you to wrap them in a paper towel and throw them away, and you didn’t do that, did you?”

Having just destroyed nearly 400 dollars-worth of “evidence,” Ilena knew she was now in the clear for whatever crime she didn’t commit, and decided to get a little bitchy:

“No, I didn’t, sir. But I assumed you didn’t want me to go all the way to the bathroom with all this ‘evidence’ to find a paper towel, so I improvised.

“Oh, alright. You’re free to go.”

And that was that. Thirty-two minutes and seven TSA employees grossly misspent. I don’t know about you, New York, but I, for one, certainly feel safer knowing that TSA doesn’t discriminate when delegating how to waste its time.

Image courtesy of New York Natives, Photographer: Tatiana Perez

Image courtesy of New York Natives, Photographer: Tatiana Pérez

4 Responses to Campus Chronicles: My Best Friend Is a Threat to National Security

  1. kfrederick says:

    Yup, typical way to WASTE taxpayers dollars WHILE infringing on the Rights of the citizens.
    What the hell were they doing in her wallet anyway without probable cause?

  2. Fighting the TSA’s assertion that it has the right to read through our documents — including ID cards — is a central part of my lawsuit against them. Read more at http://tsaoutofourpants.wordpress.com

  3. TestJeff Pierce says:

    FREEDOM TO TRAVEL USA (http://fttusa.org) is fighting the TSA’s unconstitutional scanners and criminal touching pat downs. Oh, and it would be great to have a 4th amendment again.

    There is no reason for the TSA to be digging through wallets, but the airports have turned into “constitution free zones”. While Ilena was being detained by her government at LAX, I wonder if the TSA spotted the largest theft ring in the country (so far) which had 26 airport workers arrested this week?

  4. Ian C says:

    So at 18 I can get shot with a bullet fighting in the American military, but I can’t have a shot of liquor. The 21 rule is fucked and should be repealed back to 18, heck even 16 without parental consent. In terms of drinking with a parent there should be no restriction.

Leave a Reply