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I flew from JFK to LAX today, and something really weird happened when I arrived (at about 230PM local time).
I walked from the arrival gate towards baggage claim, and when I was about halfway there, all of a sudden about a dozen or more TSA personnel and private security staff appeared, shouting STOP WHERE YOU ARE. FREEZE. DO NOT MOVE. Not just at me, but all of the travelers who happened to be wandering through the hallway at that moment.
Some of the TSA guards then backed up against walls in the hallway, and sort of barked at anyone who tried to move a few feet away from their "spot," like towards chairs to sit down or whatever.
One TSA guard jogged ahead, back towards the arrival gates (United, this was Terminal 7). At first I assumed maybe it was some weird security drill? A few of us asked what was going on, and got terse answers, like, "Security review." WTF? 5 minutes passed. 10, 15, 20. The two teen Japanese tourists about ten feet behind me looked utterly dazed -- welcome to America, guys. I was really jetlagged and cranky, wanted to move a few feet and sit down, but the TSA lady nearest me kind of snapped at me to stop and stay frozen where I was when the order went out.
After 30 minutes, the TSA people said, okay, you may leave now. And everyone unfroze, and went and got their bags. No explanation. I guess I should have pressed for an explanation, or demanded to know why we were being held without our consent and without a provided reason, but I was really tired and just wanted to get the hell out of there and go home. Perhaps I was wrong to have just walked away.
Has anyone else out there experienced this kind of thing in a US airport? Was this some sort of weird TSA fire drill, or was there an actual security incident with a perceived imminent threat?
The guards were all just sort of standing around scratching their heads, looking bored, I definitely didn't have the sense there was any urgency. But they held us there, standing, frozen, for 30 minutes. I felt like we were in an undiscovered Godard movie or something, and some Parisian babe with heavy eyeliner was going to burst in any moment and start reciting poetry. Totally surreal.
Love to hear anyone else's first-hand accounts of anything similar in the comments, if you've experienced it lately.
Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.