Last Word These Olympics have turned one writer into a touchy-feely security groupie

February 16, 2002

The wife and kids don't know it yet, but there are going to be a
few changes around the Murphy household when Dad gets home from
the Olympics. I'll hit Home Depot for the two-by-fours we'll
need to erect a faux "magnetometer," through which I'll pass
after coming in the front door and, of course, emptying my
pockets into the containers provided. (I'm thinking Tupperware
or maybe buckets from the sandbox.)

My seven-year-old daughter, Willa, will pass my briefcase
through our "X-ray" machine (cardboard box from storage room).
If I put the briefcase on the construction-paper "conveyor"
before being instructed to do so, she can issue a curt
rebuke--not exactly a reach for her. If I'm carrying a beverage,
an espresso drink, for instance, she can request that I take a
sip of it as proof that it's not actually a grande, triple-shot,
extra-foamy carbolic-acid latte.

Devin, who is five, can be in charge of taking my loose
change--hardly a reach for him, either--and simulating, every so
often, the whooping of the alarm. That will be my wife's cue to
grab the spatula and subject me to a thorough and vigorous
wanding.

It won't be Laura's fault that her wanding and frisking
techniques will seem hopelessly amateur after my two-plus weeks
in Utah. While entering various athletic venues and the Main
Media Center, I've been prodded and inspected by the best of
the best, camo-fatigued Army men and women who can order you to
"unbutton the top button of your pants and turn down your
waistband" one moment, then ask you if you have any extra pins
the next.

Life at the Olympics is like life in wartime. There are 15,000
uniformed personnel at these Games, including thousands of state
and local police. There are FBI, FEMA, and Secret Service, though
none of them strike fear into my heart so much as that other
security warrior: the newly minted volunteer, armed with
clipboard, two-way radio and an unshakable conviction that it is
his or her destiny to single-handedly save these Games from
catastrophe.

Rather than chafe at the delays, I welcome them. As Mark A.
Camillo of the Secret Service has said, "We're all on the same
team."

Officer Camillo puts his finger on the bond I feel with the
uniformed folk--the teammates, I should say--who frisk me. There
was, for instance, the burly staff sergeant at the MMC who bade
me to open my coat, then ran his palms up and down my chest and
abdomen. As he did so, I reflexively drew in my stomach.

It was over quickly, and both of us moved on with our lives.
After retrieving my valuables from the plastic container, I
turned back and saw that he was already wanding another
journalist. A younger man.

I saw my staff sergeant a few days later. Our eyes met, but he
pretended not to recognize me, so I moved to another line. Two
can play this game. --Austin Murphy

COLOR PHOTO: LYNN JOHNSON A touch of wander-lust? The author undergoes another good screening.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)