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Sao Paulo Strip Search

Sao Paulo Strip Search

A Story by Greg Escott

A border guard finds his prey


Like finding a gold nugget in my guitar case, the screening lady hoisted up my lighter to the ceiling lights and exclaimed, really, shouted out to the gods that made the flickering neon tubes glow, “Nao pode!”

She stood waiting for me on the other end of the conveyor belt, smiling at me with big lips that were painted bright pink.

I banged the child seat against the entrance to the x-ray machine again. Why the hell is this thing not fitting? I flipped it over and started yanking on a piece of plastic that obviously had no other use than to block the seat from going through the chute. I tried getting it through the machine again and knocked it hard against the frame. The screening guy in front of me stood with his arms folded across his chest and glared at me. I grabbed the offending piece of plastic again and really gave it hell. My face was hot and I felt all of the eyes from an impossibly long queue behind me sink into my back as I pounded on the seat. The piece of plastic showed mercy and folded down with a soft click, the conveyor belt taking it away.

I walked through the metal detector. The screening lady was still hoisting my lighter to the sky, showing everyone behind me that I have been very bad. She started wagging her stubby finger at me.

“Sim, eu pode!” I said.



A pile of bags was stacking up against mine on the belt and the line shut down. Seeing that this was going nowhere, she called in reinforcement.

I watched him crossing the screening room. He was swinging his arms and flashing me an evil glint from under dark thickets of eyebrows. With his beady black eyes locked on mine from across the room, he shouted out “No!”

He was a real pro; he didn’t need to see what the commotion was about before passing final judgement. He came to my side, panting like a dog. “No!” he barked at me. I fought down the rising urge to howl into his face. The air grew stagnate from the gas of stale coffee pumping out of his overfed jowls.

Every rank of authority was under assault in Sao Paulo. Protestors were taking to the streets in Brazil and shouting about rising bus fares, government corruption, failing education, shoddy healthcare, and a whole host of other worthy things to set up burning barricades of tires for; but these things weren’t my fight.

Normally, a lighter wouldn’t be my kind of tussle either, but I have a particular attachment to this one that was now in the clutches of a pissed off security guard. It’s hefty weight in solid brass feels like old world quality. It has smooth rounded lines, a soft flame, and a removable pipe tamper. The nicks and dents on it remind me of old friends and days that are long gone.

It all coalesced into me not taking anymore s**t. From anyone. Especially not from a short hairy pit bull whose breath reeked of rancid coffee. Brazilian Gestapo or no, this son of a b***h wasn’t going to get his greasy hands on my lighter to go home and fire up a big cigar with.

A seething line of passengers was behind me. Anonymous shouts from the back rippled up the line to tell me to get the hell out of the way. The screening lady handed my lighter back to me.

“Throw it in the trash bin outside of security.” she said.

The goon that she called over for reinforcement began rustling through my bag for more things to confiscate. Everybody was looking somewhere else when a passenger set off the metal detector behind me, so I slipped the lighter into Jutta’s hand. I raised my arms, as if I had finally broke, and I walked out of security to a trash bin.

My three-year-old son Kaue stood transfixed, watching the awkward scene with his legs rooted next to another screening woman who was trying to get him to move out of the way.

The only heavy thing I had in my pockets was a coin, so I threw it into the trash bin. It made a soft thud in the bottom that nobody but me could hear. Goddamnit. I walked back through security without setting off the siren of alarm bells, straight into the open arms of the foul breathed goon. “Alright, come with me.” he said.

He led me into their most special room, with blacked out windows and rubber gloves a-plenty. The chaos of the baggage screening lines drifted away and a cool silence fell over the room. The room had the new plastic smell of a sex shop. There was a small bench that was too narrow to sit on and a burning light bulb above my head jacked up the temperature a few degrees more. The literally heaping pile of blue rubber gloves and the obtrusive absence of a bottle of lube had a slightly intimidating effect on me. My eyes raced about the room to take stock of and try to make sense of the situation, but nothing positive came back. Sweat began trickling out from under my arms and I let out a low whistle.

Now that he was feeling empowered in his little den of darkened nastiness, the goon came nose to nose with me. I could see small black hairs growing out of the tip of his reddened snout. They were packed in between weeping pores and what looked like crusty mustard.

He stared into my eyes, trying to penetrate through to the back of my skull. This was his most fierce glare, I could tell, one that he must have spent years in front of a mirror trying to perfect. I gazed back lovingly into his dark, George Bush eyes, and smiled. The vibrations of space-time itself rippled perceptibly as his arsehole clenched.

“Where. Is. It?” I could just make out the guttural noises coming from between his gritted teeth.

“Where is what?” I said, trying to keep things light.

“I ask, one more time. Where. Is. The. Lighter?”

“What lighter? I don’t have any idea what you are talking about.”

“Search him!” The dark Plexiglas walls shook.

He intensified his effort to slice through my brain with his locked in glare. I broke off eye contact when my eyes darted all on their own to search for the bottle of lube that I knew, without a doubt, was nowhere in the room. I steeled myself to not show fear.

The security guy who was waiting outside for the command to come in and do the search already had his blue rubber gloves on when he stepped into the cozy room. You have to appreciate a man who’s always ready for action. He had a young face that was kind and he was a foot and a half taller than me. I didn’t take my eyes off of the plump security goon giving orders; this was about to get kinky, and in these situations of intimacy, I long for eye contact.

I was getting a good rub down while the goon stood back in the corner and watched on with a wispy thin smile. When his assistant extended his long slender fingers and gently cupped my balls, giving me a little ‘how’s she going’, I raised my eyebrows and grinned at the voyeur in the corner. His forehead exploded with furrows and he said something sharp in Portuguese to his assistant. His assistant abruptly stopped massaging my meat and said I was all clear.

They let me keep my pants on.

The security goon decided to take my boots through the x-ray machine one more time to see if the lighter had somehow teleported into one of the soles of my boots. I called out to him as he was leaving, “Hey, bring me the pamphlet where it says I can’t carry a lighter!” He kept stomping off in his hard soled shoes that made fantastic clicking noises wherever he went.

I’m not certain, but I think the little dingle I was given downstairs while I was being searched might have been a subtle how’s it going? You want my telephone number when this is through? His assistant was surprisingly delicate in a way that made me feel pretty uncomfortable and flattered all at the same time. We stood together in awkward silence while the goon was off testing his theories on the physics of teleportation. Just when I was sure that his assistant was going to break the ice and lean in for a kiss, the goon came storming back into the blacked out room and killed the moment.

I was led out of the blacked out room and into a strange sort of free limbo among the row of x-ray machines. The child seat and my bag were still on the conveyor belt and causing an unruly backup. People glanced at me and quickly averted their eyes. Most of them looked hot and angry. “Drugs?” I heard one of them say to another. Nobody wanted to linger in case the bad vibrations began spreading like cancer.

“I’m calling police now.” The goon said.

“Ok, and while you’re at it, bring back in writing where it says I can’t have a lighter on the plane.” I was beside myself with righteousness. I felt at ease now that I was back in a well-lit, public room. The hustle and clanging of so many witnesses renewed me and I felt like strutting about the screening area like a c**k. I clawed back the first syllable of “jackass” that was leaping out of my mouth to wrap around his throat. Settle down now, there’s no need to start poking this rabid dog. I was cool as a cucumber. It was like waiting for a bellhop to bring me back a pressed shirt from the laundry. The goon was intending to bring down the Brazilian federal police on my gringo a*s to squash me like an ant because I stepped out of his line, but f**k him, or so I was thinking.

I couldn’t see Jutta or Kaue, so I waited near the x-ray machine for a while. Most of the people who saw it from the beginning had been shuffled through security, so only the occasional person glanced over at me and gave me a look like I was bad fruit.

The security goon materialized again to hover around me as if I had a few kilos of cocaine up my a*s, and since he was silent, I decided to strike up a conversation. “Did you find the police?” I asked.


“You’re wrong about the lighter.” I said.


“No really, you should check the rules here. It’s fine.”

“No.” he said.

“No, you won’t check, or no you can’t have a lighter?”

“You check, it’s on website.” he said.

“I don’t need to, I passed through this security with the exact same lighter two months ago. The screener even held it in her hand and lit it!” I said.


He refused eye contact and instead, stared through the metal detector frame in front of us.

Jutta had slipped back out of security while I was in the blacked out room trying to maintain my fidelity. The security was an unorganized mess and nobody noticed or stopped her and Kaue from leaving. The goon and I watched her and Kaue come up to the x-ray machine again. She emptied the contents of her handbag in the tray and then they walked through the metal detector without setting the alarms squealing. The screeners had nothing else to hold them for, so they were let through.

The goon left off in a whirlwind and then stopped himself after a few paces. He turned to us, “I’m going to find the police.” His hardened features washed away. Then, remembering who he was pretending to be, he growled, “Stay put. Do not move an inch.”

Jutta gave me a long look that stayed with me after her eyes moved on. I didn’t say anything. Kaue started fidgeting. Within two minutes, he was running around in circles and laughing with a screening lady.

Ten more minutes passed in hours. “Let’s go,” said Jutta. We started walking toward the room that has the customs officers so that we could be let out of Brazil. The screening people went back to screening the annoyed travellers.

The customs line dragged on. It was like wading waste deep through chilled s**t. Just as we were stepping up to the customs booth, I heard shouting from the back of the room. Between the serpentine lines of people, I saw two stubby arms waving in the air. A short portly prick, red as a fire ant, was pushing people out of the way. He pointed at us and screamed at the top of his lungs for the police that he couldn’t find. He mangled the only orderly line you’ll ever find in Brazil. Jesus f**k man! Don’t you know when to quit?

The customs officers stopped stamping papers and the whole row of them stared down at us from their numbered glass cubicles. Another line shut down on our account. The mess of travelers behind us quickly stilled and a guy next to me put down his duffel bag and took a couple of steps back. He looked at the security goon stomping through the crowd. Then he stepped back a little further.

When you’re going through customs and some maniac starts hollering and pushing people out of the way, it draws an impressively swift response from the police who have been absent all this time.

The equivalent of Brazil’s FBI suddenly materialized at the booth we were about to walk up to, and like a village idiot, I couldn’t help myself from laughing. Not wanting to miss out on a good joke, Kaue began laughing with me, which was really spot on timing because his laughter is infectious as hell.

Surely, more than one cup of coffee had tumbled off of a table as the agent was suddenly roused by the security scare at a customs booth. He was tall and wore a black jacket with beige pants, a fresh wet stain on his knee. A matte black gun was fastened to his right leg. He would have been intimidating, but his disheveled hair and bloodshot eyes ruined the effect. The agent studied us. “These are the ones?” He said, grinning at the goon. “Did they go through the metal detectors?”

“Yes.” The goon said.

“Uh-huh. And the problem is?”

“I want a strip search of these three, right now!” the goon screamed.

“Strip?” The agent silently mouthed the word again, working out how it felt in his mouth.

“Yes! Right now!” the goon said.

The agent took another long look at us and slowly shook his head. “I’m sorry for the delay, you can go through now.”

The goon was livid. He stepped in front of us to block our way. “Stay here.” he said.

Shades of red bloomed in splotches throughout his lumpy face and thick neck. “You are responsible for everything these three do on the plane! I am writing a report.” he barked at the agent, spittle flying everywhere.

“Yes, yes, I take full responsibility.” The agent drawled.

The agent took a long, deep breath. “And you have mustard on your nose,” he said.

The goon clenched his fists and stared at the agent walking away. Then he turned in the other direction and paused for a few moments, surveying the wreckage of a once orderly customs line. He reached up and gave his nose a self-conscious scratch, missing the crusted mustard entirely. As he shuffled off back to his post, those magnificent clicking sounds from his shiny black shoes were gone.

The customs officers gaped down at us from their booths. The travellers behind us didn’t move. We stepped through the silence to the nearest booth and tried to hand over our passports. The customs officer stared at us from behind her thin frameless glasses and forgot for a moment that she was supposed to take our passports. She snapped out of her trance, snatched her stamp and then rapid fired on the first blank page that came up. Her eyes darted around and scanned for more threats. She obviously wanted to get us the hell out of her vicinity before black ops swooped down from the ceiling tiles and started shooting the place up.

We passed the duty free shop that the customs clearance funnels into, and not wanting to waste a good speech, I launched into the one I was preparing for whatever agent was going to cram a fist up my a*s. “People like him might win eventually, but not all of us are going to go along with it so easily. Some of us are going to push back and make things difficult.” I said.

Jutta looked at me and laughed. We kept walking and I felt stupid.

“So, you have my lighter?” I said.



“When you were in that room, I left security and gave it to a woman passing by.”

© 2016 Greg Escott

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Added on November 22, 2016
Last Updated on November 22, 2016
Tags: Sao Paulo, airport, strip search, lighter


Greg Escott
Greg Escott

Victoria, Canada

I used to be living the dream in a cubicle decorated in grey with a fantastic view of a scrap yard. Now I work in my underwear at home. more..