The perils of shopping for t-shirts

You ran the Ironman triathlon? Pffff... Lightweight! Try shopping with a chip on your shoulder.

There are a number of things I would do away with if I could. Shopping for clothes is one of those things. I buy a pair of jeans and t-shirts when I need to shop, and there is a checklist for this so I can be in and out as quick as you like.

The jeans must be blue, straight cut and have none of that stone washed, sand blasted shit going on with it. None of that creative embroidery and threaded shenanigans neither. Just a pair of regular blue straight cut jeans. The t-shirts must be round necked, medium sized, three in navy blue and three in grey. I’m not particular about the exact shade though. One must not be a fusspot.

Sometimes my wife will insist that I pick up some ‘nice clothes’ for a night out or a wedding we might have to attend, and so we go to a mall.

A mall is a large building with just shops so while its not exactly like taking an arachnophobe into a room full of spiders, it comes pretty close.

Malls here now have a frisking culture, so when I have to run the gauntlet for clothes, I get to have my testicles lightly brushed by a frisking guard, so there is that to look forward to now. It’s actually gotten to be a thing. I stand in line, waiting for the demon maitre’d to let us all into hell and when it’s finally my turn, I’m sweating with anxiety and if he’s goes anywhere near der schwanz, I flinch horribly and the guard jumps with fright. Happens everytime. It’s terrible.

Anyway, we went to a mall today after our morning sketching ritual because I needed t-shirts. There was a frisking line, of course, but this guard had a handheld detector, so that was good. I stuck out my arms out like our lord, and the guard waved and exorcised my demons and we were done. Then he asked me to open my bag so he could look into it.

Afterwards I hung around to watch him do his routine with the rest of the people in line behind me, and my wife couldn’t understand why I was holding us up.

Now this could be my imagination and it most likely is, but that guard only checked the bags of darker skinned, slightly shabby people. Like me.

So while I walked the aisles of the clothing stores, I thought about the heuristics of profiling in security work. The process itself is an art, and I suppose is entirely embodied cognition at work. I don’t imagine you can be taught how to scan a crowd, zero in on a bad guy and react before he does. One thinks and reacts as a mindbody unit in situations like this.

Take the case of secret service agent Larry Buendorf who stopped an assasination attempt on American President Gerald Ford in 1975. He actually stuck the webbing of his thumb between the hammer and slide of the would be assasin’s pistol and stopped it from firing!

But building heuristics like that take a lifetime. I wonder where the young guard who frisked me built his heuristic knowledge from. He spends between 5 to 8 seconds frisking each visitor, and is under pressure to keep the line moving, so he has to make snap judgements on whose bags he needs to look into and who looks safe enough for him to wave past.

I didn’t stick around to study him for too long either. For all you know, he checks bags at random, or maybe every sixth one, or maybe he’s singing “So Gaya Yeh Jahan” in his head and checks a bag everytime the chorus kicks in.

Heuristics aside, it can’t be an easy job. I know I couldn’t do it. Just thinking about the possibility of a bomber waiting out in line, trying to get past me and into the mall would physically wreck me. Plus on really bad days, the hand held scanner could break down.