The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Scenes from Security Theater at Dulles Airport

August 10, 2011

Dulles Airport, just before noon. My daughter and I have dropped off my father in-law. We’re sitting in our compact car, waiting for one of the vehicles blocking us to move on. After six minutes, I notice that the engine of the Acura SUV sitting to my left is off. 

Me: Hmmm. I don’t think there’s anyone in the car.
Daughter: What do you mean?
Me: We can’t leave because of that Acura… but I don’t think there’s anyone in it.

I wait another minute or so. I Attempt to pivot the car away from the curb and on to freedom, but fail. I get out of the car, and walk up to the SUV. There is, indeed, no one in it. I spot a security officer sitting by the luggage-cart dispenser. I walk over to him.


Me: Sir, I there’s an unattended vehicle over there.
Security Officer: No there isn’t.
Me: But it’s been sitting there for at least five minutes, and its totally empty.
Security Officer: He got out and got in line. He’s allowed to do that.

I glance at the nearest “no parking/no standing/unattended vehicles will be towed.”


Me: Okay. What line is he in?
Security Officer: The United line.
Me: Inside?
Security Officer: […]
Me: Well, it’s been a while, and I just thought you might want to know.
Security Officer: If he doesn’t come outside in a bit, I’ll look into it.

A limo leaves, creating space for me to pull out as well. I walk back to my car and drive away.

‘Tis a pattern.

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.