With news this week of the impending TSA body scans and pat downs at airports across the country, I was reminded of a particularly joyful experience WH and I had in Key West a couple of years ago. We had gone down to celebrate a friend's birthday and were returning to D.C. the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Not a great day to travel, but from Key West it wasn't so bad . . . the airport only has one gate.
We were standing in line waiting to be screened and board the plane (which basically all happens within 50 feet of each other) and chit-chatting. WH pointed out a photo on the wall of an FBI's Most Wanted terrorist -- he looked like your garden variety terrorist: disheveled hair, long beard, soul-less eyes, slightly constipated. WH said, "You know if that guy shaved his beard, combed his hair, and put on a Budweiser baseball cap, these idiots would never know the difference." This was, unfortunately, within earshot of one of the TSA agents. I bet you can guess what happened next . . . we were selected for "additional screening."
At the time, the body scanners were only a twinkle in Big Brother's eye, but the pat down was already in the TSA toolbox. There was even a private little "room" cordoned off behind a curtain where the agents took those needing "additional screening." I got to go first, while WH was stuck talking to another screener. The woman was business-like, albeit completely unfriendly. I mean, if someone's going to second base with me, shouldn't she at least entertain polite conversation? Or buy me dinner first? (Does this remind anyone of "Seven Minutes in Heaven" that game from boy-girl parties in the sixth grade? You'd go into a little room, probably some closet, and then stay in there for seven minutes, doing who knows what.)
Behind the curtain we went. The agent patted down my legs, butt, back, arms, and middle. Then she got to my bra. I'm no Dolly Parton in that department . . . more like Keira Knightley. Using her wrists (apparently screening for bombs is similar to testing the temperature of a baby's bath water), she scanned my boobs. She seemed troubled by the underwire, as if she had never felt one before, as if she wasn't wearing one herself. What is this? What could this strange metal be? I'm going to have to go in for a better look. So she reached in (using her fingers this time, as I'm guessing the dexterity of her wrists simply didn't allow for what was to come next), grabbed my bra, touching the underwires, and pulled. Then she let go. Not since seventh grade gym class had I had my bra snapped. And now it was all in the interest of "national security." "You're free to go," she informed me, but not really, as I had to wait for WH and talk to the other delightful TSA agent before we could board the plane.
While I waited for WH, the other agent made "small talk," which I'm sure was really meant to find out the true meaning of my business in Washington, D.C. "What is your business in Washington?" "Well, I live there." Frowny face, "So, where are you staying when you get to Washington?" "Um, at my house." Eyebrow raise, "I see. And what was your business in Key West?" "Drunken birthday partying." Furrowed brow, "I see. What do you do in Washington?" "Public relations. I work for a nonprofit." Blank stare, "I see." By that point, WH was done with his jostling and we both stood there, waiting to be cleared. At last the "interrogating" agent informed us that we were "free to go."
The entire plane had been held while we were being scanned. We boarded to the derisive looks of the other passengers. I'm not sure what they were so pissed about. They hadn't had their nonnies jarred by a stranger. Obviously we weren't terrorists, we were tourists. Though I can see how someone might mix the two up -- Hawaiian shirts are easily confused with army green jihad outfits. But they let us on board and off we went.
We arrived in D.C. without further incident, thankful that we could begin our holidays in peace. So, whether you're scanned, fondled, jostled, or are simply staying home this Thanksgiving, make it one to remember.
Happy Thanksgiving and Safe Travels, my friends!