If I weren’t so livid, I suppose it might have been humorous. Thirty-six hours later I still can’t find the humor in it.
Some days of air travel go so smoothly. Leaving Atlanta last week I was “TSA pre-screened” and the process was easy. Didn’t have to take my shoes off, walked through the metal detector and all was well. Got to my gate in plenty of time to relax and get ready to board. The flight was smooth, as was the landing.
I had the perfect layover. Enough time to switch terminals at DFW via the SkyLink and to get to my next flight, but not so much as to feel as I was wasting time just waiting around.
Again, the flight was good, albeit windy and bumpy flying over the Caprock Escarpment to Amarillo, but after years of taking that flight I’m used to it. The elevation changes dramatically from Dallas into the Panhandle of Texas. Dallas’s elevation is 430′; Amarillo’s elevation is 3,605′.
Trip was great; grabbed my luggage and I was ready to enjoy my mother’s 88th birthday weekend.
I wish I could say the same for the trip back to Atlanta. It went screwy from the beginning. My mother, sisters and I went to Denny’s for breakfast. We just wanted to enjoy a last meal together before the long weekend was complete.
I won’t go into the details of all that happened at Denny’s, but it started out weird from the time we ordered and stayed that way. Forty-five minutes later we still didn’t have our food; I told the waitress that we didn’t have time to eat. She said, “It’s coming out right now.”
I repeated, “We don’t have time to eat. Can you just have someone check me out?” We’d all been drinking coffee. She just waved me off rudely and said, “You’re fine!”
We left a tip on the table for the waitress. The cook times in the kitchen were not her fault, even if she was grouchy.
If we left right then, I could get to the airport 45 minutes before my flight. Airlines are persnickety about when they will and won’t let you check your baggage, even in a little airport like the Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport. The “international” nomenclature has always been a mystery to me. You can’t fly anywhere from Amarillo without going through Dallas or some other larger city.
So, I got to the airport and checked my bags. The clerk was very nice at the American Airlines counter. On to the security check point. The line was kind of long for Amarillo. There were probably 40 or so people in front of me. It seemed to be taking forever.
When I got to the front of the line, I put my jacket in one gray tray, my bag in another, and my boots in a third. I dutifully took out my one-quart bag of liquids, gels, and creams and put it on top my jacket. Then the TSA lady shouts out “Take snacks out of your bag, anything edible.” I pull out the two red peanut patties I’d bought for my husband (they are a Texas thing) and even my wintergreen Ice Breaker breath mints. I am a rule follower.
I realized why it was taking so long. The TSA was making everyone walk through the full-body scanner. It seemed like every other person had to go to the side for some kind of follow-up screening.
I walked through the screener, put my feet on the yellow feet and raised my arms above my head. The mechanical scanner arched over my body.
Sure enough, they pulled me to the side. A woman came up to me and said they were going to have to do a pat down due to the picture. She pointed over to the monitor. Here was what “my” picture looked like. Forgive the bad artwork, but I think you get the message.
I was furious. I know better than to say something like, “Well isn’t that where everyone hides their explosives?” Oh but I was soooooo mad.
I’m a 60-year-old woman living in the burbs of Atlanta. I just scream of being a terrorist! The TSA is not the DEA. I suppose I could understand someone stashing their drugs there, but weapons of mass destruction? My mind couldn’t grasp it.
The woman described what she was going to do to me. She asked if I wanted a private screening. Uh, you better believe it. I’m not going to be groped publicly.
You know, I’ve been groped by the TSA before. Sometimes the detectors have a problem with underwire bras. OK. I don’t like it, but just get it over with. But my privates? Oh I was not so understanding.
You are taught from the time you’re a small child to protect your privates. Don’t let anyone touch them you don’t want touching them. Oh, but it’s OK if it’s a stranger who happens to be employed by the TSA.
If I had committed a crime, I might be a little bit understanding. But my only crime was wearing cotton underwear and some stretchy old-lady pants. Wonder what it was the “crotch”ety old man thought he saw on the screen. I noticed him look over at me just after I got out of the screener. Maybe he was imagining a metal chastity belt???? Perhaps a hand grenade????
I got my private privates’ groping and guess what? They didn’t find anything sinister!
I left enraged. I put my boots on, grabbed my other stuff and huffed off, silently. Don’t want to get arrested and banned from my flight!
I purchased some trail mix and a water to replace my missed breakfast and sat down at the gate as the passengers began to board the plane. Soon my anger turned to tears; they trickled down my cheeks. I really felt I’d been assaulted in some way. If ANYONE else had groped me the way she did, I’d be able to file charges against them.
I don’t know what the answer to air safety is. But I know what it is NOT. What I experienced didn’t make the skies any safer. And it did ruin my day. Other innocent travelers, perhaps hundreds or thousands of them, probably experienced the same thing on Monday and every day.
The TSA needs to rethink it’s practices. We have rights in America. One of them is the right not to have our bodies violated for what some old man thinks he sees on a screen. Get a better set of eyes, or upgraded equipment for holy sakes.
Maybe tomorrow or the next day I’ll see some humor in this situation. But not yesterday, and not today.