Technically, they call it a pat-down when it’s done at the airport, but from what I’ve seen of people getting frisked on TV, cops have nothing on the TSA (Transportation Security Administration, in case you were wondering) when it comes to invasion of privacy in a public setting.
So here’s the thing, those blasted full-body scans are everywhere now. I remember when some poor saps got stuck in those lines while others skated through your standard metal detector, but no more. The putting your hands in the air like you really do care while x-rays check your personage for concealed weapons is now the norm.
Sure, they still have the metal detectors standing there like old relics at a museum for people to stare at in awe and yearning as they wait in long security lines, but those are only for people who apparently travel frequently enough or can afford to pay to not have to raise their hands if they’re sure. Those people also get to keep their shoes on. Apparently rich, well-traveled people don’t conceal weapons in stilettos. Though, truthfully, the stilettos could be used as a weapon. Why am I the only one seeing this? Nail clippers are verboten, but pointy-heeled shoes? No problem. I know which I’d rather have in a fight should I need to poke someone’s eye out.
Not that I spend time thinking about these things.
The other lucky souls who got to used the metal detector were those carrying small children. To this I protest. I’M carrying a small child! He just doesn’t happen to be visible yet!
Even the random lady during my friend’s and my pre-security bathroom break, washing her hands at the sink between us, agreed with me that I shouldn’t use the giant sweeping arm contraption while pregs. [Sidenote: I love when strangers join in your conversation, and I’m not even being sarcastic. It’s just friendly and shows a camaraderie among women. Particularly when it comes to being pregnant. And being in the bathroom.]
So, with shoes off, paraphernalia in the little white bins, and suitcase on the conveyor belt, I waited for the TSA man to take a breath during his routine announcements to those in line about liquids, laptops, and I don’t know, lozenges? Are those forbidden too?
I thought surely he must be finished, but he held a blue-gloved finger up to me (the correct finger) until he completed his litany. Then he deigned to look at me, and I explained that I was pregnant and didn’t want to go through the check-to-see-if-I’ve-shaved-my-pits doohicky. (I believe that’s the technical term. Either way, he knew exactly what I meant.)
He said, “Then you’ll have to get a pat-down. Is that okay?”
I said, “Yeah, I guess,” mystified by the implication that there was another option and too disturbed to think of what that option might be. (I’d been told that, no, the metal detector was not allowed. They must’ve looked at my clothes and decided I wasn’t rich enough.)
I was instructed to stand by a half-door like a sheep left in its pen while all the other sheepy got to go out into the pasture. Someone called, “Pat-down,” and finally a woman eyed me up and down and snapped on her blue gloves.
I had to wait, like a kid outside the principal’s office, for my belongings to come through the conveyor. I was NOT allowed to touch them, only to point them out so she could remove them for me.
Then she went into her spiel of what exactly she’d be doing to me so quickly that I didn’t catch half of what she’d said. Also, how often do you have to recite this ritual that you can rattle it off at that speed? Does she practice with her friends while off-duty, or are there that many potential security threats needing pat-downs?
She ended with, “We can do this here or in a private room,” indicating a deep, dark hole in a far wall. I was reminded of that scene from Return of the King when Aragorn looks into the passageway that leads to the dead and can almost see and hear the menacing cries of the damned souls.
“Here is fine,” I said, without adding, “where there are plenty of witnesses.”
I dutifully spread my legs awkwardly to fit the footprint pattern on the rubber mat I was standing on and held my arms out from my body. I’d like to point out that the footprints were of a man’s foot–wearing shoes. If he were in this position, he wouldn’t have shoes on. They should draw bare feet prints on there instead.
I bit my lip as I looked at my friend who was waiting for me and trying not to snicker. To the TSA woman’s credit, she was quick and not too invasive. With no other experience in the matter, I’d expect this to be the norm and thought, “That wasn’t too bad.”
Until I had to fly out of D.C. This was a different experience, which I’ll save for the next post, since this one is way too long already. Stay tuned!
Have you ever gotten an airport pat-down? How was it for you? Ooh, ever been frisked by a cop? That sounds like an interesting story. Do share!