?`s and ANNEswers

Ten minutes to write. Less time to read.


I usually try to stay under the radar when going through airport security: nothing metal in my pockets, no belt, no shoes, remove computer from case, remove liquids from luggage. I’ve traveled enough to know the drill, but it didn’t work today.

I even chose the line that didn’t require passing through a full body scanner, but when I got to the front of the line security personnel directed me to the full body machine for some reason. But I wasn’t particularly concerned.

I stepped into the scanner, put my shoeless feet on the decals on the floor and raised my arms over my head, just like you’re supposed to.  I didn’t make a peep. “You can step out now,” one of the TSAs said. I complied, always trying to be pleasant.

But Mr. TSA said, “There’s something in your pocket,” and he showed me the scanner image with a big yellow square over my pocket. I reached in and pulled out the offending item, a lip balm that had never caused problems before.  Mr. TSA took it and sent it to the back of the conveyor line to go through on its own.  It seemed like overkill, but I kept my pleasant demeanor. I’ve learned that works best with TSA types, some of whom are akin to prison guards.

Suddenly a Ms. TSA told me to go back through the full body scanner and try again without the lip balm. In I went. Same drill. Out I came positive I’d be on my way.  However, Ms. TSA pointed to the new image of me and said, “There is something in your head, on your back, and in your groin that didn’t pass the test.”  Sure enough, there were more yellow squares on my virtual body. So Ms. TSA began her script about how I needed to be patted down in my vulnerable areas and did I want a private room?

In the meantime, Earl was waiting for me with a question mark etched on his forehead. To remove it, I called to him, “They’re going to do more scanning; I’m considered dangerous.” Ms. TSA was not amused.  She said in her most un-amused voice, “That was unnecessary.”

I knew enough not to argue, but really isn’t that the connotation when one doesn’t pass the scanner two times in a row? I said, “What about my underwire bra?  There’s no yellow square on my chest.” She wearily said that the scanner takes that into consideration.

I also knew enough not to comment on the scanner’s inability to recognize lip balm as I was led away to a private room by two women, one to do the scanning and one to be a witness. Fifteen minutes later, after I had offeredto help by taking off my clothes, the two females TSAs decided I was not a threat. They returned my lip balm, and hoped I’d have a nice day. I smiled and asked them to do the same.

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