This week, I got my first pat down by the TSA at Philadelphia International Airport. I walked through the metal detectors and was ready to grab my belongings from the scanned bins when a female TSA agent asked me if I would mind a pat down.
Yes, her exact words were “Would you mind?” Being a perpetual people pleaser especially when it comes to authority figures – something I picked up from 16 years of catholic school – I responded,
“Sure, knock yourself out!” And she did.
She patted up my front and then moved to my back. She was very polite and yes, she touched areas of my body that normally wouldn’t be touched in public – well, not since my days of riding the subway, but just as with the subway, I walked away unscathed.
I used to dread the thought of being singled out for a pat down. Never has anyone asked me to participate in this activity. Usually, I walk through security and I get a nice smile and a “Have a nice Flight.” So, the pat down request was a little unnerving. I have seen photos of women violently sobbing during a pat down. I have read angry letters from passengers who felt violated and emotionally scarred (most likely their attorneys’ words), so I didn’t know what to feel about this occurrence. This is my assessment now that I am no longer a Pat Down Virgin:
Big – freaking – deal. I am sorry if this offends those who feel their civil liberties are harmed by this added bit of attention from airport security. This TSA agent was polite and even made a few cute jokes to put me at ease. Sure, I usually expect a glass of cabernet before anyone cops a feel, but she had a job to do, and she did leave me with my dignity – at least more dignity than some of the people who gave me the cabernet. Anyway, I survived without the need for long-term therapy.
I understand that I am a pretty easy going person, so my flippant attitude might not be everyone’s attitude. In fact, as I was waiting by the baggage claim in Pittsburgh for my suitcase to fly down the carousel (which by the way it did not as it miraculously arrived in Pittsburgh ahead of me and was waiting for me in the lost baggage office), I overheard a mother and daughter complaining about the mother receiving a pat down. The woman was about 55ish, and too young to be this cranky, but she deserved an academy award for this performance. I know I shouldn’t have gotten involved, but it wasn’t my city, and I figured what are the odds I would run into her, so I said,
“That made you feel used? A one-night stand and a fake cell number makes you feel used. This was a ruffling of dignity if that.”
“I don’t like anyone in my personal space. I don’t like anyone breathing near me let alone touching me,” she retorted.
“Then why do you fly? The entire concept of the airplane is one of close quarters and people breathing on each other.”
They did not appreciate me then or when they sat behind me on my return flight. See, this is why I should have kept my mouth shut. Anyway, my point is this: Give the TSA people a little slack. We might not want to be patted down, but I am pretty damn sure after flying with some of these people, that it’s no fun for them to pat us down either.