Going through security at the international airport for the flight to Jamaica, I'm thinking about a million things, none of them about being searched.
I do what everyone else in line is required to do; put everything including shoes, cell phone, Notebook, handbag, etc., through the scanner. I'm not happy going through the "sono" machine and annoyed when a security guard explains to a concerned elderly woman, in condescending and rude detail, that the "rays" are nothing to fear.
That's why the Pilots' Associations have filed protests so their personnel will not be exposed to it, I think. Uh-huh, okay. I'll deal with it.
When it's my turn to go through the machine I stand legs apart, arms up and am surprised when I beep. Suddenly a female security guard, wearing latex gloves and an angry expression comes over to me and says she has to pat me down. She's about 6'4", a large, very intimidating woman. My gut instinct upon seeing her is terror. I don't want her touching me.
When I ask why I have to be subjected to this, she says, "There's something wrong with your breast."
I can't breathe and I tell her that I do not want any personal part of my body touched. Two other guards, seeing me protest, come over to "help" her. Again I explain that I am not comfortable being touched in certain areas by a complete stranger. The male guard tells me in no uncertain terms that if I don't submit to a search, I won't be allowed on the plane. I have no choice.
I am wearing a short summer skirt and I feel uncomfortable with my legs apart. Even though I know they will find nothing subversive on me I am upset by the “patted down” statement. I really don’t like being touched by a stranger, security or not. She touches my back, side, and I feel her squeeze my right breast. I feel violated and, uncharacteristically for me, I want to cry. Then a visceral anger hits me and I want to scream "How dare you touch me!"
Later I ask to speak with the supervisor who is very nice and tells me that if I felt threatened by the female who searched me I can report it. While I'm talking with her another guard asks to see my passport and boarding pass. I don't see the reason for that.
I'm due to board soon so I tell the supervisor that I have to decline to file a complaint. She then tells me that if this happens again, I can request a "smaller" woman to do the search.
My wonderful guy, Alan, tries to make light of the situation to get me to relax. “Baby, I guess it is a minor inconvenience in today’s world. We just have to live with it.”
But, no matter how I try to convince myself that all this security is something we just have to live with, it bothers me tremendously that a intimidating stranger had the audacity to touch me!
I focus on it being a “minor inconvenience.” Was it really just that? To me it was more than just an inconvenience. I felt as if I had somehow been stripped of my rights as a citizen. We have lost some of our rights and that bothers me tremendously.
I guess a simple analogy of what happened at the airport can be likened to being pulled over by a police officer and asked to show your driver’s license. You automatically gave your license to the officer even though you know you have not broken any traffic laws. You do it because it is the law.
But it seems to me that we are forced to give up one thing in order to have another. You want the freedom to travel; you give up a certain amount of personal privacy. You want to keep your privacy; you give up the freedom to travel.
These minor inconveniences are taking their toll in time, money, and personal aggravation. No one wants to live this way and we are angry that this has, in effect, been forced upon us. The irony is that we must comply with personal searches if we want to continue to live in a free society. In order to enjoy liberty we have to give up a part of it.
I'm planning another trip by air and I am looking forward to it. I’ll do all the things I usually do when I’m getting ready to go away. I’ll pack too many clothes, I’ll worry about how things will be at home, I’ll leave one hundred plus instructions for the house sitter and so on.
But I’ll also do one other thing I’ve never had to do before: I’ll steel myself for that “minor inconvenience.”
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Like this article? Kristen Houghton writes a weekly article exclusively for twoday magazine. Check out some of her recent work below:
Books by Kristen Houghton:
No Woman Diets Alone - There's Always a Man Behind Her Eating a Doughnut
And Then I'll Be Happy! Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness and Put Your Own Life First
Remember, Hetty? (A Short Story)
Her NEW book, Nourishing Thoughts: The Little Book of Sayings for a Healthy, Happy Life launched May 30, 2012...get your ebook copy today!