So two days after our dreamy Workshop Cruise, I was back on the road headed to a workshop in Decatur, Illinois. On the way there, I learned an ugly little lesson...
It began with a tardy taxi to the airport, leaving me a bit frazzled...a feeling that intensified as I began the airport security frenzied routine. Off goes the coat. Off go the shoes. Out goes the laptop. Into bins go all, plus my purse, plus my laptop case. Compliantly, I wait for my turn to go forward.
"Take your jacket off," I hear from the TSA agent as I get ready to step through the magic arch. I am wearing a rather heavy fleece button down shirt because I often get cold when flying. Beneath my shirt is a little camisole so tight and unflattering I wouldn't bare it in front of my own mirror, let alone the public at large. Foolishly, (but very politely) I decide to enlighten the agent that my "jacket" is a shirt.
"My jacket is in that bin. This is my shirt."
"Take your jacket off."
"But I hardly have anything on underneath," I say, rather feebly, sensing I'm about to lose this one.
"Take your jacket off or get checked."
Sigh. "Okay....I guess I'll get checked then..."
Isn't that something? How is it I'm so vain? My father warned my sister and me about vanity. In the throes of our pre-teen angst we naturally spent years in front of the mirror trying to make utterly recalcitrant hair behave. Meanwhile my father was absolutely convinced we were dangerously close to strangling in our own vile vanity and never missed a chance to warn us of said danger.
How silly, really, to care if a few dozen people see my well-filled camisole...
I walk through the metal detector to stand by his side, waiting for the female agents who will take me to a little "room", where we will together discover that I am no security risk. Just then, my purse went through the machine. Suddenly and without a hint of warning, another agent is yelling at me. Yelling. Yelling with a red face. Yelling with something way too akin to rage. Yelling with frustration and disgust and fury.
"IS THIS YOURS?!!"
He is 4 feet from me and is holding up above his head my fewer-than-3-ounces perfume bottle, safely encased in its own ziplock bag.
I reply in a confused daze, "Yes."
And then he erupted all over me - something about how I'd left it in my purse instead of taking it out of my purse and now I'd have to relinquish my perfume or check it. But he sort of went on and on and on about it all, yelling the whole time.
I'm telling you, I was stunned. I'm not even sure I understood half what he was saying. I remember just trying to figure out what he was actually telling me. I mean, what was going to happen to me, now that I'd sinned?
In trying to make sense of all this, I mumbled something like, "It's in a ziplock bag..." And that was the wrong thing to say. He exploded with renewed fury, starting the whole diatribe all over again.
Slowly, I came to realize that he really meant it. Perfume in ziplog bag outside purse? Cool. Perfume in ziplog bag inside purse? Very, very, very uncool. As the shock wore off and I began to realize I was about to lose my favorite, expensive, fraught-with-memories-and-sentiment perfume, I very quietly and steadily said, "I will not relinquish it."
His eyes bugged and he started to go from Crimson Red to Henna. "You're not going to relinquish it???!!!! You're going to check it???!!! You're not...you're going to...you're not..."
I swear he started to sputter. I just stood there, quietly.
He half threw it to the women who'd meantime arrived to take me to that private room where next I would succumb to a partial disrobing. Still mostly in a daze of shock, I followed them for the procedure, trying to figure out how I was going to save what was mine. In the end, exhausted but determined, I fell back on tears and sympathy and a good lie.
"I need to keep my perfume. My husband gave it to me and he was killed in a car accident a year ago, and I can't give it up."
They let me keep it.
I'd stood my ground. But what sad ground. How helpless I felt, knowing they had me. I needed to fly and needing to fly meant needing to succumb. I've since learned that I could have asked to see his supervisor. In the future, I will. But this isn't isolated. When we came back from Belize, my daughter put her new cell phone in her checked bag. When she got home, she had a TSA note inside her suitcase, letting her know it had been opened by them. Cell phone was no where to be found. Another friend traveled within the US in January, only to arrive missing a wrapped gift from her suitcase...a gift intended for her sister suffering from breast cancer.
What does it mean when we need security to protect us from security?