I was apprehensive as the date of my departure drew near. I was going to a new school and my mind was consumed with the priorities of having to find a new place to live, new roommates and new classmates. Little did I know, however, that I was about to engage in one of the most extraordinary personal encounters of my life, and that it would happen before I even reached my destination.
Slowly I trudged forward in the never-ending airport security line, being herded like cattle in a stock house — the only thing missing was electric prods. The parched morning air contributed to my zombie-like demeanor and helped to justify my lifeless eyes as I employed a thousand-yard stare toward the familiar machines for “baggage check.” I scanned the scene — typical, like the DMV of the sky. “Certainly this has to be one of the levels of hell,” I thought. But alas, my turn had arrived and there she was: an angelic figure to awaken me from my travel-induced stupor.
She was big and bold, with her hair in some complex vertical arrangement, for which I doubt a term exists. Her dark blue pants and white collared shirt were pressed and clean, as though they had been freshly ironed just a few hours prior. The accompanying Transportation Security Administration badge on the left side of her collar glistened in the bright fluorescent-lit room. “Next,” she said.
Never have I heard such a sweet, soothing voice uttered from a federal government official — more comforting than hearing a bedtime story from Bill Clinton. It was as though the great singing sirens, that almost lured the Greek hero Ulysses to his doom through virtue of their vocals alone, had been employed at McCarran International Airport. I stepped forward, helpless to do anything but obey her command. “Arms out, and remove your belt,” she ordered. How could I resist? “Yes, Ma’am,” I responded with the utmost enthusiasm.
She informed me that she would be checking me for any hidden devices. She stepped behind me and proceeded to pat me down with an unexpected vigor, leaving little unexplored. I felt her breathing gently on my neck and almost began to think the TSA was worth the 7.6 billion dollars of taxpayer money spent on the agency every year. Using a black wand, her gentle, yet consistent swathing of the fabrics of my person gave me goose bumps and even made me temporarily forget that the TSA has never foiled a terrorist attack. But none of that mattered in the moment; it was just me and her … and about 150 other people in the room, but they seemed miles away.
The sharp beeping sound made by her magic wand snapped me out of my trance. “Ima needa do a swath of your jeans sir,” she conveyed, in the most harmonious of tones. “Sure thing, darling.” I replied, trying to return the passion she had demonstrated towards me just a moment ago. As she applied a small clear strip of tape to my pants, our eyes met. She quickly turned away, but I could swear I saw a twinkle in her eye.
The tape swath tested positive for explosive material. I was perplexed at first, then elated as I saw it as excuse to spend more time with my bureaucratic beauty. But alas, it would not be so. A group of three intently purposed men escorted me to a small glass containment room where, to my amazement, an even more complete search was conducted in the name of national security. I gave thanks for the clear glass that constituted the walls, as I felt they deterred any further excesses in the nature of the search. Where the Bill of Rights had failed me, or rather Congress for failing to uphold their Constitutional oaths, the blast-proof glass came through in shining colors. As I was being frisked by the team of government employees I continued to look upon my “darling,” who to my dismay, had moved on to brighter prospects in the form of a sunburned middle-aged woman.
She patted down the anonymous woman with the same thoroughness and vulgarity as she did me! And here I thought we had something special. I didn’t think she was the type of gal to just go around violating everybody’s Fourth Amendment rights. Everything we had done together in those five minutes of post-9/11 airport security protocol seemed like a blur now. Was it all just a mistake? (The explosive detection did actually turn out to be a mistake.) Was she just using me? Damn the TSA for playing with my emotions like that!
My heart sank as the reality of the situation set in and a wave of sadness washed over me. I thought I would drown in the sea of melancholy. Shortly thereafter, I was released from the clear prison without a charge, a different man then when I entered — wiser and more mature. I headed towards my gate with a new, more sober vision of the world. I can’t recall the last time I’ve had such an intimate interaction and connection with a complete stranger … except of course, for every single other time I’ve encountered the TSA.
David Jackson is a fourth-year political science major.