I love this country. I know we have to be vigilant against terrorism. And I respect the men and women who defend our country against all enemies foreign and domestic. I have appreciation for TSA workers.
However, I have an issue with certain aspects of TSA at American airports. Have since 9/11. I have flown to Israel over a dozen times since I was 16 via El Al, the national airline of Israel. They have never made me take off my shoes or empty out my toiletries into a ridiculous Ziploc bag like I am in kindergarten. They have even insisted that I leave my sleeping toddler in his stroller rather than wake him up to pass the stroller and his plump sleepy body through security separately.
Why do I have an issue with TSA?
Here are some of the irksome security-related things that have happened to me. Maybe you don’t find them bizarre, but I cannot help sighing and harumphing about as these indignities (yes a strong word; but I think it applies) have occurred, much to my husband’s chagrin. (Both of his parents served in the army and he has a tremendous respect for both order and authority. He finds me a tad bit embarrassing at airports.)
Okay, back to the indignities. They fall into two categories: my kids and me.
1) Our boys wore little moccasins instead of shoes until they were about 2 years old. We are hippies; we like their little feet to not be constrained by hard soles, blah blah blah. Little teeny tiny moccasins on little teeny tiny feet.
Indignity: Are you seriously making me take the little teeny tiny moccasins off of their little teeny tiny feet to pass them through the scanner?
2) I was recently selected at random for an “explosives screen.” That’s where they swipe your hands with a small square of fabric and put it through some fancy machine that can detect if my hands have any explosives residue on them from the bomb I may have been assembling before boarding the plane.
Indignity: I was traveling without my husband when I was recently selected, and so little Fred was by my side as they plucked me out of line. They swabbed my hands and then glanced at Fred and took out another little swatch of fabric to swab his little 2-year-old hands. His sausage fingers are so plump they couldn’t even hold a bomb, much less assemble one. Thank goodness he barely talks, I was thinking; how would I explain to him why they were swabbing his little chunker hands?
1) Especially because I have been nursing children for 5 of the last 6 years, I travel in nursing tanks with hoodies over them. When I get to security, do not ask me to take off my hoodie and send it through the scanner like it’s a parka or blazer. It’s NOT. It’s my hoodie which is being worn as a shirt and I am wearing a grungy nursing tank underneath it which is the equivalent of a bra. I do not want to stand in front of all of these strangers, many of whom recognize me from television, and walk through security in the equivalent of a bathing suit (at least the top of a tankini). I am a modest woman and I don’t have to stand here in a tank top. I wouldn’t stand there in my bra, so don’t give me crap about not wanting to stand there in my nursing tank.
Indignity: TSA sometimes makes a big fuss over my refusal, harumphing about as they announce over walkie-talkies in their best gruff authoritarian-sounding voices: “We need a female search over here. Female search needed.” The best is when I’m not traveling with my husband and my little boys have to watch this whole debacle. Once, when Miles was about a year old, I handed him over to my husband as they took me away to frisk me. This was the time of prime separation anxiety and Miles proceeded to scream bloody murder as I stepped just 3 feet away from him. TSA was annoyed at his shrieking, but I simply shrugged my shoulders and smugly told them, “He’ll stop screaming when you are done frisking me.”
2) I keep to certain codes of tzniut, or modesty, in my dress as a Jewish woman. I wear skirts. Usually to the knee, but when I travel, I like to break out the ankle-length cotton super comfy skirt. It’s the tzniut equivalent of sweatpants for a long airplane flight.
Indignity: Now, I’m not one to cry anti-Semitism (okay, a little bit maybe sometimes I am, but not this time), but I was recently removed from the security line after I passed through with no beeps or alarms to be frisked because my “skirt was too long.” Seriously. Too long. Too suspicious I guess. Just too darn…tzniut. I was patted down by a burly female TSA officer. Literally. Patted down; up and down my legs. I was blushing. I don’t think I’ve been touched like that since–well, never mind. It was weird.
Indignity: It makes me feel unsafe when you stare at me too long. And I don’t like to feel unsafe. Thanks.