I moved forward in the TSA line with caution, confused because the rules had changed since the last time I traveled. At the back of the line, a friendly officer had given us the lowdown: You can keep your shoes on unless you think they will set off the metal detector. If you have a belt, you might want to remove it.
I paused just before I reached the conveyor belt. I had a laptop to unpack from my carry-on, but there were none of the usual plastic bins. The officer manning the x-ray stood there waiting for me. “Just leave your laptop in there,” he said. He was gruff.
He hung onto a mid-sized plastic bowl for jewelry. I looked at it. “I have a belt,” I told him. “Good for you,” he answered. My throat made a tiny noise of hesitation. “Let me see it,” he said, throwing me a bone. Flustered, I raised my shirt.
Just above my belt sits my pouch of a belly, totally white and totally stretched out, like a deflated balloon. I could see it. He could see it. I had raised my shirt too high. I took off my belt and placed it in the bowl, avoiding eye contact.
On the other side of the metal detector, I looked at no one as I gathered my suitcase and my carry-on. The belt came through last. As I strung it through the loops, I tracked all the other bodies in my vicinity, careful this time not to lift my shirt too high.
Once I put myself back together–my bag strapped across my shoulder, my suitcase rolling behind me–I had a small revelation: that wasn’t my fault. I noted that my automatic reaction was to assume that somehow “I have a belt,” was an incredibly stupid thing to say, that my choice of words had plunged me into an unavoidable sequence of shaming events, and I was being punished by someone far smarter than me.
But he was just a snarky TSA guy trying to make his job more interesting. He would have found a way to tease me no matter what I said. And if my flash of belly embarrassed him, then good.
Note to self: not everything is personal.
Very well written. I can totally relate to taking many things personally. I’m glad you came to the realization that this was clearly not your fault. 🙂
Thanks. I think that any time I have an uncomfortable interaction I assume I’m to blame. Here’s hoping I broke the pattern.
That tiny penised man is an a-hole. What a drag to encounter a life-long loser who has no real power, but who feels compelled to pretend his crap job gives him some ersatz authority. At this moment I would happily shoot the jerk in the knee cap for saying “good for you” about your belt if I would be guaranteed amnesty. (Someone would have to loan me the gun because I’m not stupid enough to own one.) If that sad sack doesn’t like his job, and feels threatened by an educated, professional female, then he should either get a life, or take a less threatening and less challenging job where he doesn’t have to deal with people. Human interaction is clearly beyond his skill set.
Assholery brings out the lioness in you. Roar. But no guns! Thank you for using the word “ersatz”. 🙂
It really does, but all words, no guns. I am a tigress for you my sweet sister with whom no one should mess. Roar! And you are welcome. ❤
Yeah, I love this post! We recently traveled as a family. As my husband went through security, the TSA agent called us all over together. But then she sent me back to be sure our bags went through the screener. Then she fussed at my 8-year-old son with autism whose dad had gone ahead and whose mother had been sent back – shockingly, he tried to go through the wrong metal detector, and clearly he was a huge, defiant security risk. Yeesh.
Oy. I think that anyone who works at the airport has the power to make our day significantly better or worse. And, I guess, every time I fly I encounter both kinds.
Isn’t it amazing how sometimes the seemingly most innocuous incidents can be rife w/ so much subtext. I love that you got at the end that your inner response was a pattern that could be broken.
Yes, thanks for putting it that way. It wasn’t an especially unusual incident except that I stopped to notice my own response.