Thursday, April 28, 2011


The skirt I’m wearing on the return trip from LAX isn’t a pencil skirt. It hits just over the knee in white-grey cotton denim, a sequence pattern at the hem.  Not a straight A-line, but there’s room, should it be my fancy, to hide a bomb.  Or so they say.

My shoes are in the white plastic bin, as is my computer and Iphone; my purse, sweater and short navy wool jacket are in another. Hand cream and toothpaste are bagged, visible on the tray, in one ounce ziplocks.

Tame as a sheltie in the San Fernando Valley one might think, but no, not to the team at American.

“We have to pat you down. It’s the skirt.”

“Of course.”


Then she explains.

Everyone with a skirt like mine is clearly suspect.

To their credit, the good people at American Airlines are pleasant, the agent smiles as she directs me to a lunge, maybe it's an Akido or a yoga pose, first the left foot forward, then the right, so that she can check for explosives. It is hysterical and another passenger, the gentleman behind me in line, who clearly isn't wearing a skirt, is amused. "You did that well," he smiles. "Good stretch."

Indeed. Another woman might have been embarrassed. Actually, I am that other woman.

This is a security risk worthy of two full minutes of everyone's time.  How many people are waiting in line?

I finally reach the gate to find that phone signals are scrambled. Perhaps this is a security measure, too, for our benefit, of course. But we'll be arriving a 5 a.m. CST, and I have yet to send my son a text with flight information and it is 1 a.m. his time. So I leave FD to find coverage, have to scramble alone to board when I get back.

My carry-on does not pass. It is too full, too fat, apparently, like I feel after eight days of matzah (I said No thank you on the last day).  The bag is roughly tagged.  It will be sent to baggage, a not-so-friendly agent tells me, handing me a claim slip.  Nobody's smiling here at the gate.  I say goodbye to my newly purchased carry-on, for this is a red-eye, and the ground personnel at Ohare will likely oversleep.

Such is life. I don’t care. It's late.

But oh. FD cares. Why didn’t I argue? The same bag fit on the way to Los Angeles. Why wouldn’t it fit on the way home?

 “I don’t fight City Hall, it isn't worth the time."

He thinks I’m a wimp.

It isn't my nature to confront authority, I remind him, although No has to be the beginning of the negotiations in many situations.  All I want is to get home, not be detained as a terrorist.

The folks at American haven't read the Daniel Silva novels, obviously.  The novelist estimates 16,000 terrorists in Britain alone, three thousand trained by al-Qaeda, as many, perhaps more in the USA? But this is fiction.  I have one of these thrillers in my purse right now.

And because of the novel, because maybe it really isn't fiction, when I look at the world, at the crowds, at people in the airport, even in the park, at the mall, on the bus, nothing is the same.



Carolyn Cummings said...

This is a lot the way it is between my husband and I. He is a 6 foot tall male who looks a little intimidating and usually gets what he wants if he just stands there and repeats himself enough times. As a petite, 5'4" woman, I have had to take a different tactic in this world. He has refused to do any number of things on a matter of principle that I would have done without thinking. I will have to remember that about the skirt, also. That is what you get for trying to travel in comfort!

Glimmer said...

That's right, I will pour myself into an outfit the next time I fly!

Brian said...

I'm both amused and apologetic all at the same time.

Lou said...

Flying has gotten to be a dirty (germ wise, I mean), tedious, trying affair. Too bad it's still the fastest way to get anywhere.

When I was kid every woman wore a skirt or dress when flying. It was a special occasion!

therapydoc said...

Oh, I almost wrote my post about that, about dressing up to fly. You just feel better when you do.

Jack said...

I have a relatively deep voice and am told that I have a presence. I don't know if that is true, but I know one thing about travel.

I don't make the rules.

If TSA asks me to do something I do it. That is how it works. If I don't like what happens I write my congressman and ask for help in changing things.

If the airline tells me that my bag is too big I may mention that they didn't say anything before, but I don't push real hard.

I just want the damn thing to take off, land and do so on time and safely.

But then again I don't like flying.

Retriever said...

I wear full skirts to mid calf every day, and have long dark hair and no makeup so am sure I will get similar treatment the next time I fly. So I don't fly. Persecuted in our own country.

Ironic, given how conservative I am and the fights I have with young people who are more sympathetic to the scummy terrorists.

Ella said...

The skirt is a new one to me!! Wacky!

While waiting for a delayed flight, I watched how the gate agent stopped different people to see if their bag would fit in the "sizer". First class and guys in suits or golf shirts were not asked. The scruffy college guy in a slouchy hat and slippers was stopped - he objected that he was not stopped on his outbound flight. And he didn't have $25 to pay the baggage fee! He took stuff out until it fit.

Flip-flops can walk thru the scanner in Miami but not in DC.

therapydoc said...

If they had charged, I'm not sure what I would have done. But they didn't. My concern is the profiling thing. I'm not the droid they're looking for, obviously.

Beth said...

Ugh. If it makes you feel any better, I got "patted down" on both my recent flights too. But no lunge!

porcini66 said...

I had such a reaction to being "patted down" that they sent a policeman over to me afterwards to make sure that I was okay (and, I'm sure, to get more information so they could run a quick background check...).

It was truly a horrible experience for me - I know I acted like a baby, but something about being held and touched intimately while being told not to move/how to move...yeah...not okay.

I get that they want security (or the perception of it...), but somehow I would just think that the money they spend on patting US down could be better spent...

As for the bag - I wouldn't have fought that battle either.

Heather said...

I always find those situations difficult because really, you have basically no options. You can follow instructions or not get on the plane. I'm always forgetting to put contraband things in my checked luggage and having it confiscated at security (contraband meaning nail clippers and a jar of almond butter I brought with my lunch). I know they need to be thorough and I want them to, but sometimes it feels like they're required to leave their common sense at the door.

therapydoc said...

The almond butter/ peanutbutter thing slays me.

Tag said...

I can say that the Israeli airlines are worse when it comes to security.

Syd said...

I would rather take the train. But now that plan seems foiled as well since OBL's plan was to blow up trains. How about a horse drawn carriage?

Better Things-- Seeing Ghosts