Next in line to board our American Eagle flight at Gate 4 at Jackson-Evers International Airport this morning, a boisterous gentleman cut in front of my daughter and I. He dropped his bags and fumbled for his ticket, leaving us waiting directly in front of two TSA personnel. Evidently deciding that our wait would need to be longer, they asked my 13 year old daughter to step to the side for “additional screening.”
While I’m annoyed that they (completely subjectively) picked a child, I’d been selected before and didn’t think it was a big deal. I stood to the side as her arms and lower legs were patted down by the female agent.
Midway through, the male agent asked why I was waiting. When I said that I was going to wait to board with her, he said “Well, since you’re going to wait anyway, why don’t you come over here and get screened too?”
The female agent reached to set my backpack on her rolling cart and told me to take everything out of my pockets. I did as told, as assumed the standard position with my arms out to the side.
It started reasonably enough. She patted down my head and hair, back, and then my arms.
Then she put one hand on each side of my legs (inside and outside), starting VERY high on my legs. Startled and uncomfortable, I think I took a step back.
Then she “searched” my chest and breasts, quite aggressively and with little verbal notice of what she was doing.
Then she put her hands inside my waistband, saying so after she had already started. Shocked, I took a large step backwards.
She looked up and asked if I had a problem. I’m not sure what I said, probably mumbling.
Not pleased, she said “I modified the search for you. You’re lucky I didn’t do the full one.”
She finished, and I hurriedly boarded the plane with my daughter.
As I’m walking down the jetway, my mind is spinning. Part of me feels violated, and part of me can’t believe what just happened. Mostly, I’m disappointed that I let it happen without more of a challenge.
I caught up with my husband on the plane and tried to explain what happened. I really couldn’t even find the words. We weren’t seated together, and I remember being on the verge of tears a couple of times during the flight.
The full one? What the heck else could she do? Have me strip right there? I already felt like I’d been molested in front of a crowd of onlookers.
As he reminded me at lunch, I’d heard others complain about the TSA in the past and had never been sympathetic. If a few pat downs keep our planes in the skies, then it’s worth it.
But this was very different than anything I’d ever seen or experienced before. In any other setting, that would likely have been considered an assault.
Now I’m wondering how often this really happens. Did I happen upon an overly-aggressive agent? Or is this normal procedure?
I was at the gate – already through the security checkpoint. I’d already been through the scanner, along with my bags. I’m wearing flip flops, jeans, and my Mailchimp shirt. I’d have a hard time hiding a few folded dollar bills in my pockets, much less something sinister. I guess I’d understand if I felt like this served a purpose.
Until now, I considered myself an avid traveler. But I can already feel the apprehension.
Sitting at B21 at D/FW, I don’t want to think about what I’ll do if I see those blue uniforms at this gate. (Or when I’m supposed to fly to Portland next week.)
Am I over-reacting? Is this normal procedure? Is this what we’ve traded for the ability to fly in the United States?
What do you think?