This is something I witnessed at the Denver Airport 4-5 years ago, preparing to return home after visiting a relative who lives in Colorado. I’d made it through the long, snaking line to the part of the security checkpoint just before you step through the metal detector. Directly in line in front of me was a woman who looked not all that dissimilar to myself- young, caucaisan, well-dressed, understated jewelry- who was pulled out of line and informed she had been “randomly selected for additional screening.”
She asked why, but was barked at to stand off to the side and prepare for a patdown. She hadn’t set off the metal detector (hadn’t even gone through it yet), there was nothing even remotely suspicious about her. Probably a college student or newlywed. As I went about my own process of removing my shoes, jewelry, placing my laptop and other small belongings in the provided bin, I watched and listened intently to what was going on with the other woman.
The overweight, middle-aged, gum-smacking TSA agent assigned to her sighed her way through her memorized spiel in the most disaffected, monotone voice possible about what was about to go down, the areas she was required to touch, how she was going to do it, etc. The other woman protested still, but was told it was either this or miss her flight. She then asked if there was some kind of room they could go in or at the very least, a screen she could step behind and was told no.
The patdown ensued in all the usual places: shoulders, neck, breasts, stomach, one arm then the other, etc. Then the legs. The agent stopped short of the woman’s knees and in her continued dead-inside droning, told the searchee that she was now going to inspect her inner thighs and groin region. The young woman was visibly and understandably uncomfortable, but agreed and the patdown continued. Outer thighs, inner thighs, crotch. But someting about the young woman’s crotch alerted the agent, who went back and did it again. The agent said (far too loudly) that she felt something “foreign and unusual” in the groin area and called over either a supervisor or another agent, then asked her captive what was in her pants.
Embarrassed and trying to keep as much attention off her as possible, the young woman tried to tell the agents that she was on her period and was wearing a menstrual pad. This apparently wasn’t good enough for the original agent, who copped another extremely thorough and invasive feel of the young woman’s privates. She asked, “don’t you wear tampons?” The poor girl, who up until that point displayed a remarkable patience and nerve I myself might not have in the same situation, tried to plead with the woman and tell her that she had run out and with not time to stop and buy some before leaving for the airport, simply borrowed a maxi pad from a relative.
Sadly I don’t have a satisfying end to the story because despite taking extra long to put on and re-button my coat, put on my shoes, and what have you in order to observe; that was about as much as I could take in without conspicuously staying in the area too long, thus drawing attention to myself and risking something similar happening to me.
It was a sight that absolutely disgusted me and all the way home I wished I’d have been able to give the poor girl a hug. I hope whoever the next president ends up being makes reforming or outright shutting down and replacing this horrible organization one of their number one priorities. Put a stop to all these rude, obstructive, power-tripping jerks who aren’t making us any safer than a school crossing guard.
This isn’t freedom. This is fear.