An open letter to Congressman John Mica (which did no good)”
I would like to relate to you a harrowing experience I had with the TSA. I hope you can spare me a bit of you time.
My mother-in-law died suddenly last month which had meant a last minute trip to Memphis for the funeral and an emotionally exhausting ordeal. By the time I made it to the airport to return home, I was in a daze.
I looked at the TSA checkpoint and fortunately no one was in line. The woman who checked my id and ticket yelled “TSA Pre-check!” to the other agents. My background had been checked a month earlier by the Department of Homeland Security and they had sent me a Global Entry card. It is supposed to make going through TSA security and customs a breeze. “This should be quick”, I thought hopefully.
The next agent I saw had his eyes focused on a blank wall at the other side of the room. Beside him and between me and the conveyor belt was a sign with a red circle with a line through it. No entry. I asked the man where I was to go. Without stopping his perusal of the blank wall, or looking at me, or saying a word, he pointed straight ahead. I surveyed the labyrinth of retractable belt dividers in front of me, sighed and walked in. I trudged the serpentine path through the maze carrying my laptop, my purse and dragging my luggage behind me. I think I mentioned previously that there was no one else in line…..
Finally, I made it to the end of the maze and came out on the other side of the “No entry” sign. The statue of a man was still studying the blank wall in front of him.
I put my bags on the conveyor belt and another agent motioned me into that contraption that lets them see you all the way down to your skin. The thought crossed my mind that maybe the agent manning the line had been working at this machine earlier and his eyes had been burned out by all the horrible sights he had seen and that was why he just stared at the wall. It’s possible, I suppose.
“Do you have anything in your pockets?” barked the TSA agent.
“Just a crystal”, I replied reaching into my pocket and holding the offending item out in my palm.
“Hold it in your hand and put your hands over your head!”
She looked at the screen and I stood there for what seemed to be an inordinate amount of time. She then walked away. I came out of the machine and seeing no one there to give me directions, started to go get my bags.
“Stop! Stay right where you are!” SS commander TSA-Agent shouted.
“What is that on your hand?”
“It is a support glove for my arthritis”, I said.
“We need to examine it!”
Since they had already seen me as good as naked, I wondered how on earth they thought I could be hiding anything. I started to reach for the strap to remove the glove.
“Don’t touch it!” the commandant screamed.
It seemed as if she thought I was about to pull the pin on a hand grenade instead of just taking off my arthritis glove. I started to get extremely jumpy from being screeched at so much.
She told me they had to get something to check my hand so I stood there and waited while they looked around for whatever the something was. They came back with a wand and went over my hand and all my fingers a few times as if I might have tiny little bombs under my fingernails.
She then walked away so I hesitantly crept toward my bags. I noticed one bag had been set aside but figured that was because it had taken me so long to make it through the peep show machine. I started to reach for the bag.
“Don’t touch that! It looks like an aerosol can in that bag and we have to search it! We have sent for someone to come look at it.”
I wasn’t sure if they had sent for the bomb squad or who but it took an awful long time. I tried to ask about it but all the agents acted like I was invisible. They wouldn’t look at me much less speak to me. I finally found a bench and sat down to wait.
At last another agent showed up and they began to go through the bag. I told them I had a travel sized can of hairspray in the bag but it was the same one that had flown with me to Memphis from Orlando. I told them they could throw it away, which they did.
They dug around through my things, passing up items I would have considered suspicious if I had been checking someone’s bag, but that didn’t seem to be what they were looking for. I had a one pound box of sugar I had bought in Memphis wrapped in a plastic grocery bag. The agent picked it up. I told her it was a box of sugar and she put it down. It could have been a block of plastic explosives and she would have never known. She finally located a tube of semi-expensive hand cream and said I would have to leave that behind. I said, “Okay, but I want to see it go into the trash container.” The poop really hit the fan then and they got extremely angry. I was angry too by this time because I felt as if I was being harassed by the agents.
They threw away the hand cream then told me to put my stuff back in my bag. I did so and one of the things I put in was my late son’s small teddy bear that I always take with me when I travel. When I put the bear into the bag one of the agents started screaming, “You hit me with that teddy bear!”
I told her that I didn’t think I had touched her at all but if I had, I had only brushed his fur against her arm. She continued to scream that I had hit her with the bear. Other passengers had arrived now and were looking at me like I was Osama bin Laden returned from the dead. By this time a nice quiet jail cell sounded pretty good; anything to get away from these insane, hateful TSA agents.
I told her that if she thought I had hit her with the teddy bear to call the police and have me arrested for assault. I could see the headline on the article in the paper, “TSA agent assaulted by 62-year-old grandmother wielding her late son’s teddy bear.”
The agent continued to screech so I repeated my request. “If you think I hit you with the teddy bear, call the police and have me arrested for assault.”
The agents suddenly got quiet and told me to go on. I got my things and headed to my gate.
I reported the incident to the TSA supervisor on duty and her response was to offer to walk me to my gate. I felt like saying, “No, after running the gauntlet through your terrorist agents I think I can make it on down to my gate, thank you!” But I just said no and went on. It is a good thing I had my Global Entry card or I would have probably ended up on death-row!
The next day, I called the TSA and reported the incident. It was assigned to the Memphis TSA office to investigate. I’m sure they were really hard on themselves. After a few weeks, I emailed them to ask what their findings were. This is their reply:
“The investigation indicated the TSA officers were following TSA procedures as specified in the current directives. There was no indication that any wrongdoing was involved on their part.”
So, there it is. The TSA can treat you any way they want, terrorize you until you almost miss your flight and there is nothing you can do about it. What a country!