The news this morning about misconduct of TSA screeners at airports brought back my own experience with a Transportation Security Administration screener back in 2011.
Before I relate what happened, I want to be clear. I believe airport security is a necessary part of our world today. I don’t mind going through the security checkpoints when I fly even though some of the rules seem ridiculous. However, my experience went beyond what keeps us safe and what one agent did that embarrassed and humiliated me.
It occurred at the Jacksonville Airport one Sunday morning when I was flying home to Pittsburgh. I wore leggings and a long shirt with a breast pocket. I went through the full body screen and something showed up in the breast pocket. I was asked to remove it, and I did. The dangerous tissue I’d used to blow my nose minutes before was discarded.
A female screener approached me and asked me to stand with my feet apart and my arms raised. I understood I was going to be patted down to discover if I harbored more snot rags. She did the typical thing, and then while I stood in the middle of security with folks scurrying past me on all sides, she touched both of my breasts and felt around my chest. I jumped back, and she yelled at me to stand still.
“You could have told me you were going to touch my private body parts,” I said.
“If you don’t like it, I can take you in a back room, and I can start it all over again,” she said.
I shut my mouth, but I glanced at her badge.
“The name’s Sherry,” she said. She continued yelling, “That’s Sherry, S-h-e-r-r-y, Sherry,” as I grabbed my laptop and purse and shoes off the belt.
She followed me to the bench where I began putting on my shoes. “Did you get the name? It’s Sherry,” she said.
I was so upset and somewhat scared at this point. When out of sight of the security lines, I called my husband, but I was shaking so badly, I couldn’t talk.
By the time I was home and back into my life, I mostly forgot about the incident. When I did think about it, I was always further upset that I didn’t report the behavior. The news today reminded me once again of this incident.
I fly quite often – too often – so I know this is not the typical behavior, but it is behavior that must stop. I hope public awareness will curtail these folks in important positions of safety from using their power to the detriment of the passengers. And I hope those of us who do fly will remember out of the ten flights – that’s twenty security checks – I made in 2011, only once did I have a bad experience.