Wednesday, January 8, 2014

short story: Payback Is Hell

Payback Is Hell
©Mimi Wolske, January 2014
All Rights Reserved

"I just checked you in," the airport thicket handler, rubber-stamp holder, and human detector says. "Step over there and talk to that woman."

Airports hardly seem the place to discuss your personal life. Everyone watches as I step out of line and head toward the uniformed woman. It's bitterly cold and the news on the Taxi's radio said something at the Polar Vortex shifting and making parts of North America colder than Mars.

"Ticket and License," the TSA-badged security person orders. Yes, orders. It's not a request...not by the look of disgust on her face for having to deal with me.

I hand her my driver's license and my computerized ticket. She must read at a fourth grade level, I think as I wait impatiently and embarrassed for fifteen minutes while she repeatedly looks from one to the other. Finally, she gazes up at me expectantly, her eyebrows arched into a silent question. I stare back. What does she want from me now?

"What's your name?"

I tell her.

"When were you born?"

I answer that question and get uncomfortable realizing passengers in the waiting area are still watching

"Do you live here?"

"Well, not in the capital, but in Brownsburg, just west of Indy."

"Where are you going and why?"

"Do you really need all of this information? What's the problem? Okay, I'm going to Houston for a conference."

"Do you realize a person using the same name is headed for the same conference in the same city? What will you be doing at the conference?"

I explain I'm part of a round table discussion on nineteenth-century women writers. She looks at my documents and walks away with them. When she returns, she has another female TSA policeman with her. This new policewoman's only words to me are, "Raise your arms above your head."


She feels me up.

Before my eyes shut with humiliation, I catch a glimpse of a male passenger being groped by male TSA policeman. When my lids rise, I see more passengers losing their First Amendment rights.

I'm ordered, again, to follow the contracted policewoman. I still don't know what I've done. No one will tell me.

"Why? What's going on?"

But, there's no answer.

She's taken my purse without my consent. Fear grows as we head toward the out-of-the-way TSA office on an upper floor, down a quiet hall behind a locked door. We've all heard that TSA isn't bashful about violating people's right. I think it's the agency's entire job description—search travelers...probable cause and a warrant are not necessary.

When we enter a private room, she says, "Sit down" and points to chair. Then, still holding my purse and my license and ticket, enters another room.

Crapola. My stomach churns.

I just read about their intrusive search, abusive treatment, their ineptitude, and even a penchant for stealing in an online news article. Be care what you say, I remind myself. They violate first amendment rights. I decide to think twice about asking the latex-gloved woman, who enters from that same door my personal belongings entered, to buy me dinner before she has her way with my genitals. From the look of the bruiser, I decide even asking for lubricant will be a mistake.

Stand straight, do as you're told, forget about your freedom, and keep your comments about her general disdain for human dignity to yourself. Slip on any of those counts, and I know I'll be arrested. I know that because federal propaganda messages echo throughout the airport reminding citizens not to speak out against the blueshirts. Joking about security brings you an immediate arrest.

I still don't know that I have done anything wrong because no one will tell me. She says, "Follow me." It's freezing outside but it's icy death in this semi-clean, unsterile, tiled room she leads us to.

"Remove all clothing above the waist."

It reminds me of the instructions the technicians hand women to read before we get our mammograms. "Why am I here? Why am I being searched?"

"You were trying to pass for a passenger who already checked in."

Low mentality, I remind myself. Tread lightly. "I think the other woman was passing as me. You have my driver's license; that's my photo."

"You have jaundiced eyes."

Jaundiced eyes? I have a slight case of walking pneumonia (I know, I shouldn't be traveling) and I am feeling more and more ill as the quarter hours tick by. Is that a crime to have jaundiced eyes now?

"Jaundiced eyes? What does that mean?"

"Possible terrorist."

I chuckle. "I'm closer to a possible pianist than a terrorist. I don't even own a gun."

She stares at my bared breasts. Asks me to turn around.

"Nothing, right? I mean, I'm too small to hide anything under these fried-egg size breasts." I redress myself above the waist and say, "What does TSA mean?"

Well, besides 'Touch Sensitive Areas' since they fondle you in the name of security. I slide my sweater over my head and pray that my TSA handler's job isn't also her hobby.


Okay; so a sense of humor doesn't work. Fear only heightens the pleasure of their job. So, what do I do now?

Just before she orders me to remove everything below my waist, we hear screaming in the 'waiting room' and then dogs barking. My handler opens the door, unconcerned whether I'm dressed or not. The German shepherds' attention immediately target her and before she can slam the door closed, they charge her.

She screams. The door shuts. And the two dogs are in the frigid room with her... and me.

I gulp a breath of panic. She screams. The guard dogs pounce.

A tangle of three heads, two arms, and ten legs wrestle on the floor. I'm perched on the small counter top watching and praying. But, the dogs don't want me. They want her.

The doors are locked from the inside, so all help is denied entry. I watch as her First Amendment rights are violated and wonder if it's payback for her exploration of those two dogs. I noticed one of them did seem to have jaundiced eyes.

I smile. Looks like payback is hell.

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