My palms begin to sweat as the Bart commuter train approaches the San Francisco Airport. I have been there before. I have checked my baggage at the departure counter. I have shown my driver’s license and boarding pass to the uniformed officer behind the laminated desk. I waited patiently in lines, following the portable black straps held on shining silver posts. I smiled compliantly, willing to help protect our country from future catastrophes by following all requests asked of me. However, San Francisco security demands too much.
My anxiety increases as I place my laptop onto the conveyor belt, take off my shoes, strip off my belt from around my jeans, and lay my coat in the plastic bin to be viewed through X-ray detection screens.
“Don’t worry. There is no radiation used in this machine,” and I am directed to enter a small cylindrical compartment. I have been in this device before and am reluctant to enter. Radiation is not my concern.
“Please step forward,” instructs another guard with the smile of a proctologist preparing for a colonoscopy. “Place your feet on the marked spaces.”
I look down and see the yellow painted images of a left and right foot, twenty-four inches apart. The booth is barely large enough for me to enter and stand upright, like a document to be sent through a hospital pneumatic tube. The walls are clear glass, new and smudge free. The officers are proud of their latest state of the art security device.
I enter as instructed and spread my leg apart, facing to the right. The line of travelers, waiting their turn to be scanned, stare at my side profile, while I listen for further instruction.
“Place your hands above your head.”
Oh god, I move my arms up, grab my hands together and hold them above my head, my legs still spread. I wait as if to be sprayed by water from a prison hose, to be frisked by a cop outside of my car alone in the night, or to be pushed against a wall by a drunken admirer, no longer bound by restraint and decency. I hear the machine begin. The noise increases, and I trace the loud grinding sound as it begins at my back, travels to my side, onto my front, crossing to my other side. I hold my breath, spread before strangers, knowing that in a concealed booth far from my vision, someone is viewing my body stripped of all clothing.
“Please step out,” instructs the officer, and I am directed to the line of scanned travelers.
Three guards with headsets stand before our line in communication with the unknown voyeur who monitors our scans.
“Don’t worry. Your face has been blocked from view. No one can tell who you are.”
Right. I know that a man, who has never had a woman and spends his time late at night with either a video game controller or a lap top, surfing the glowing images of unknown women, is enjoying his job. Perhaps I am a bit too harsh, but the possibility is there. An unknown person was watching my form, legs spread for his eyes only. If I could only see him, see the man who enjoyed my body, a mutually shared invasion and therefore easier to accept.
“I need to check you,” comments the female security officer. “I will be using the back of my hands to pat your chest.” She demonstrates by showing me her hands and the motions she is about to employ.
“What? Is there something wrong?”
I know what is wrong. I have been here before. I have felt their hands on my chest. She steps forward to me, inches from my body, in front of the waiting line and the people free to leave the security area, but who turn to stare at those who failed to pass their scan. They shake their heads and smile, grateful that they have escaped further probing.
She presses her hands against my breasts, starting on the underside, around the nipples, and lingering briefly on the top surface.
“Did you feel anything?” I inquire, allowing my anger to rise within me. “I have had boob job.”
I carry a card in my wallet with the numbers of my two implants. I travel with the knowledge that I will never be a Jane Doe. My implants will identify me even in death. Now they pull me from a line and identify me to security officers.
“Oh, that’s what it is,” chuckles the female guard.
I am not finding this amusing. I look to the line of passengers who wait for their bodies to be felt up by security personnel. They are all women, women who have been scanned in the glass booth, women who will have hands pressed into their chests, women who have had breast augmentations and failed the latest, high-tech security test.
Thank you San Francisco, for insuring our safety by feeling all the breast implants that travel on airplanes out of the Bay Area. And gentlemen, if you are curious as to who has gone secretly to their plastic surgeon to have their boobs enlarged, just go to the security line at the San Francisco Airport. The women with implants will be lined up obediently, waiting to have their breasts manually examined. If you can’t make it to San Francisco and are still curious, just ask to see the card your girlfriend may carry in her wallet. It’s a lot easier and not as invasive.