“Ma’am, you can’t go until your belongings go. Ma’am, step up here. Ma’am, push this through. Ma’am, stop right there. Ma’am, come on up here.” The voices came loud and swiftly, confusing me, as if I had never traveled through TSA’s labyrinth before. The elastic barrier blocking one X-ray line stood right in front of me, the other side of it a particularly difficult man. He kept giving orders in direct contrast to his partner on the other side of the band, I didn’t know who to listen to, what to do. When my backpack and laptop entered the X-ray , I looked up agin at the barking TSA agent who told me to come forward. Does that mean go right with the other passengers, I am free to move ahead? His barrier stood between us. I walked closer to his banded line, his mocking increased. “go around it, or can you just walk through that?” By this time I am shaking, wondering how a simple interaction has gone so wrong so quickly. Why is he being so mean? As I slide around the tiny barrier, he continued to loudly ridicule my behavior for all around to hear. I guess I was one of the lucky ones selected to avoid the full body scan. I would have preferred it.
The incident stayed with me for hours, I couldn’t shake the way this man in uniform, a position of power had belittled a gray haired lady just trying to get by him. He was aware of his buddy giving me contradictory orders, he was enjoying it. Did the fact that he was a huge African American man play into it? Not for me, but I wonder if it did for him? On the day that another verdict was handed down, another acquittal in the Freddie Gray death, maybe he was just angry. I was just another white person and he got to take out a little justice of his own.
I wondered though about those kinds of interactions that happen outside of a TSA line, where people in uniform give conflicting orders, guns are at the ready, anger is just below the surface. Decisions made to go, to stay, who to listen to, one false move, bang.
I was scared yesterday, unsettled, but I made it through the line with only my dignity battered. I find my heart filled with forgiveness for this TSA agent who maybe needed to find a little justice in a really injustice nation right now. I am filled with prayer for all those in uniform who face split second decisions in dangerous times. Most of all I pray for those who don’t know whether to stay or go. May God keep you safe.