I don’t know what it is but for some reason I am a TSA alert magnet. As an average, middle-aged woman who travels around the country to lecture on cat behavior and cat psychology, I don’t view myself as particularly threatening but I am always stopped when going through airport security for one reason or another. This last time, however, I realize it may have been my fault.
I had been dealing with a pinched nerve in my back for weeks and the thought of sitting in an airplane seat designed for the Wizard of Oz Munchkins, was getting me more apprehensive as my departure date grew closer. I had to figure out some way to make this flight more tolerable. I ruled out taking massive amounts of pain killers as a responsible option, as well as cashing in all of my “free drink” coupons. What was left was the option of wearing this hideously tight back brace that the doctor had prescribed. Although the back brace did make it difficult for me to fully inflate my lungs, it actually made my back pain disappear. The brace had been prescribed for me to wear whenever I was sitting at my computer or sitting anywhere for an extended period of time. It was worth a shot.
The downside of the back brace is that it has 50,000 hook-and-eye closures up the front. When trying to put this thing on, I can totally understand how women who wore corsets could go from a 36-inch waist to a 16-inch waist. This was a serious back brace.
The morning of my departure I was faced with two options: put the back brace on at home and risk being stopped by TSA or wait until after passing through airport security to put it on in the restroom. Considering I had to thrash around on my bed, kick my legs and say several expletives in order to get the darn thing fastened, it didn’t seem as if an airport bathroom stall would work well. So I decided to take the risk and put the back brace on at home. Bad idea.
While going through the full body scan (don’t you just LOVE those things!) I could sense the concern on the faces of the TSA agents. I also noticed that when I went into the scanner there was just one agent nearby but now there was a whole herd of them. I was headed for a pat-down.
“Ma’am, what do you have under your shirt?” asked a female TSA agent.
“It’s a back brace,” I answered.
The TSA agent immediately motioned for several members of her posse to follow her. “We need a private pat-down,” she said at a very loud volume while holding me by the arm and leading me to a little room with blackened windows next to the security area. I glanced over my shoulder and saw that two other female TSA agents were right behind me.
Inside the room, the TSA agents surrounded me. No one was smiling.
“I need to see what’s under your shirt,” said the agent standing right in front of me. I looked to my right and saw that one of the other agents was strategically positioned at the door. If was obvious that if I had any notion to make a run for it, I wouldn’t make it out of the room.
I sheepishly lifted up my shirt and showed them my back brace while wondering if any of the women were also marveling at my artificially small waist.
The agent put on a pair of disposable gloves. “I have to feel the brace,” she said while running her hands up and down the material. “Boy, that’s tight,” she said. I just nodded. My fear, my racing heartbeat, along with my inability to expand my lungs completely, made it difficult for me to answer.
Satisfied that I had not wrapped myself in anything dangerous (other than a potential lack of oxygen to my brain), the agents opened the door, handed me my things and walked out the door ahead of me.
“She’s just wearing a girdle,” loudly shouted one TSA agent to the herd of agents who were standing outside the door. Everyone within earshot in the security area turned to look at me.
“It’s a back brace,” I called out, defensively, “not a girdle.”
I sensed a look of disbelief on the faces of many of the women.
Next time I will endure the pain of the pinched nerve and leave the
girdle back brace at home.