The TSA and Me

09 Sep

Do you know what I’ve discovered?  Fear of the unknown plagues us from kindergarten to the grave.  It might even start at birth; maybe that is the reason for the blood-curdling cry that all babies cut loose when they take their first gulp of air—“What the fuck is going on, and why didn’t anyone warn me about what to expect on this third rock from the sun?”  My grandson started kindergarten today, and when asked how he was handling it all, as he resolutely marched toward the school with a grimace on his face, he replied:  “I feel a little crunchy inside—you know—I’m a little bit waggy.”  I just had an encounter with the TSA this weekend (when will they ever get over the fact that I’m black with a Polish name and I dress like a diva?), and I know exactly what my grandson means.

TSA School Starts

Used by permission:  Cartoonist, David Fitzsimmons—The Arizona Star

I’m one of the most organized people on the planet.  I am so because I don’t like surprises.  I’m not interested in the unknown popping up when I least expect it and messing with me.  When you’ve been raised by a pack of wolves as a child like I was, chaos follows you around like a cluster of tornados.  You can surrender to the mayhem and lose your soul, or you can try to put up knowledgeable barriers to shield your life and keep that shit at bay.  Before any unknown procedure or journey, I ask questions (every which way but Sunday), I research, and I practice, practice, practice.  (If I have to drive to a new location for a doctor’s appointment or the like, I’ll practice how to get there the day before so as not to get lost on the day of and end up being late.)  My methodology is exhausting but at least I am usually well-prepared, on time, and in command. There are rarely any surprises in my life—except when it comes to the TSA.  I don’t know what it is about those people and me, but no two trips are ever the same when it comes to me passing through their realm unscathed.

TSA Clean Underwear Bob Englehart The Hartford Courant

Used by permission:  Cartoonist Bob Englehart, The Hartford Courant

I just got back from a trip this weekend and despite all my best efforts, I got patted down by the TSA (TSA probably mistook my fluffer-nutter, post-menopausal belly to be ideal smuggling encasement for drugs?), my head got swiped with a wand (TSA probably thought wig was a great camouflage for an Uzi?), and I took my 567th nudie pic in the “Orgasmatron known as the full-body scan” (TSA probably thought my old-lady bits were perfect hiding places for explosives?).   But I’m used to this and come prepared because the TSA can’t get over the chocolate face with the Polish name.  It sends them into tilt every time.  I usually carry a white man with me and announce loudly that I belong to him as I pass through the security line (“Coming through and I’m married to the white dude up ahead”).  I travel with my passport at all times so that the black face and the Polish last name carry more gravitas.  It usually works—but not this time.  As I bent over to put my shoes back on after running the gauntlet, something goosed me in the ass—not once, but twice!  When I stood up to see what it was, it turned out to be a bomb-sniffing dog and his handler.

TSA Pat Down Nate Beeler The Columbus Dispatch

Used by permission: Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch

Now what that dog thought I had up my ass is beyond me!  I wanted to say something (“WTF!”) so badly when the cop scrutinized me up and down as his bomb-sniffing dog circled in and around me and my stuff.   But I knew I’d get hauled off to some holding room for questioning and miss the flight to my grandson’s 5th birthday party.  So I pulled myself together and continued on my way, and I ran right into another TSA person a couple yards away who menacingly took a picture of me without explanation.  His face read:  “Slightly chunky terrorist/drug-mule with Polish name got past canine but still remains suspicious—documenting her features in case there is an issue on the other end.”  Like the canine handler, the picture taker looked mean but he didn’t say a word—he just clicked away.   By this point in the TSA maze, I couldn’t tell why they thought I looked suspicious.  As I started to confront the TSA camera man to explain himself, my husband grabbed my arm and shuffled me off toward our gate before I could say a word as if to say: “Choose your battles, Cutie—there is nothing you could have done to prepare for this.”

Well, I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve decided that I think I’m going to prepare for my next flight by wearing a sign to the airport in order to make my passageway a little smoother.


I’ve done everything you’ve asked and complied with all the rules and still you mess with me when I travel.  I know I don’t look Polish, but it doesn’t mean I stole my identification and am traveling incognito as a drug mule or a terrorist.  Trust me, if I were going to steal a name it would be something like Juliette Binoche or Isabelle Adjani—not Tomczyk (sorry Honey), and if I were going to be a drug mule, I’d look like Angelina Jolie.  In fact, if you think I’ve stolen my identity then I suggest you return to profiling school for another go-around with an addendum covering “How Sixty-five-year-old Black Divas Roll.”  As to my enticing behind, my perfume probably messed with your dog’s sense of smell the last time, because I did a pass-over on my ass with a spritz of Very Irresistible Perfume by Givenchy before we left the house.  The scent was supposed to arouse my husband not your canine patrol.   I promise not to be so heavy-handed next time.


WW (my husband) says he doesn’t plan to travel with me on the days I bring my sign because he is not prepared for the unknown world of going to jail.   Just the thought of being thrown in jail by the TSA because his wife can’t keep her mouth shut makes him all “crunchy and a little bit waggy” inside.

TSA Check Dignity Rick McKee The Augusta Chronicle

Used by permission: Rick McKee, The Augusta Chronicle

I am discovering that there are a lot of things in life that you cannot prepare for:  a couple of them are the first day you enter kindergarten and every time you encounter the TSA.   The “unknown” is meant to build courage in us as we fight the good fight of living life.  I’ll tell my grandson that the best way to conquer the unknowns in kindergarten is to put one foot in front of the other and charge full speed ahead, trusting that he will wind up where he’s supposed to be in due time.  I’ll have to do the same thing when I travel and determine to keep my mouth shut no matter how humiliating the pre-boarding process becomes.  Besides, I have an eerie feeling that the real terrorists are just thrilled with the undignified tangles they have embroiled us in, and they are hoping we’ll all lose our minds in the process.   I must never give them the satisfaction of having a meltdown.  Why would terrorists ever need to bomb us as long as the TSA is hell-bent on traumatizing diva grandmothers on their way to visit their grandkids?  Just the thought of it does make one all crunchy and a little bit waggy inside!

TSA Full Cavity John Darkow Columbia Daily Tribune Missouri

Used by permission:  John Darkow, Columbia Daily Tribune-Missouri

 “Have you heard the TSA’s new slogan?’ We handle more junk than eBay.'” –Jay Leno

The TSA has issued some special packing tips for travelers before Thanksgiving weekend. They say not to bring food, sharp tools, or any shred of dignity.” –Jimmy Fallon

“It was bad enough when the TSA agents would go through your underwear in your luggage. Now they’re going through your underwear while you’re wearing it.” –Jay Leno

“You can opt out of the full-body scan and choose the alternative, letting the TSA touch your T&A. It’s just like an 8th grade basement make-out party, except instead of your mother interrupting, she’s getting stroked in the next line.” –Stephen Colbert

“There was supposed to be a protest, but nobody opted out of the full-body scans, maybe because of the signs TSA posted: ‘If you are embarrassed by your penis size, you may opt out of being scanned.'”–Jimmy Kimmel

TSA Terrorists won Mike Keefe Cagle Cartoons

Used by Permission:   Mike Keefe, Cagle Cartoons

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on September 9, 2013 in Uncategorized


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16 responses to “The TSA and Me

  1. becomingcliche

    September 9, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    I am set to take a trip in October, and I’m not looking forward to flying. I used to enjoy flying, but I haven’t been in the air since TSA implemented their ridiculous policies. I am prepared for the worst because I am an idiot who can’t keep a passive expression. I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting the BCS.

    • etomczyk

      September 18, 2013 at 5:14 pm

      BC: Just follow Val’s instructions up above. Have some chamomile tea before you go and meditate on the mantra, “chill, baby, chill.” Ha! I’d much rather take a train but Amtrak sucks and it is filthy, except for the Acela which costs a king’s ransom and is limited to the Eastern corridor. Good luck!

  2. Valentine Logar

    September 9, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    I have been traveling for so long nothing bothers me. I can remember when you walked right through to your flight, really I remember this. Now? Half the time the bullet fragment shows up on the body scan, it throws them every single time, add the metal in my knee; boy do they get confused. But, I am fast and efficient, I get to go through the line for frequent travelers and I know exactly what to do, I do not dress up for travel — yoga pants, sports bra with a tee shirt and slides on my feet. If it is winter I wear a jacket otherwise I have a sweater or hoodie in my bag in case the plane is cold. No jewelry except the rings in my ears that haven’t been out in 25 years, the no jewelry includes no wedding rings, no watch; everything is in a small bag in my purse. I carry my computer with me of course but I check my other bag, always, it is simply easier.

    I know, seems to go against everything a Diva should do but really it makes it ever so much easier.

    Congrats to you sweet grandson, kindergarten!

    • etomczyk

      September 18, 2013 at 5:49 pm

      Val, I couldn’t do it! 🙂 The reason I dress like a diva is because I’ve discovered that it affords me better service as an African-American, even with African-American clerks. If I had been dressed as you described, I’d still be in a holding pin right now. Ha!

  3. imagesbytdashfield

    September 9, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    That last cartoon bothers me but not exactly sure why. Wish we were more like some of the European airports where they don’t play but you don’t feel like you’re about to be “searched”! I’ve been stopped for having my watch on, for a metal headband once, for a clippie thingie in my hair and DH in all of his paleness has been given an extra sweep because his cargo shorts were too thick! WTH?? But if the paranoia gets the baddies then go paranoia. Complacency can be dangerous but we are talking about the TSA and sometimes I just wonder about them.

    • etomczyk

      September 18, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      TD: The last cartoon bothered me as well. I took it out several times before I decided to let it fly because I believe the terrorists have won on a couple of fronts–one of them being to hassle us and drive us crazy with the nit-picky stuff. I do wonder about the TSA. You should have been there when a white TSA agent told me to take off my wig and put it on the conveyor belt. My look must have been beyond belief. Fortunately, there was a black TSA agent who jumped in and took over. He said, “Don’t worry, Mame, I have a mother, two sisters, and an Aunt. They would kill me if I made the do what was just suggested.” I think I’d be in jail right now if it hadn’t been for that man.

  4. Elyse

    September 9, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    This is why I usually drive. And why there is no hope of ever stopping climate change.

    • etomczyk

      September 18, 2013 at 7:27 pm

      Elyse. I know what you mean. I wish we had viable rail service, with clean trains that were on time like in Europe. I’d never take another plane in my life.

    • etomczyk

      September 18, 2013 at 7:36 pm

      I’m with you Elyse. I wish we had a decent rail system, clean, and on time, I’d never fly again. 🙂

  5. talesfromthemotherland

    September 11, 2013 at 12:37 am

    This one really made me laugh E… probably not your intent. However, it cracks me up that ANYone would choose to mess with you! And I just love your WW. He’s da bomb! Oops… now I’m gonna be pulled aside too. 😉

    • etomczyk

      September 18, 2013 at 7:44 pm

      Thanks Dawn. I did mean it to be funny so I’m glad you caught the joke. I’ll pass along your compliment to WW. He has quite the fan base. 🙂

  6. Joanne

    September 13, 2013 at 10:26 am

    Lovin’ it, E …. I envision WW booking on a different airlines from yours on the next trip, due to your sign! And I couldn’t stop laughing at the image of you being goosed by the bomb-sniffing hound.

    I hope your grandson has settled in and figured out how much fun Kindergarten can be.

    Once the TSA confiscated a birdhouse I bought in Jamaica because it was made from a coconut and that counted as an illegal food substance even though it had been hollowed out, carved, painted, and was covered in shellac. I was truly bummed out. I loved that birdhouse! They used to be just mean. And sometimes silly. Now they’re masters of humiliation, as well.

  7. composerinthegarden

    September 13, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    Oh, the clean underwear cartoon just slayed me, Eleanor. I still remember those words of warning from my mother 🙂 Sigh, traveling is a chore, no doubt, and you seem to have an extra portion of aggravation, my friend. My husband gets hassled a lot, partly because he’s carrying a guitar (!) However, it could be worse. I’ve had machine guns pointed at me in foreign countries while watching my luggage go through uber radiation machines; no matter how bad it is here, it is mostly worse everywhere else in the world. I must say that these days, I prefer to stay home, drive, or take the train. There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like . . . .

    • etomczyk

      September 18, 2013 at 7:55 pm

      Lynn, I’ve had the machine guns pointed at me as well (Switzerland), and I lived in Israel for a season, so every time I came back into the country, it was a rigorous questioning and search. But I was younger then and much more patient.

      • composerinthegarden

        September 18, 2013 at 10:16 pm

        “I was younger then and much more patient.” Oh, Eleanor, so was I; I think I’ve lost my patience AND my sense of humor while traveling 🙂

  8. Lindy Lee

    September 21, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    In re: Joanne’s Birdhouse incident, makes one wonder whether theft rather than transportation security lay at the basis of that confiscation…


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