Civil Disobedience Is Hard. (Do it anyway.)

posted in: Day In The Life, Tips 6
I don't like you either, PETA. 'Case you were wondering.
I don’t like you either, PETA. ‘Case you were wondering.

If I were a betting woman, I’d wager 95% of human beans are trying to do their best 95% of the time. The 5% of people who aren’t trying at all are sociopaths. The 95% of people who take 5% of their time off are just tired. I’m with you. These odds mean that I cut folks a break most of the time and I cut myself a break, too. No need to get worked up over a cup of church basement coffee. No need to shout. No need to be rude to the waiter. We’re all trying. Be cool. 


This love and compassion for humanity dictates that I must stand up for true wrongs where they arise. If I don’t, can it be said that I have love for humanity? If I don’t stand for something, I’ll fall for any grievous act committed by the Transportation Security Administration. For example.

I ride in airplanes more than most, a lot less than some. After researching the then-new TSA backscatter machines a few years ago, I decided I would always opt out of going through one. Every time. It wasn’t the threat of radiation: I’ve had so many MRIs and CT scans in my life, I probably already glow in the dark. What bothered me about the machines was that they were so clearly about business more than security. A handful of companies got mountains of money to sell new scanners to airports — airports with scanners that worked just fine already. Dig about six seconds into the story and you’ll find that the three backscatter-making firms have ties to lobbyists and U.S. Representatives on both sides of the aisle. I’m a proud capitalist (we always are) but the deal smelled dirty to me and I felt my fear being exploited. That never feels good.

And then there was the whole “someone’s seeing me naked” thing which only bothered me after it turned out that yes, people were looking at your naked body when you went through, despite all protestations from the TSA officials that they weren’t. Hey, I love being naked. And on the special occasions when someone gets to see me loving being naked, that’s dandy. But the filthiest word in the English language, hyphenated or otherwise, is non-consensual and it would take a full bottle of tequila and/or a lobotomy before I’d consent to letting a sloppy TSA dude in a room on the other side of the airport look at my bare bodkin. This bodkin is mine, pal. You gotta ask first. Besides: you have clothes on, and that means we’ve got an abuse of power. And I hardly need to point out that where I live — in America, dammit — peeping is against the law. Pardon my French, but I figure the appropriate response to the entire no-clothes imaging thing is “F-ck you.”

But then came the true offense. For a number of years, and on two separate occasions, I had an ileostomy. Translation: I wore a small bag on my abdomen and that’s how I pooped. I was a very sick girl and that ostomy saved my life twice so I never exactly hated it, but it was a tribulation. Now, the old scanner machines were never an issue for an ostomate like me. An ostomy bag’s parts are 100% plastic, so unless you put something metal into the bag, which you could theoretically do (ew) there is nothing at all that would be of concern to the metal detectors, therefore no security issues.

Ah, but the backscatters, they see all. Sort of. They sure see ostomy bags. If you are the owner of one and you happen to be in the security line with the gal who doesn’t know what she’s looking at on the screen? Buckle up.

It happened in Detroit. They saw my naked, ostomied body and freaked out. I was treated roughly, questioned past my explanation of my medical situation. I was taken inexplicably into a closet — not a room but a closet — and made to reveal my bag and show it to the pair of bovine TSA women who with every passing minute revealed themselves to be less intelligent than I had initially guessed. I was in tears by the end of it, when they decided I had an ostomy bag and not a pouch full of terror. It might’ve been something like that for them, had they kept poking at it. It was the one time in my life I wished for a defective bag. Is that mean?

So I opt out of those machines and it’s a real pain, man. The opt-out takes longer because you have to wait for someone to do the pat down and then you have to do the pat down. The TSA people hate you because you have an imagination and because you’re interrupting their flow. You are stared at. People in line behind you think you’re suspicious; other people think you’re stupid because everyone knows there’s more radiation in your cell phone than there is in a backscatter machine. They heard that on CNN so it has to be true! And sometimes even I think, “Geez, who cares? It’s faster. Just do it.” Famous last words.

So I go the extra mile, every time. It’s the principle of it. It’s my instinct. And it’s my right.

NOTE: The management realizes we’ve misused the word bodkin in the above post. We like it, though.

6 Responses

  1. Penni
    | Reply

    I am so disappointed that the bag wasn’t defective. I have given a collective FU to TSA many times.

  2. mary ann
    | Reply

    Yea its usually where the moneys at isn’t it? I get tired of being so cynical but sometimes you just have to take the blindfold off. I might have to join you in this protest!

  3. Coley
    | Reply

    On my way to DC I still got patted down after going through that scanner. Not really sure why. Maybe they were bored in Milwaukee.

  4. Shelby
    | Reply

    We had someone behind us opt out when we were flying to New York a couple weeks ago (maybe it was you!) I didn’t feel judgemental about it all, but in fact DID go look up those machines once we were sitting at the gate. It definitely opened my mind and I was glad that person stood their ground. Maybe they’ll read this and know their act of defiance did make a difference to me! Thank you for sharing!!!

  5. Mallory Donohue
    | Reply

    I love the post and I think the use of the word “bodkin” is absolutely perfect!

  6. Luke
    | Reply

    I also opt out every time. Partially for safety reasons, and partially for civil disobedience reasons. It hurts my heart to hear about you being treated poorly due to a medical condition these people were too ignorant to understand. But I also can’t blame them, really. The word that’s been coming down from the top for so long has been “no one can be trusted; everyone lies”.

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