Holiday travel includes... a pat-down?

Tom woke the boys and me at 4:55 this morning. That is truly an ungodly, grotesque hour, even if you're headed to Shangri-La via private coach. We were all feeling festive though and once at security, a calm settled. A TSA agent said I'd been selected for a random hand-swab screening, and because positive role-modeling for the kids and all, I said, "Sure thing!" and flipped my palms willingly upward. He used that odd speculum-that-holds-a-round-facial-cotton tool the TSA loves for swabbing any- and everything, and wiped my hands in such a nice way that, modeling and all, I said, "Oh, boys, this is like a nice massage."

Which it was until the alarm sounded, and I was kindly told that because I'd failed and thus issued an alert, I would have to be taken back for private screening. Not to sound fancy, but because the only thing I believed to be on my hands was a filmy remnant of the new Chanel foundation I treated myself to over the weekend, I smiled with confidence and again said, "Sure." I mean really, does Chanel trade in or mimic explosives?

I think not. Though wasn't Coco a fairly awful human? Anti-semitic, a Nazi-supporter, homophobic and so forth? Anyway, I digress.

So, the boys and Tom went one way, and I went another. For a rather lengthy amount of time. All of my stuff was screened twice, the speculum wand swabbed my boots, purse, wallet, iPhone, and two women escorted me to a private, windowless room, shut the door and proceeded to describe a full pat-down and then administer one. I just kept smiling and agreeing because really, if I had anything to hide, it'd be that instead of going to meetings, I rent a room for the hour and sleep (not true, people), but my heart definitely beat a bit more quickly and I was glad to rejoin my crew.

As you might imagine, we all found a fair amount of funny in this -not least because it was 6:30am and how many moms get patted down at that time in an airport while their kids watch as much as they can, mouths agape?- but I also noodled on the experience, more seriously and to myself, for a while.

I hadn't done a darn thing wrong this morning and truly, if it wasn't the Chanel, it was airport bathroom or cab or kids or a confluence of being in public, that dusted my paws with something that set off a random alarm. Of course I want people to be aware and cautious and do their jobs, but it still all made me think.

What might have been different if I were a woman of color? A man of color? What if pat-downs, and their attendant skepticism (at best) and outright distrust (worse) were something I'd experienced before or often? Or frequently? And/or for no reason? Or not a good one.

I wonder how many of our countrymen and women feel watchful eyes glancing upon them with suspicion and feel their heart rates pick up and notice a slight bead of sweat at their brow or a nervous chuckle burble forth as a coping mechanism. I wonder what that does to someone's psyche if it happens repeatedly. If it happens in front of their children. If it happens and doesn't turn out well.

I am sometimes told that I feel things too deeply and cannot right the ills of the world. Both of those claims are probably true. But, it is my firmest conviction that ambivalence about great issues is a moral failure of sorts. One of the most serious problems our society has is constant short-term amnesia that repeatedly excuses us from actually dealing with problems at hand. If everyone cares but only for a bit, the "losers" are the ones who were victimized in the first-place, for they are the ones still dealing with the aftermath of the thing we watchers were upset about for a moment. They are the ones who've lost sons and daughters and retirement funds and farmland. They lose twice.

In the midst of this season, during which so many are celebrating a multitude of traditions, let us not only give thanks for all we have but also issue hope for more justice and fairness for all those who go without. Let us continue to think at once more specifically and more broadly, for by connecting with one or a few, we might be determined to work towards the betterment of all.