Tackling Detroit Airport
July 11, 2004 dawns sunny and bright, giving me a hopeful lift to my travels to Spain. My driver drops me at the Northwest terminal at seven am, leaving me 1.75 hours to get through security and to walk the mile or so to my boarding area. I say mile because McNamara Terminal is notoriously long, and those I know who travel claim they forever get assigned the last boarding gate.
First, security. I estimate thirty minutes max to get through the security area, leaving me time to loll in the café, drink coffee, and obsess over my itinerary. I finger my boarding pass and peek at my ticket. Detroit to Madrid. Thirteen and a half hours. I'm glad I brought my flight pillow, two bestsellers, and my connection to my heavenly Father.
The people in line fit the typical vacation passenger list. Couples in casual garb, looking ready to catch some rays, hop around the cities, and find romance in Spain. A few harried families, parents looking like they forgot why they brought the kids, the kids looking like they don’t know where they’re going. One little guy keeps clinging to his father’s leg, crying “I want my mino, Daddy. I want my mino.” Daddy explains to his son his mino got left at home. “So sorry. We’ll get you a new one.” The child utters the natural response, “I don’t want new one, Daddy,” and a flood of tears. I think, Pray you don’t sit near them.
A group of college girls on tour appear ready to eat up the scenery in Spain and possibly all the men they meet. They look like they could handle it too, with their short shorts and crop tops in bright colors and their ample cleavages. I feel like I should call ahead and warn the Spaniards but then, why would they protest?
Finally, my turn comes to put my carryon, shoes, and purse in the bucket and let them slide down the conveyer belt. I want to keep my wallet but I’m afraid that might cause trouble. The two men on either side of me at the screening booth look like the narcotics squad from “Law and Order.” On the other hand, if I were checking them through security, I might search for criminal records.
I enter the scanning booth and the warning buzzer goes off. I look around to see what caused it. The two men stare at me, trying to determine what I did to cause the forbidden alarm.
“Step over here, lady.” the mean looking one says.
As I do, I look down. The shirt I'm wearing is a cute beige fashion T-shirt, given to me by my friend, Kathy, for the trip. I feel pretty sexy in it but now I realize the neckline of my shirt is covered with gun metal studs.
“Wow, I am so sorry!” I said. “I believe my shirt has set off the alarm, sir,” I say to the less threatening security guard. “It has metal décor on it.”
Both men star at me for a moment. One of them turns to a guard in the next aisle and says, “Something set off the buzzer. Can’t figure out what did it. Can you?” The third guard looks around at me and at the people behind me.
“Ya' got me,” he says, and turns back to the people in his aisle.
“Excuse me, I say, “if you will notice, I have metal buttons on my shirt, I believe they might be causing the alarm. I didn’t realize they would be a problem. I don’t travel much. Since I can’t take the shirt off here, can you suggest a solution?”
The scary guard then begins to rummage through my belongings that have already passed through the scanner. The other guard says, “Lift your arms, m’am. Keep them up.”
He proceeds then to run his hands up and down my body. Passengers around me look on with deepest sympathy, but they are not about to intercede. I begin to panic. I envision these guards strip-searching me - or worse, detaining me in an empty room with no food or water. I might miss my flight to Madrid. My train to Seville! Having heard stories, I had promised myself I would be a little lamb with TSA and not be difficult. But now, the lioness in me emerges. As these two goons continue rummaging deeper into my luggage and patting harder in the wrong places, I lose it.
“The problem, gentlemen,” I shout with venom in my voice, “is my fucking shirt!”
The two bolt upright as if they’ve been shot in the rear with buckshot. Worse than that, they look as if they have waited years to collar a perpetrator.
“OK, lady, step way over here!” the scary one says, leading me even further away from my belongings and escape.
“ Stand over here and don’t move,” say the other, strong arming me to the far side of the scanning booth.
“Keep your hands out in the open. Don’t say another word.”
The two stare at me for a minute, then move to the corner to confer in private.
A third guard, one with obviously more authority, joins them. I hear the third guard whisper to them, “I think it might be her shirt.”
After staring me down for another minute, the two sheepishly approach me again. “You can go, M’am,” the nicer one says. "But don’t fly with that shirt again.”
“No problem,” I say. “I wouldn’t want to meet up with you two again anyway.”
When it looks like they might detain me again, I gather my things and run like hell.