I had to be scanned for terrorism before I could board the airplane. Terrorists don’t like to be looked at, so we have people in blue suits look at them mistrustfully. Terrorists are bashful, so we designed machines to make them nude. Terrorists really hate to be searched for explosives, so we have bored people in rubber gloves rummaging around their body cavities. Everyone must be scanned, because everyone could be a terrorist.
I was fairly certain that I was not a terrorist, so I was impatient. I was in a fantastic hurry, as there was a Chipotle past the security checkpoint. Terrorists are not allowed in Chipotle.
Still, I affixed a confident, yet patient smile on my face. What kind of terrorist would smile like this? I yawned intentionally at the blue coated specters hovering about us, directing us like hamsters through a maze. It was impossible to hurry properly anyway, so I settled into this awkward modern routine, waiting to have my clothes scattered away by particle emissions designed by brilliant scientists and measured by high school dropouts. I was as comfortable as one could soberly be. I was an expert, able to be appropriately unimpressed even while a sardine-packed metal tube rocketed me up into the stratosphere at nearly the speed of sound. I could even be bored by the dreaded T.S.A. themselves, with their mildly fascistic demands for papers and scrutiny of my face, as if I had stuffed my cheeks with plastic explosives like a jihadist woodchuck.
So I thought about my burrito while I raised my arms above my head and imagined a billion electrons being deflected by my brave testicles. The great governmental nudity machine. I darted out of the whole enterprise, flung on my shoes and belt and watch as I ran to the train to the farther terminals. Burrito. I adeptly cut lines. I darted in front of the elderly and the close-knit packs of gibbering, clumsy children. A burrito the size of my f-cking forearm.
It lurked in the airport depths, far from my own gate. It’d be a tearing hurry to make my plane, but that was my specialty. Airline expert. I began to jog, voluptuous burrito calling to me with all the great ardor that drove the vikings to raid, man to the moon and junkie to pipe. It would be mine, and soon enough it was and I marveled anew at the fantastic American size of the aluminum-wrapped bundle of joy I would imminently tear apart with all primal glee. And then I looked down, at where my carry-on bag was supposed to be and was, annoyingly, was not.
My palms began to sweat. Burrito forgotten, there was only panic. Seventeen minutes till take off, and I had left my bag by security. ‘Never leave your bag unattended.’ The calm announcement lady proclaimed. ‘Or you are clearly a goddamn terrorist.’
My little bag would be ripped open and HAZMAT teams would hold my dirty underpants up using forceps. They would take me away, locked in a sterile bureaucratic nightmare of eternal fluorescents and long white hallways while a massive blue-shirted man with a thin surgical glove rigorously spelunked my anus.
I found the least frightening of the T.S.A. men and approached him, apologizing immediately in advance for all the apologies I would have to make to his superiors, to armed guards, to government suspicion itself. He was confused, stunned by the dire severity of my error, and so went to a top-secret location and conferred with other blue suits.
He returned and asked for a description again, a blank expression on his face. Rolling black bag with a handle. He stared at me blankly for a long moment, and sauntered off, less gravely than I would have expected. When was I to be interrogated?! I slipped from bemusement to indignation. If they weren’t going to outright imprison me, they ought to at least fix my problem.
“Well, I didn’t see it in the lost and found,” he said, when he finally moseyed back again. Bemused (they have a lost and found?!), I asked if he was sure. He asked yet again what it looked like. Rolling black bag with a handle. Another blue suit approached. “Are you guys missing an iPad?” he asked hopefully, and the first man shook his head. “A — what was it?” Rolling black bag. Handle.
Incredulously, my bag hadn’t been noticed yet! Nine minutes left. Finally, the first man came back with a small slip of paper. “Well, here’s the address for the TSA headquarters lost and found,” he said dreamily. I saw a familiar Microsoft PowerPoint graphic of an airplane on it. “What you can do is send us a letter, and if your bag turns up, we can see what it takes to get it back to you.”
My indignation became horror again. I begged him to let me go to the next aisle over, to at least look around. He shrugged amiably, and led me to the end of a belt one aisle over, where my bag sat, unceremoniously unsurrounded by bomb dogs, soldiers, or Jack Bauers.
No one cared. Of course they didn’t.
I grabbed the bag, and in the long shrill moment of running to my plane, weaving in between other, less arrogant travelers, I became embarrassed of my own unfounded terror. I was more afraid of the T.S.A.’s irascible, boringly Orwellian illusion of safety than I was of terrorists. I was more afraid of these people; my fellow Americans who spend all day making us nude, gray, and featureless than I ever was of the random chaos of an unknown, unknowable man blowing me to bits in some misguided attempt to get laid by six dozen virgins.
Then I ate my Escalade-sized burrito and promptly stopped caring.