I'm not a lonely woman who lacks affection, but I wanted to be groped, dammit.
Fully aware that the male prostidude no longer offers his services at the Shady Lady in Pahrump, I set out for McCarran International Airport.
With all the hubbub about inappropriate X-ray machine-monitoring security agents judging the size of various body parts and their horny co-workers feeling up those who refuse the machine, I figured I could get a not-so-cheap thrill.
OK, in truth, I wanted to determine what is really going on at airports these days. I was prepared to subject myself to the abuse that has stirred a nationwide controversy over whether the Transportation Security Administration's new procedures violate passengers' privacy.
A round-trip ticket to Reno in hand, I was guided to the C gates -- the primary home of Southwest Airlines, the busiest carrier at McCarran. I searched for the full-body scanner, knowing that when I refused to enter, I would be subjected to an intrusive pat-down.
Friday mornings are apparently a slow time for Southwest because a Transportation Security Administration agent shooed everyone down the same narrow plexiglass-enclosed corridor where, at the end, we were met with the traditional security machine.
With no other choice, I attempted to raise enough suspicion to earn a pat-down by pausing to stare at the attending agent, and then pointing angrily at the little metal detector: "Is that one of those naked machines? If it is, I don't want to use it."
"No ma'am," the agent said.
I gathered my belt, shoes and laptop and rode the tram to the gates, then turned around and headed back to the main terminal to give this another go. My new strategy was to pass through the D gates security, where full-body scanners seemed aplenty. A kind agent thwarted my plan, redirected this silly, confused traveler back to the C gates where Southwest passengers belong.
American Airlines has a 10:40 a.m. flight to Los Angeles that leaves out of the D gates. Los Angeles is a better place to visit than Reno this time of year anyway.
I snaked my way through a much longer security line to the D gates and when I finally reached the front, an agent motioned for me to walk in the opposite direction of the only full-body scanner in operation. I darted for it when he was distracted.
The passengers in front of me were diverted to the metal detector that neighbored the scanner and my hopes of a pat-down faded. Again. As I shuffled toward the old machine, an agent stepped up and held the palm of his hand toward the naked machine.
"Is that one of those naked machines?" I asked, doing my best to act disgusted.
"Yes, ma'am," he said.
"I don't want to go through that," I said, sheepishly.
"Opt out! Opt out! Opt out!" he hollered, triggering a flurry of TSA activity. "We need a female for this pat-down."
It's go time. I am directed to stand to the side, where I wait for this woman who is preparing to grope me, assault me, molest me. She is itching to touch my junk. Oh, wait, I don't have any junk. Surely she will be aggressive and invasive.
I wince and cower and tense up as she approaches.
"Ma'am, we have new pat-down procedures and I'm going to explain them to you," she said in a soft, kind voice. "If at any time you are uncomfortable with what I am doing, please let me know, OK?"
Seriously? This isn't how it is supposed to be. This isn't why I spent the morning buying plane tickets, gate-hopping and possibly landing myself on a federal no-fly list.
She guided the backside of her hand down my sides, then my back and my arms. She ran her hands up both my inner and outer length of legs, to the very top, but none of the touching led me to believe she was fondling me. Her hands brushed below my breasts, but never did I feel violated.
Then she explained she would run her fingertips around the inside of my waistband, which can be a bit uncomfortable if, like me, you are already packing on that holiday weight.
She then guided me to another area where she took a disc-shaped piece of cottony fabric and rubbed her hands on it. She inserted it into a machine that I assume detects residue from explosives or gunpowder. It came out clean, and I was free to go.
Call me a sheep, but when it comes to air travel, I quietly follow instructions and the rest of my herd. I felt guilty taking up this woman's time when really, I have walked through the full-body scanner dozens of times. This time, few of the 14 machines were operating. When asked about it, TSA officials refused to comment.
I have difficulty believing that TSA executives spend hours in a backroom thinking of ways to get away with grabbing travel-weary businessmen's "junk."
After my experience, I couldn't help but question whether the controversy swirling around new security procedures at airports across the country means the nightmare of Sept. 11 is beginning to fade in travelers' minds.
Fortunately, we haven't had another Sept. 11. The introduction of the pat-down procedures and the full-body scanning machines makes me wonder what new intelligence the federal government possesses. Or do we have to wonder? Were terrorists testing whether plastic ink cartridges would slip through security when one capable of detonating an explosive was found as recently as Thursday?
The terrifying images of Sept. 11 will never fade from my memory.
Neither will the events of Sept. 1, 1983.
That was the day a Korean Air Lines flight carrying my high school friend and her young brother was shot down by Soviet fighter jets after straying into restricted airspace. If there is a perceived threat on a commercial flight, a military aircraft will be sent up to escort or intercept the plane. When I hear that, I feel nauseous. Confusion and miscommunication can spell the end of innocent travelers' lives.
Perhaps because I want to feel safe when I fly, I am more forgiving than passengers who are protesting the more intensive searches.
TSA agents clutching some innocent passenger's crotch isn't acceptable, but that is far from what I experienced. I saw no traveler being patted down other than myself.
And I had to work really hard to be physically searched in a respectful manner. Thanks for nothing, TSA.
If you have a question, tip or tirade, call Adrienne Packer at (702) 387-2904, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your phone number.