At last it was our turn. A laconic young woman, hair pulled back and wearing glasses, supervised the conveyor belt.
As I put my stuff in the bins, I said, "I want the Pat Down. I don't want to go through the machine."
"Well, if they pick you, you can let them know."
"If they pick me? What d'you mean? I don't understand."
"If they pick you."
She obviously subscribed to the school of thought that asserts that if you say the exact same thing over and over enough times, people will understand you. I finally did. She meant that going through the full-body scanner was a random event.
"What's this?" I asked, gesturing to the machine closest to me.
"That's for metal," she said, making a slow, circular, sweeping gesture over her body to indicate "entire body." She obviously thought that I was simpleminded. I could understand her point of view because I had been repeating back to her everything that she said, just to triple check.
"Oh. So that's the old kind?" I asked.
"Yes," she replied. I was incredibly relieved. The tension left my body so quickly that I wondered whether I was going to collapse.
"What's going on, Honey?" my husband asked. He wasn't close enough to hear my conversation with the TSA agent, but saw that it was a lengthy one. He was prepared to have the Pat Down too, in solidarity with me.
I finished by putting my shoes and bracelets on the conveyor belt. I double checked with the next TSA agent that I was going to go through one of the old machines. I walked through. My bra didn't set off any alarms.
The other side of the security check appeared beautiful and clean. The sun shone through the windows. I saw a place where you could get a flu shot. It was like being in the Promised Land. I considered celebrating with French fries from McDonald's. I didn't, because they're never as good as I remember. I had a cinnamon scone from Starbucks instead.