I was at TIA running to escape the hurricane, I don't remember which one. At the security check at the shuttle to the airside, the woman behind me was talking on her cell phone.
No, I didn't have any trouble at all buying the ticket, she was saying to someone.
I showed my driver's license to the security person and then witnessed the woman explain why she didn't have her picture ID. She had left it at home, whatever. She was let through.
On the shuttle to the airside, the woman, who was probably in her 30s and dressed in jeans, abruptly asked me a question about the weather in the city she was traveling to, assuming I was going there, too. I told her I wasn't. Then she started singing, "Going on a sentimental journey" to herself, but not quietly.
We joined the huge crowd of travelers in the cordoned-off line that snakes up to the X-ray machines. The security person checking picture IDs in the line let her pass.
The line veered off in various directions and she was no longer next to me. But the woman who was, had seen the same thing. "I don't think she's a terrorist," she said to me. "But my aunt is on that plane."
After I had gone through the X-ray tunnel, I pointed to the pictureless woman across the aisles and said to a security person (a man), "That woman just got through two checkpoints without a picture ID."
She must have shown an ID or she couldn't have gotten this far, he said. I said she had not. He shrugged.
I put my shoes back on, collected my carry-on stuff and checked on my flight. No problems there, so I went back to the security station. I approached a security man who was positioned on a dais just past the X-ray machines, thinking he must be some kind of security boss. He looked like one _ big, strong, young, erect posture.
The woman in question was in sight over near one of the shops.
"See that woman over there?" I said. "I saw her go through two checkpoints without a picture ID."
You have to have a picture ID, he said.
"She doesn't," I said. "Trust me."
I told him what flight she was boarding. He repeated the destination; I said yes. He started in her direction, but I had to catch my flight. I don't know if he did anything or not.
Why did she get through? Because she was a woman? Because she was white? Because she appeared to be American?
I really don't care. A picture ID is required for a reason. If you don't have one, you don't get on a plane. She didn't look like a terrorist? Who knows what the next terrorist will look like? Do you really think he'll be a Middle Eastern man? I seriously doubt it. (He wouldn't have gotten through without a picture ID, either.)
I felt a little bad if I had ruined this woman's trip. But not too bad. When my flight landed in New York, after the usual arrival verbiage, the flight attendant said, "And wherever you are, be vigilant."
Which is why I didn't mind when I got patted down on the trip back.
At JFK I went through the X-ray gate, nothing beeped, and suddenly they were calling for a female security guard. She had me stand on two footprints. She explained she would have to pat me down. I asked if this was something new, and she said, yes, the orders had come down from Washington just a few days ago. I asked how they choose the people for patdowns, random or what? She said when an alarm goes off, or random. You were probably random, she said.
She felt my arms, my legs and so on. She ran a wand over me, I guess to search those places that may elude a patdown.
Are you wearing a belt? she asked when the wand emitted a faint beep at my waist.
I said no. I lifted my shirt to show her the metal clasp _ just an ordinary clasp _ on my pants.
She said she wasn't sure why the patdown was necessary, because she would already have wanded me.
You never know where you'll learn a new verb.
Sandra Thompson, a writer living in Tampa, can be reached at tampasptimes.com. City Life appears on Saturday.