I’m not a frequent flyer. Sometimes I forget the rules. As I approached the security checkpoint at George Bush Intercontinental, I removed all items from my pockets and placed my carry-on items into the bin I left on the conveyor belt. Then I waited in line. When an agent with the Transportation Security Administration waved me forward, I stood on the designated foot outlines and struck my pose, hands above my head, inside the imaging portal. The electromagnetic waves detected a potential threat. Me. A high school English teacher. Mentor of children. A potential threat.

“Ma’am,” the TSA officer said with a soft Southern drawl, “I need you to take a look at what we see on the screen.” She pointed to the digital image and a nondescript mass on my lower abdomen. “I’m going to have to pat you down.”

I took a deep breath and blew it out.

“Would you prefer a private screening?” she said, gesturing to a partitioned area for the purpose.

“No, this is fine,” I said, trying to contain my frustration. I had never received an authoritative pat-down in my life.

The woman advised me of the procedure and then traced a gloved hand up each inner thigh ending quite intimately into my groin.

I exhaled a squeal of exaggerated delight—due, I suppose, to not knowing what else to say or perhaps attempting to defuse the awkwardness or maybe just trying to be funny.

She stifled a laugh and held up her gloved hand. “Now I’m going to search the inside of your waistband,” she said and proceeded with two fingers around my entire perimeter to find nothing.

“Whew! That’s the most lovin’ I’ve had in a while,” I said, fully acting, feeling on a roll. My intuition told me the officer secretly appreciated my attempt to make light of the situation that most despise, or maybe it was her hand over her mouth concealing her laugh and smile.


I cannot recall her exact words. I felt a slight admonishment for joking about airport security. I realized a little too late that TSA is serious. More serious than me. And I appreciate the extra security measures. I really do. But sometimes I forget the rules.

As I walked away from my near incarceration somewhat perplexed, another realization dawned. My jeans, when I bought them, sold me with the phrase “miracle tummy tuck control.” My jeans, made with built-in flattening power, had transformed not only my tummy, but me—from the least frightening person on earth into a potential security risk.

Note to self: Wear something else on my return and all subsequent flights. Note to the ladies: Beware of body shaping garments. (You’re welcome!)



Crystal Byers is an emerging writer and veteran high school English teacher living in Houston, Texas. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Houston Baptist University and continues fine-tuning her memoir Help in the Time of Schizophrenia. Her essays appear at The Houston Flood Museum and The Porch Magazine.

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