“Oh,” my mom says as she claps her hands together. “Don’t you look just like an airplane pilot!”
“You really think so?” I asked, as I button the blue polyester blazer. In 1976, it was the in-thing.
“Now just remember, the Johnsons will meet you in Dallas. Don’t worry about a thing.”
“Okay.” My smile revealing my confidence.
I was about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. A ten-year-old, on her own, flying half way across the country to visit her grandmother. I was so excited I could hardly stand it. And my new navy blue bell-bottomed pant suit with the big gold buttons was the classy garb to get me there.I’d made this journey before with my family. Fly from Philadelphia to Dallas, change planes at the airport, and arrive in Oklahoma City a few short minutes later. As a big girl, I knew I could do it on my own.
The first flight landed in Dallas right on time. A flight attendant sat next to me. We chatted about swimming and the fun I would have going to Branson, Missouri with my cousins. And, just as my mom promised, the Johnsons were at the gate to greet me.
The Johnsons were my parents’ friends. They participated in each other’s weddings. They had sons. Cute sons. This I knew. We strolled through DFW easily. Mr. Johnson flew for the airline and wore his uniform as he shook hands with everyone and was treated like royalty. I wondered if he thought I, too, looked like a pilot, but I didn’t ask.
After a leisurely lunch, they pointed me to my gate and waved as I stood in line for security. On the other side was the same flight attendant I’d met earlier, waiting for me.
I put my small tote onto the scanner belt and moved to the metal detector. The man on the other side motioned for me to walk through. I did.
A loud signal chimed. The man motioned for me to return through the security screen and try again.
He stopped and looked at me. He scowled. He studied me as heat crept from my belly, into my chest, and up my neck.
“Hold out your arms,” he said sternly.
I watched. Arms outstretched, feeling the heat rise to my cheeks as teardrops hovered over my eye lashes. I bit my lips. I sucked in my cheeks. I wiggled.
“Stand still, Miss.”
He grabbed his electric wand and waved it in front of my face. Tears, falling in earnest now, slid from my eyes and onto the floor. He moved his machine above my right arm and around my head and across to the left. Down my back. Over my torso. Buzz. He stopped.
He waved it again.
The sound was deafening, echoing in my ears, shouting at me. A sob was about to break loose. I couldn’t hold it back.
“It’s your buttons, Miss.” He smiled at me. “It’s fine, you can go now.”
I stood still, shocked. I ran my sleeve across my face and dried my eyes as best I could before walking slowly to the conveyer belt and snatching my Barbie bag, tucking my chin in shame.
I don’t remember the rest of the flight or if I ever wore that navy blue bell-bottom pant suit with the big gold buttons again, but to this day, I can’t walk through a security gate without a flinch. And if it buzzes, heat rises in my belly and flutters slowly towards my cheeks. So while other people complain about full-body scanners, I silently smile and think, at least they don’t beep.