Beltless, shoeless, carrying my driver’s license and boarding pass, I move toward security at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, MO, on my way to Boston. A blue-shirted TSA guard asks, “Pat-down or scanner?” his dark eyes screwed in suspicion.

Aware of infrequent maintenance of the scanners, of their use in contaminated environments, of the guards’ lack of training, I choose the pat-down. “In private,” I respond.

Two female attendants, both heavily badged, escort me to what looks like a broom closet, referred to as the rape room by some investigative journalists, and the ritual begins. Arms outstretched in the orans position, I zone out, vaguely aware of a stranger with grim features, black hair caught up in a ponytail, standing in front of me. Her partner watches. Methodically, as if following the guidelines in a training manual, her blue rubber-gloved hands press my entire body; then, she smears a chemical on her gloves, passes them under a meter to ascertain the presence of explosives on my person. Then, it’s over – until my return flight from Boston.  Consequences follow if anyone protests.

A perplexing question surfaces. Where are the terrorists, intent upon blowing up American planes since 9/11? Other than then Umar Farouk Abdulmatallab, the underwear bomber, and Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, obviously plants – neither carried on their persons the detonating devices needed to set off the explosives – none have been caught. The question remains – So just where is the enemy? Has anyone ever considered it might lurk around human hearts? Unfortunately, there are no metal detectors, naked body scanners, or pat downs to detect its presence and contagion.

photo credit: Scott Ableman via photo pin cc