Tea, or Should We Feel Your Pregnant Wife’s Breasts Before Throwing
You in a Cell at the Airport and Then Lying About Why We Put You
morning I’ll be escorting my wife to the hospital, where the doctors
will perform a caesarean section to remove our first child. She
didn’t want to do it this way neither of us did but
sometimes the Fates decide otherwise. The Fates or, in our case,
the morning of October 26th Mary and I entered Portland International
Airport, en route to the Las Vegas wedding of one of my best friends.
Although we live in Los Angeles, we’d been in Oregon working on
a film, and up to that point had had nothing but praise to shower
on the city of Portland, a refreshing change of pace from our own
the security checkpoint I was led aside for the "inspection"
that’s all the rage at airports these days. My shoes were removed.
I was told to take off my sweater, then to fold over the waistband
of my pants. My baseball hat, hastily jammed on my head at 5 AM,
was removed and assiduously examined ("Anything could be in
here, sir," I was told, after I asked what I could hide in
a baseball hat. Yeah. Anything.) Soon I was standing on one foot,
my arms stretched out, the other leg sticking out in front of me
à la a DUI test. I began to get pissed off, as most normal
people would. My anger increased when I realized that the newly
knighted federal employees weren’t just examining me, but my 7½
months pregnant wife as well. I’d originally thought that I’d simply
been randomly selected for the more excessive than normal search.
You know, Number 50 or whatever. Apparently not though it
was both of us. These are your new threats, America: pregnant accountants
and their sleepy husbands flying to weddings.
some more grumbling on my part they eventually finished with me
and I went to retrieve our luggage from the x-ray machine. Upon
returning I found my wife sitting in a chair, crying. Mary rarely
cries, and certainly not in public. When I asked her what was the
matter, she tried to quell her tears and sobbed, "I’m sorry...it’s...they
touched my breasts...and..." That’s all I heard. I marched
up to the woman who’d been examining her and shouted, "What
did you do to her?" Later I found out that in addition to touching
her swollen breasts to protect the American citizenry
the employee had asked that she lift up her shirt. Not behind a
screen, not off to the side no, right there, directly in
front of the hundred or so passengers standing in line. And for
you women who’ve been pregnant and worn maternity pants, you know
how ridiculous those things look. "I felt like a clown,"
my wife told me later. "On display for all these people, with
the cotton panel on my pants and my stomach sticking out. When I
sat down I just lost my composure and began to cry. That’s when
you walked up."
course when I say she "told me later," it’s because she
wasn’t able to tell me at the time, because as soon as I demanded
to know what the federal employee had done to make her cry, I was
swarmed by Portland police officers. Instantly. Three of them, cinching
my arms, locking me in handcuffs, and telling me I was under arrest.
Now my wife really began to cry. As they led me away and she ran
alongside, I implored her to calm down, to think of the baby, promising
her that everything would turn out all right. She faded into the
distance and I was shoved into an elevator, a cop holding each arm.
After making me face the corner, the head honcho told that I was
under arrest and that I wouldn’t be flying that day that
I was in fact a "menace."
took me a while to regain my composure. I felt like I was one of
those guys in The
Gulag Archipelago who, because the proceedings all seem
so unreal, doesn’t fully realize that he is in fact being arrested
in a public place in front of crowds of people for...for what? I
didn’t know what the crime was. Didn’t matter. Once upstairs, the
officers made me remove my shoes and my hat and tossed me into a
cell. Yes, your airports have prison cells, just like your amusement
parks, train stations, universities, and national forests. Let freedom
a short time I received a visit from the arresting officer. "Mr.
Monahan," he started, "Are you on drugs?"
this even real? "No, I’m not on drugs."
do you mean?"
you be on any type of medication?"
why’d you react that way back there?"
see the thinking? You see what passes for reasoning among your domestic
shock troops these days? Only "whackos" get angry over
seeing the woman they’ve been with for ten years in tears because
someone has touched her breasts. That kind of reaction love,
protection it’s mind-boggling! "Mr. Monahan, are you
on drugs?" His snide words rang inside my head. This is my
wife, finally pregnant with our first child after months of failed
attempts, after the depressing shock of the miscarriage last year,
my wife who’d been walking on a cloud over having the opportunity
to be a mother...and my anger is simply unfathomable to the guy
standing in front of me, the guy who earns a living thanks to my
taxes, the guy whose family I feed through my labor. What I did
wasn’t normal. No, I reacted like a drug addict would’ve. I was
so disgusted I felt like vomiting. But that was just the beginning.
hour later, after I’d been gallantly assured by the officer that
I wouldn’t be attending my friend’s wedding that day, I heard Mary’s
voice outside my cell. The officer was speaking loudly, letting
her know that he was planning on doing me a favor... which everyone
knows is never a real favor. He wasn’t going to come over and help
me work on my car or move some furniture. No, his "favor"
was this: He’d decided not to charge me with a felony.
about that for a second. Rapes, car-jackings, murders, arsons
those are felonies. So is yelling in an airport now, apparently.
I hadn’t realized, though I should have. Luckily, I was getting
a favor, though. I was merely going to be slapped with a misdemeanor.
your court date," he said as I was released from my cell. In
addition, I was banned from Portland International for 90 days,
and just in case I was thinking of coming over and hanging out around
its perimeter, the officer gave me a map with the boundaries highlighted,
sternly warning me against trespassing. Then he and a second officer
escorted us off the grounds. Mary and I hurriedly drove two and
a half hours in the rain to Seattle, where we eventually caught
a flight to Vegas. But the officer was true to his word we missed
my friend’s wedding. The fact that he’d been in my own wedding party,
the fact that a once in a lifetime event was stolen from us well,
who cares, right?
our return to Portland (I’d had to fly into Seattle and drive back
down), we immediately began contacting attorneys. We aren’t litigious
people we wanted no money. I’m not even sure what we fully wanted.
An apology? A reprimand? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter though,
because we couldn’t afford a lawyer, it turned out. $4,000 was the
average figure bandied about as a retaining fee. Sorry, but I’ve
got a new baby on the way. So we called the ACLU, figuring they
existed for just such incidents as these. And they do apparently...but
only if we were minorities. That’s what they told us.
the meantime, I’d appealed my suspension from PDX. A week or so
later I got a response from the Director of Aviation. After telling
me how, in the aftermath of 9/11, most passengers not only accept
additional airport screening but welcome it, he cut to the chase:
a review of the police report and my discussions with police staff,
as well as a review of the TSA’s report on this incident, I concur
with the officer’s decision to take you into custody and to issue
a citation to you for disorderly conduct. That being said, because
I also understand that you were upset and acted on your emotions,
I am willing to lift the Airport Exclusion Order...."
to this letter was the report the officer had filled out. I’d like
to say I couldn’t believe it, but in a way, I could. It’s seemingly
becoming the norm in America lies and deliberate distortions
on the part of those in power, no matter how much or how little
power they actually wield.
gist of his report was this: From the get go I wasn’t following
the screener’s directions. I was "squinting my eyes" and
talking to my wife in a "low, forced voice" while "excitedly
swinging my arms." Twice I began to walk away from the screener,
inhaling and exhaling forcefully. When I’d completed the physical
exam, I walked to the luggage screening area, where a second screener
took a pair of scissors from my suitcase. At this point I yelled,
"What the %*&$% is going on? This is &*#&$%!" The
officer, who’d already been called over by one of the screeners,
became afraid for the TSA staff and the many travelers. He required
the assistance of a second officer as he "struggled" to
get me into handcuffs, then for "cover" called over a
third as well. It was only at this point that my wife began to cry
was nothing poetic in my reaction to the arrest report. I didn’t
crumple it in my fist and swear that justice would be served, promising
to sacrifice my resources and time to see that it would. I simply
stared. Clearly the officer didn’t have the guts to write down what
had really happened. It might not look too good to see that stuff
about the pregnant woman in tears because she’d been humiliated.
Instead this was the official scenario being presented for the permanent
record. It doesn’t even matter that it’s the most implausible sounding
situation you can think of. "Hey, what the...godammit, they’re
taking our scissors, honey!" Why didn’t he write in anything
about a monkey wearing a fez?
the TSA staff had expropriated a pair of scissors from our toiletries
kit the story wasn’t entirely made up. Except that I’d been locked
in airport jail at the time. I didn’t know anything about any scissors
until Mary told me on our drive up to Seattle. They’d questioned
her about them while I was in the bowels of the airport sitting
in my cell.
I wrote back, indignation and disgust flooding my brain.
I’m not sure, I’d guess that the entire incident is captured on
video. Memory is imperfect on everyone’s part, but the footage won’t
lie. I realize it might be procedurally difficult for you to view
this, but if you could, I’d appreciate it. There’s no willful disregard
of screening directions. No explosion over the discovery of a pair
of scissors in a suitcase. No struggle to put handcuffs on. There’s
a tired man, early in the morning, unhappily going through a rigorous
procedure and then reacting to the tears of his pregnant wife."
we heard back from a different person, the guy in charge of the
TSA airport screeners. One of his employees had made the damning
statement about me exploding over her scissor discovery, and the
officer had deftly incorporated that statement into his report.
We asked the guy if he could find out why she’d said this couldn’t
she possibly be mistaken? "Oh, can’t do that, my hands are
tied. It’s kind of like leading a witness I could get in trouble,
heh heh." Then what about the videotape? Why not watch that?
That would exonerate me. "Oh, we destroy all video after three
few days later we heard from him again. He just wanted to inform
us that he’d received corroboration of the officer’s report from
the officer’s superior, a name we didn’t recognize. "But...he
wasn’t even there," my wife said.
well, uh, he’s corroborated it though."
how it works.
and we did look at the videotape. Inconclusive."
I thought it was destroyed?
and on it went. Due to the tenacity of my wife in making phone calls
and speaking with relevant persons, the "crime" was eventually
lowered to a mere citation. Only she could have done that. I would’ve
simply accepted what was being thrown at me, trumped up charges
and all, simply because I’m wholly inadequate at performing the
kowtow. There’s no way I could have contacted all the people Mary
did and somehow pretend to be contrite. Besides, I speak in a low,
forced voice, which doesn’t elicit sympathy. Just police suspicion.
later at the courthouse I listened to a young DA awkwardly read
the charges against me "Mr. Monahan...umm...shouted obscenities
at the airport staff...umm... umm...oh, they took some scissors
from his suitcase and he became...umm...abusive at this point."
If I was reading about it in Kafka I might have found something
vaguely amusing in all of it. But I wasn’t. I was there. Living
entered a plea of nolo contendere, explaining to the judge that
if I’d been a resident of Oregon, I would have definitely pled "Not
Guilty." However, when that happens, your case automatically
goes to a jury trial, and since I lived a thousand miles away, and
was slated to return home in seven days, with a newborn due in a
matter of weeks...you get the picture. "No Contest" it
was. Judgment: $250 fine.
I feel happy? Only $250, right? No, I wasn’t happy. I don’t care
if it’s twelve cents, that’s money pulled right out of my baby’s
mouth and fed to a disgusting legal system that will use it to propagate
more incidents like this. But at the very least it was over, right?
we returned to Los Angeles there was an envelope waiting for me
from the court. Inside wasn’t a receipt for the money we’d paid.
No, it was a letter telling me that what I actually owed was $309 state assessed court costs, you know. Wouldn’t you think your
taxes pay for that the state putting you on trial? No, taxes are
used to hire more cops like the officer, because with our rising
criminal population people like me hey, your average citizen
demands more and more "security."
I reach the piece de résistance. The week before we’d gone to the
airport my wife had had her regular pre-natal checkup. The child
had settled into the proper head down position for birth, continuing
the remarkable pregnancy she’d been having. We returned to Portland
on Sunday. On Mary’s Monday appointment she was suddenly told, "Looks
like your baby’s gone breech." When she later spoke with her
midwives in Los Angeles, they wanted to know if she’d experienced
any type of trauma recently, as this often makes a child flip. "As
a matter of fact..." she began, recounting the story, explaining
how the child inside of her was going absolutely crazy when she
was crying as the police were leading me away through the crowd.
wife had been planning a natural childbirth. She’d read dozens of
books, meticulously researched everything, and had finally decided
that this was the way for her. No drugs, no numbing of sensations
just that ultimate combination of brute pain and sheer joy
that belongs exclusively to mothers. But my wife is also a first-time
mother, so she has what is called an "untested" pelvis.
Essentially this means that a breech birth is too dangerous to attempt,
for both mother and child. Therefore, she’s now relegated to a c-section
hospital stay, epidural, catheter, fetal monitoring, stitches
everything she didn’t want. Her natural birth has become
tried everything to turn that baby. Acupuncture, chiropractic techniques,
underwater handstands, elephant walking, moxibustion, bending backwards
over pillows, herbs, external manipulation all to no avail. When
I walked into the living room the other night and saw her plaintively
cooing with a flashlight turned onto her stomach, yet another suggested
technique, my heart almost broke. It’s breaking now as I write these
can never prove that my child went breech because of what happened
to us at the airport. But I’ll always believe it. Wrongly or rightly,
I’ll forever think of how this man, the personification of this
system, has affected the lives of my family and me. When my wife
is sliced open, I’ll be thinking of him. When they remove her uterus
from her abdomen and lay it on her stomach, I’ll be thinking of
him. When I visit her and my child in the hospital instead of having
them with me here in our home, I’ll be thinking of him. When I assist
her to the bathroom while the incision heals internally, I’ll be
thinking of him.
are plenty of stories like this these days. I don’t know how many
I’ve read where the writer describes some breach of civil liberties
by employees of the state, then wraps it all up with a dire warning
about what we as a nation are becoming, and how if we don’t put
an end to it now, then we’re in for heaps of trouble. Well you know
what? Nothing’s going to stop the inevitable. There’s no policy
change that’s going to save us. There’s no election that’s going
to put a halt to the onslaught of tyranny. It’s here already this
country has changed for the worse and will continue to change for
the worse. There is now a division between the citizenry and the
state. When that state is used as a tool against me, there is no
longer any reason why I should owe any allegiance to that state.
that’s the first thing that child of ours is going to learn.
Monahan works in the film industry. He writes out of Los Angeles
where he lives with his wife and as of December 18th, his beautiful
2002 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part
is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.