As a Middle Eastern woman-child (it’s weird because by the standard definition I am an adult, but by my parents’ definition I am a five-year-old with no autonomy) I can definitively tell you there’s only one thing scarier than your mother trying to beat you with her bright red flip-flop from the 99-cent store, and that’s getting stopped by the TSA at an airport. To make matters worse, my dad shares the same first and last name as one of the members of Al-Qaeda responsible for 9/11, so my airport experience never stops short of silent humiliation and anger. It’s always the same routine. My dad gets thoroughly strip-searched before he gets to the metal detector, after he goes through, and again at Gate D11. And now my little brother has reached the age where he’s become an equally susceptible target. I deeply feel sorry for them. It pains me to see what they have to go through just to get on a plane to visit our Teta (grandma in Arabic) for Christmas. And while I am very angry that I’m rendered a helpless bystander to their humiliation, I have bigger fish to fry.
The year is three months ago. I am traveling from my very suburban home in North Carolina (you know the story—the immigrant parents move into the white suburban neighborhood and everyone is confused except the immigrant parents, who made their decision purely based on whether the kitchen had a specific granite countertop) to my place of higher learning in New Haven, Connecticut. I’m not going to name-drop which school it is, because that would be so pretentious and unnecessary, but I will tell you that it is very old and very big and rhymes with the second syllable of the word “impale.”
Now, because my family and I hate and fear the TSA so much, we know the firsthand horror that comes along with not running our bags through five personal security checks at home. So before I travel, I check the bag. My mom checks the bag. She tells me which articles of clothing make me a whore. I pack the bag, then dump the bag. I do this six times. I get in the bag. My cat gets in the bag. I put the bag in the oven. I bury the bag in the backyard. I throw the bag off an overpass. The bag is fucking checked, okay. I don’t want to get stopped by the TSA, and I am confident I will not get stopped by the TSA.
Okay. I get into the TSA security line, keep my head down, and behave myself. The TSA officer informs me I’m wearing my mask inside-out, and he can see purple lipstick stains. It’s okay. I’m not thrown off my rhythm.
I begin the strip of shame. Shoes off. Jackets off. Jewelry off. Underwear off. Brown skin still on. I walk through the metal detector. We’re clear. Okay. Keep going. My bag gets stopped. “This your bag?” No, you asshole, I’m just staring at it like it’s my state fair prize-winning cow. Yes, it’s my fucking bag. He opens the bag and pulls out a two-pound jar of Nutella, holds it up in the air, and gives me the stupid-ass TSA smirk. What? Are you jealous that your mom doesn’t give you two pounds of Nutella to take back to college? He tells me it’s not allowed.
God. Are you fucking kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me? Nutella? Nutella is banned by the fucking TSA? The damn security and freshness seal was still on it. And even if one of the ingredients in Nutella is cocaine, it’s unextractable at this point. Just give up already.
He held his ground. He knew he had the upper hand because he was wearing underwear, and I wasn’t.
Who the fuck bans fucking Nutella?
That TSA agent was so evil. He dropped a perfect 2-pound jar of Nutella, crafted by my mother’s hands in the checkout line at Costco, right into the trash.
I hate the TSA. I hate the fucking TSA. I can understand strip-searching my dad. I really can. He’s scary when he gets mad, and he has a weird and unpronounceable immigrant name. But Nutella? Nutella is joy in a canister. Nutella never gets mad. And Nutella is brown, but it is a Northern Mediterranean type of brown––Nutella is Italian. It’s classy, not trashy!
Fuck the fucking dumbass TSA. I’ll say it again. What are they going to do about it? Put me on their terrorist watch list? Probably! And I don’t give a damn, and I won’t give a damn until I miss my flight because they pull me into that weird little side room to play twenty questions.
I don’t need to tell you how dumb the TSA is; you already know. What? Did you send your iPad through the security belt and not see it come out the other end? I don’t want to make any harsh accusations, but everybody knows it happens. Or did you ask a question about whether you could put all your stuff in one box and the TSA lady (who isn’t sitting behind the screen and isn’t on the other side of the metal detector and isn’t stacking boxes, so you really have no idea exactly what she’s there for) yelled “Fuck you! You whore! Your cunty question-asking personality is holding up the line!”? That ever happen to you? Happened to me. Or maybe you handed the TSA agent your ID, he said, “Mask down please”, gave you the nod of approval, and then threw your ID in the opposite direction and said, “Go fetch, bitch… NEXT!”? That one’s familiar. Whatever the reason is, I know you fucking hate the TSA as much as I hate the fucking TSA. And if you have a family member, friend, or loved one in the TSA, tell them you don’t respect them. Then tell them to go to therapy. If you’re reading this and you are in the TSA, we want you to die.
And you know what? I’m tired of keeping it a secret. You fuck with my Nutella, I fuck with you. The TSA is the baby-hating branch of ISIS, and I know that because I’m from the Middle East. Also, my mom told me.