You know you’re too fat when a TSA agent mistakes body bulk for bombs. I am too fat.
Last Sunday I’m flying from Dayton, OH to Atlanta, GA. I am travelling light—no computer, small carry-on, one checked bag that doesn’t go through the screening process with me.
I take off my shoes and jacket, and send them along with my phone and backpack through the X-ray machine. I walk through the metal detector. Usually I’m waved on through, but not this time. This time I’m pulled aside for a pat down. Sometimes this happens because of the system’s random check procedure, but not this time. This time it is because the TSA agent sees something suspicious about my person. Unfortunately, it is my person itself.
“Sorry, sir, but it looks a bit bulky under there,” the agent says to me politely, pointing vaguely to my sweater vest.
I am led to a side station, asked to spread my arms, and prepare to receive a pat down. The problem, the agent tells me, is that there is a roll, a bulge, under my sweater vest that seems suspicious to him. It could be a bomb belt. It could be a series of liquids that, when mixed, could bring down an aircraft. It could be pairs of shoes equipped with explosive devices. Or it could be that I’m fat.
Honestly, even knowing the years I would have to spend in prison if it were anything other than fat, for a moment I prayed to Allah that I was carrying a bomb. But Allah, like Jesus, doesn’t hear the prayers of Jews, and it turned out to be fat. As the agent’s well-trained hands ran themselves over my poorly toned mid-section it became clear to him and me that when given a choice between Taliban and marzipan, I would invariably align myself with the latter.
For a moment the agent was as embarrassed as I was. I felt sorry for him. I smiled and said, “I’m a loyal American, all about mom and apple pie. Mostly pie.” He smiled back. I smiled wider. He moved on to the next potential terrorist, I went to buy some Reese’s Cups.
To be fair, I am overweight. To be balanced, I have no idea how thick a bomb belt is, so maybe the agent was right to pat me down. But the humiliation was real nonetheless. To make matters worse, when I took my seat on the plane, and squeezed my broadening butt into the seat, the guy sitting next to me says, “I lost 109 pounds over the past year.” I swear to Adonai, Lord of Hostess, that’s what he said.
Of course I asked him how he lost all that weight, and he told me he ate nothing but steak and butter. As a Jew, I don’t mix meat and milk. As a vegetarian, I don’t eat steak. I’m doomed.