Why I Am Not Afraid of Getting a Pat-Down


By Hiram Soto

I’ll be getting on a plane in the next few days, but I feel that something is wrong with me.

For some reason I’m not afraid of getting a pat-down at the airport.

From what I’ve been seeing in the news lately, federal officials have been touching passengers’ inner thighs, waistlines and even in between and around women’s breasts. Following the logic of this media narrative, I’m next.

Coincidentally enough this controversy started at the San Diego International Airport, where I plan to board my flight. An Oceanside resident named John Tyner declined to go through the airport’s body scanners and also refused to be patted down. The confrontation with officials was recorded on his cell phone and it didn’t take long before the video went viral.

“If you touch my junk I’m going to have you arrested,” was the now famous line from the video.

The ACLU sent out a release saying that it had received hundreds of complaints from passengers who were “humiliated and traumatized” when they felt the hands of a stranger touching their bodies.

Perhaps I’m not afraid of getting a pat-down because 99% of passengers go through security without getting one. Or maybe it’s because I’m not afraid of a little physical contact, even if it’s from a stranger.

One of the first cultural lessons I learned when I came to the United States 15 years ago was that many people here, primarily Anglos, just don’t like to be touched. That is, unless they’re falling and you grab them halfway to the floor.

It was a big contrast to Mexico where I was used to shaking hands with strangers, kissing women on the cheek and doing the traditional shake hands-hug-shake hands Mexican greeting.

But I quickly realized that over here you rarely shake hands, unless you’re closing a deal on a new car. In that case, I’ve never seen anybody who wanted to shake my hand more.

I also learned that you don’t kiss women in the cheek when you say hello or goodbye, especially if their boyfriends are there. It’s just awkward and borderline dangerous. It was here that I first learned the concept of “personal space.” People protect it like a country protects its national airspace.

In other words, the complete opposite of what goes on in my family, where the best way to get someone’s attention is by touching them lightly in the arm if you’re standing up, or leg if you’re sitting down.

I’m used to being surprised by someone giving me a light massage on my shoulders for a second or two. It is not uncommon for me to be walking with someone with my hand over their shoulder. I always kiss women on the cheek when I say goodbye, even if they’re wearing lots of makeup and perfume, which is not as attractive as women think.

About a year ago a Nigerian man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab decided to place explosives in his underwear and tried to blow up a plane midflight. He would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for the vigilance and heroism of nearby passengers.

That was the catalyst for the new security measures at the country’s airports.

Ideologues on the left complain their civil rights are being violated. Ideologues on the right, always obsessed of government meddling in their lives, can now complain about government fondling on their bodies.

Perhaps they would feel better if they spent a few days in Latin America, where I’m sure they’ll quickly realize that physical contact is not all that bad. Or maybe they can spend a few carnes asadas with a Latino family and rediscover the power of human touch.

I do have some beef with airline travel, though.

The seats in the plane seem to be getting smaller. Or maybe people are getting bigger. Or both. I don’t like the fact that I have to pay more just to bring my luggage, or that I have to pay extra to get a bite to eat while we we’re flying.

But the thing that bothers me the most is the thought that another lunatic like Abdulmutallab is constantly looking for ways to blow up an airliner midair.

That’s scary.

More so than a pat-down.

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