Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Auntie Maria: International Woman of Mystery

I have always thought of, and described, myself as an ordinary Portuguese girl from Portsmouth, Rhode Island. This is unfair to my mother, who brings English, French, and Belgian genes to the family stew. It might also be unfair to a possible German grandmother back in the swirling mists of time in Portugal, who bequeathed red hair to the family (even I have some of it). We’re not sure about her; she may be apocryphal.

In the past, I’ve had people guess that I’m Italian, Greek, Armenian, Black Irish, biracial, Spanish, Mexican, and I don’t know what all else. I’ve been asked about my background a lot over the years. People can’t seem to figure out what I am.

In general, I think this is pretty cool. I’m a citizen of the world! I’m a harbinger of a new millennium where we all live in a global village! I’m an auntie without borders! I’m every woman (it’s all in meeeee)!

I recently learned, however, that the TSA can’t figure out what I am, either. So they jump to the logical conclusion: that I am a terrorist. When I flew to Paris in March, the TSA not only got a good look at everything my mama gave me via their backscatter technology, they followed it up by detaining me for a couple of minutes, scaring the crap out of me, not allowing me to speak to the Foodie to let him know I’d be along shortly (apparently they assumed we belonged to the same terrorist cell; however, he got through the checkpoint with no problems), and then coming up behind me and groping my hair.

I had thought that when flying out of Boston, you had two choices: backscatter or groping. I stand corrected. People of indeterminate nationality apparently get the pleasure of both.

Why my hair? The Cop told me that Rastas sometimes hide drugs in their hair, but I wasn’t wearing dreads, my hair was in a braid.

In Paris, I got the full treatment – again, I was the only one of my group of four who did. I went through a regular metal detector, and then a very polite French lady felt me up. You’ll be glad to know that I not only was my hair drug-free, I wasn’t carrying any contraband between my boobs, in the waistband of my jeans, in my armpits or my socks. At least she was nice about it; in Boston they were as rude as the airport personnel in Boston always are – which is to say, very.

What I find really funny about the whole thing is that I as agents were feeling me up, they were also X-raying my bottle of medication, which is for depression and anxiety. I could be wrong, but I imagine that being a drug mule or a terrorist requires a bit more courage and steadiness in the nerve department than one might expect from an old maid with a cat and a bottle of Celexa.

A few people I’ve told about this have said “But that’s the whole point! You are the last person anyone would suspect, so you’d make the perfect criminal.” Sorry, but by that logic, Mrs. Gottbux in the next line over, with her bobbed blonde hair, Tod’s driving mocs, and Caribbean tan is an even less likely suspect than I am. Why isn’t anyone feeling her up?

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