Something happened on the way home from Australia - Tactical Ninja
Jan. 30th, 2013
10:02 am - Something happened on the way home from Australia
I've travelled to and through Australia a few times now, and in general I've always found the officials to be relatively friendly and easy to deal with - often much easier and friendlier than their kiwi counterparts. However, Melbourne airport now has those scanning machines - you know, the ones that they don't know how safe they are, that look through your clothes to see if you've got a toenail clipper in your pocket that might be used as a weapon?
And they choose people at random to go through them. They also have the metal detector arches and it seems most people go through them, but every so often someone gets shoved into the machine instead.
I get this relatively often. I don't know if it's because of my unnatural coloured hair or if I look like a pushover, or if I actually look dodgy, but it seems Australian officials 'randomly' choose me for testing in case I want to blow shit up. I've been wanded for gunpowder about four times, patted down a couple, and yesterday they decided I needed to be x-rayed.
I opted out. I did this because a) it's security theatre and it's bullshit, and b) there is no guarantee it's safe.
However, unlike the US, Australia has a law that says you have to do it if they choose you. The woman directed me to read a piece of paper (about 5 paragraphs) that detailed how few rights you actually have. By this point I was starting to get an adrenaline response and I only scanned it. The words "If you do not agree to the procedure..." jumped out at me. I repeated "I do not agree to the procedure" to the woman, and she said "In that case, you have to leave the airport." I said "I thought I could opt out and be patted down." She rolled her eyes and said "Didn't you read the notice? Unless you have a legitimate medical reason, you either go through the machine or I have to call security."
At which point I realised I was being coerced, and everything went red. I was faced with the choice of going through their machine, or wasting my $800 plane ticket and stuffing my companions around. Some choice that is. I felt completely powerless. Those of you who know me will know that [being coerced is a trigger for me (TW)]I have a history of long term repeated coercive rape. It's a long story but essentially, nowadays whenever I witness (like in movies) or am subjected to a situation in which free will is reduced to choosing between doing something I really don't want to do or accepting whatever negative consequences the other person chooses to inflict, my head goes right back to that place of powerlessness from so long ago, the adrenaline kicks in and I stop thinking rationally. Used to be that I'd either freeze or nut off completely. Nowadays I can get through it, but I don't deal with it at all well.
I swore at her. I stepped into the machine. The man on the other side barked instructions at me and I swore at him too. When I got out of it and the stupid sign on the other side said "OK" in green, he said "See? It's all fine." And I swore at him again and left before I had a chance to really lose it at them.
Because by this time I was having a full on fight or flight response. When I got away from the area, I was breathing really hard and my ears were ringing and I was shaking hard enough that I couldn't write properly on the departure card. I've no idea what I wrote. It took about 15 minutes to calm down, at which point I started wondering if PTSD is actually a legitimate medical reason to be excused.
Or am I just being a brat?
The thing is, it's not the machine that's the problem (even though I think it's risky and don't want to use it), it's the coercion - the feeling that I have no choice, the feeling of powerlessness. If I'd been able to opt out, I would have accepted the pat down. The removal of that choice is what set me off - and I don't know if that counts as a medical reason to be excused from going in the machine.
What I do know is that most people seem to not freak out and start losing their cool at people out of character when they're told to go be x-rayed, and I do. And that it took me a considerable amount of time to get my heart rate back to normal afterwards, and that when I started thinking about it in bed this morning I started freaking out again.
I know that if I had been given more than the two bad choices I had, it wouldn't have been a problem at all. I don't know if that's enough of a reason to try to get a medical certificate for when I travel. I keep telling myself to get over it and just behave like everyone else, and that if I hadn't objected I never would have been coerced, and when I think about that I feel powerless again. I know that if I write to Melbourne airport to complain, the response is likely to be a polite version of "Tough titty."
I don't know what to do, but I'm afraid that one day I will actually spin out and go "Fuck the consequences." I was pretty close to it yesterday - if I hadn't had Dr Wheel and Happy waiting for me on the other side I probably would have. I don't want to avoid travelling because of this, because in a way that's letting both the stupid security bullshit and the PTSD win.
I would appreciate input from other people on this, because whenever I try to sort it through I just end up berating myself for being stupid, and that is not constructive.