The Misadventures of Being Mandi
I have to say, I like to live on the edge.
I took a town car out of New York (they were charging the same rate as a cab, if you have ever ridden in a cab in NY, you will know why I jumped at the opportunity to take a town car). In the middle of a tunnel the car broke down. It was smoking and green fluid boiled everywhere. This is a two lane tunnel, and cell phones didn’t work. His or mine. We sat there for 15 minutes. There are cameras in the tunnel and we essentially had stopped traffic in our lane completely so I figured they would have to send someone or something. People started to move over into the other lane and go around us (there are big plastic barriers that separated the two lanes, so they had to drive over them to switch lanes – which I am sure keeps you from switching lanes at high speed).
The driver finally started to wave at cabs as they drove by asking if they were going to JFK. A cab pulled over in front of us and without asking his passenger (which made me feel horrible) grabbed my bags and put me in the cab. I was excited, he saved my day right? I apologized to the passenger (who was mad at the cabbie for just tossing my bag on top of her fragile luggage – she mentioned something in there was fragile). She was very kind. I offered since I was traveling for work I would cover the fare (the last two times I have traveled in a cab from a conference I lucked out and had other people pay the fare, so I figured it was the least I could do).
We got to the airport and she proceeded to get out. The cab driver asked her for money. I waived my credit card and said that I would pay with my card since she had been inconvenienced. The driver then proceeded to bully her and tell her she had to give him cash (I wasn’t carrying any) because he had saved her over $30 on sharing a fare). She and I kept arguing with him and he refused to get my bags out or charge my card until she gave him cash because he “earned it.” She gave him $20 and he proceeded to charge my card. I was unable to locate how to avoid giving him a tip in the computer screen. So I was essentially forced to tip him after all of that (that and he was holding my bag hostage in the trunk).
It turned out I was at the wrong terminal at JFK and had to take a train to another terminal (which is fine, I was really early, I wasn’t taking any chances on missing my plane). I stood in a hot sweaty line (seriously, JFK doesn’t have air conditioning?)
By the time I got to the front of the line I realized they were routing everyone through the body scan machine rather than the metal detector, they had both, I am not sure what made the determination on which machine they were using that minute). The line was really long and progress was slow. All of my electronics were sitting on the conveyor belt after having gone through the machine as I stood there waiting for the moment that I was probably going to set it off.
I stood there for about a minute after walking out of the machine while someone told the security woman that I had metal on my chest. She gave me the “there is a problem look” and I explained that I had breast expanders in my breasts due to a mastectomy for breast cancer. She gently tapped the top of my breast with the back of her hand and asked me to come in a back room because she could feel the metal (you really can, I am not kidding, the metal part of these things feel like rocks – or metal, whatever you want it to be).
I tried to grab my bags (my laptop was sitting right there…) the security agents went ahead and grabbed them for me. I luckily had an undershirt/tank top under my sweater, so I was able to show the top of my breasts without having to get too detailed. The one on my right side had turned, so when I showed her that side she could see my scars. She still patted at it and asked what they were.
I explained that they were temporary breasts that they had placed after my mastectomy and that I was waiting until I was eligible to have real implants put in. These ones had metal so they could locate the opening in order to expand them. They told me I could get dressed and go ahead.
Mind you, the security guards were VERY sweet. They were doing their job. I didn’t bring a letter from my doctor (quite frankly how do you prove a letter from a doctor is real) and I knew there was a chance that they would show up in a scan.
Once I got out of security away from the agent I sat down and cried.
Dear JFK Airport and the TSA,
I saw the flowers you have planted in the shape of a pink ribbon in front of JFK airport today for breast cancer awareness because it is the month of October. I had been warned by a few people that I may be treated roughly because your airport just had issues less than a week ago for harassing a traveler for having breast expanders.
I understand that you are doing your job to make sure that I am not hiding metal objects in my chest for safety. Your agents were polite, kind and untrained for this kind of circumstance. It is breast cancer awareness month, I think that if most of the staff at the airport is willing to wear pink for the cause, it won’t hurt to take 5 minutes to train your employees what breast expanders are for everyone’s safety and to save a circumstance that is slightly emotionally embarrassing.
One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast reconstruction is covered by insurance, many women may choose to have the surgery that I did.