The Misadventures of Being Mandi

Cars swerving around us in the tunnel.

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.

My turn.

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.



Author: Mandi

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  • Lastcallformargaritas

    Oh Mandi yikes. I hope you’re doing okay–what an ordeal. WTH the expanders are UNDER YOUR SKIN why was there even a question about what they were!! Ugh.

    • I don’t know if they look like they are under the skin or over the skin. It would be interesting to see what the machine saw! I was taken in the other room to show that it was under the skin, but the ladies who took me back there weren’t the ones looking at the machine results. They were told them over a headset.

  • Catherine

    So sorry about this, Mandi. You should forward this blog
    post to the people at JFK. They ought to know where they’re slipping.
    Seriously. If they want to improve their service, they’ll follow this up with
    some proper training.

    • I was just surprised that after having a similar issue a week before they would be aware (but the agents were VERY polite to me, which was reportedly different in the other scenario). I think the whole thing was just more emotionally draining after getting stalled in the tunnel with a crazy cab driver!

  • Luminousgirl77

    Sniff Sniff… You rock Mandi… truly… They only gave you trouble cuz hey… as we all know… You are kind of a big deal.  *HUGS*  

  • Debbi

    I just cant imagine having to go thru this.
    I’m so sorry…
    Yes, I know it’s for everyones safely….but still….

    Sorry I haven’t been around , but my first chemo knocked me for a loop. My Dr put me back on steroids at day 11 after…and I feel like a new person now..and am trying to catch up on my bloggie friends

    • Hope you are doing well Debbi!

  • Birds4me

    I am very sorry for your experience at the hands of the TSA at JFK.

    No amount of training is ever going to teach the TSA how to treat post-surgical breast cancer patients or anyone else with a medical “anomaly” with respect.  Google “Tom Sawyer”, who wears an ostomy bag.  He even met with John Pistole after a TSA screener dumped the contents of his ostomy bag all over him.  Pistole was apologetic, told Mr. Sawyer that the screeners would be retrained in how to handle cases such as his and yet it did happen again to him.

    TSA doesn’t care.  They are desperate to find a terrorist in order to justify their horrendously large budget so the target.

    The money being spent on the TSA could be much better spent on other government programs such as education and infrastructure repair.  Our crumbling infrastructure kills more people every year than the TSA will ever save. 

    The procedures at the checkpoint are all for show, designed to make the average traveler FEEL safe.  They do nothing to increase safety.

    Write your Congresspeople and demand that the TSA be dismantled.

    • Someone had explained a similar situation to me. My mom has also had some issues traveling with medical equipment. Maybe you can’t just teach all of the staff all of the scenarios they could run in to. Maybe it will get better in time.

  • This kind of thing makes me crazy. One in eight, people — we’re everywhere. Shame on the TSA.

    • I was a bit more surprised at how no one knew what they were at all. I travel again in a month. Should be interesting!

  • Marie Graham

    So sorry you had to go through this. It is my nightmare scenario with the TSA, even though I don’t have expanders. (I’m flat). Big hugs!

    • Thanks Marie! 🙂

  • Medicine-woman (Mom)

    TSA and the airlines both really need to train their poeple better.  My incident was with an ignorant stewardess, what she did to me was actually against the law, but she wouldn’t listen.  When one of her coworkers finally made her understand the full extent of what she had done, she at least came and appologised!

    Otherwise, I have gotten used to the indignities of going  through security (however, my issues are nothing like My baby Mandie’s!)

    • 😛 All issues are issues. It just makes travel a wee bit more stressful when you have to travel with medical conditions.