Coffee, Tea, or Should We Feel Your Pregnant Wife's
Breasts Before Throwing You in a Cell at the Airport and Then Lying
About Why We Put You There?
by Nicholas Monahan
This morning I'll be escorting my wife to the hospital,
where the doctors will perform a caesarean section to remove our first
child. She didn't want to do it this way - neither of us did - but
sometimes the Fates decide otherwise. The Fates or, in our case,
On the morning of October 26th Mary and I entered Portland
International Airport, en route to the Las Vegas wedding of one of my
best friends. Although we live in Los Angeles, we'd been in Oregon
working on a film, and up to that point had had nothing but praise to
shower on the city of Portland, a refreshing change of pace from our
own suffocating metropolis.
At the security checkpoint I was led aside for the
"inspection" that's all the rage at airports these days. My shoes were
removed. I was told to take off my sweater, then to fold over the
waistband of my pants. My baseball hat, hastily jammed on my head at 5
AM, was removed and assiduously examined ("Anything could be in here,
sir," I was told, after I asked what I could hide in a baseball hat.
Yeah. Anything.) Soon I was standing on one foot, my arms stretched
out, the other leg sticking out in front of me �la a DUI test. I began
to get pissed off, as most normal people would. My anger increased
when I realized that the newly knighted federal employees weren't just
examining me, but my 7� months pregnant wife as well. I'd originally
thought that I'd simply been randomly selected for the more excessive
than normal search. You know, Number 50 or whatever. Apparently not
though - it was both of us. These are your new threats, America:
pregnant accountants and their sleepy husbands flying to weddings.
After some more grumbling on my part they eventually
finished with me and I went to retrieve our luggage from the x-ray
machine. Upon returning I found my wife sitting in a chair, crying.
Mary rarely cries, and certainly not in public. When I asked her what
was the matter, she tried to quell her tears and sobbed, "I'm
sorry...it's...they touched my breasts...and..." That's all I heard. I
marched up to the woman who'd been examining her and shouted, "What
did you do to her?" Later I found out that in addition to touching her
swollen breasts - to protect the American citizenry - the employee had
asked that she lift up her shirt. Not behind a screen, not off to the
side - no, right there, directly in front of the hundred or so
passengers standing in line. And for you women who've been pregnant
and worn maternity pants, you know how ridiculous those things look.
"I felt like a clown," my wife told me later. "On display for all
these people, with the cotton panel on my pants and my stomach
sticking out. When I sat down I just lost my composure and began to
cry. That's when you walked up."
Of course when I say she "told me later," it's because she
wasn't able to tell me at the time, because as soon as I demanded to
know what the federal employee had done to make her cry, I was swarmed
by Portland police officers. Instantly. Three of them, cinching my
arms, locking me in handcuffs, and telling me I was under arrest. Now
my wife really began to cry. As they led me away and she ran
alongside, I implored her to calm down, to think of the baby,
promising her that everything would turn out all right. She faded into
the distance and I was shoved into an elevator, a cop holding each
arm. After making me face the corner, the head honcho told that I was
under arrest and that I wouldn't be flying that day - that I was in
fact a "menace."
It took me a while to regain my composure. I felt like I
was one of those guys in The Gulag Archipelago who, because the
proceedings all seem so unreal, doesn't fully realize that he is in
fact being arrested in a public place in front of crowds of people
for...for what? I didn't know what the crime was. Didn't matter. Once
upstairs, the officers made me remove my shoes and my hat and tossed
me into a cell. Yes, your airports have prison cells, just like your
amusement parks, train stations, universities, and national forests.
Let freedom reign.
After a short time I received a visit from the arresting
officer. "Mr. Monahan," he started, "Are you on drugs?"
Was this even real? "No, I'm not on drugs."
"Should you be?"
"What do you mean?"
"Should you be on any type of medication?"
"Then why'd you react that way back there?"
You see the thinking? You see what passes for reasoning
among your domestic shock troops these days? Only "whackos" get angry
over seeing the woman they've been with for ten years in tears because
someone has touched her breasts. That kind of reaction - love,
protection - it's mind-boggling! "Mr. Monahan, are you on drugs?" His
snide words rang inside my head. This is my wife, finally pregnant
with our first child after months of failed attempts, after the
depressing shock of the miscarriage last year, my wife who'd been
walking on a cloud over having the opportunity to be a mother...and my
anger is simply unfathomable to the guy standing in front of me, the
guy who earns a living thanks to my taxes, the guy whose family I feed
through my labor. What I did wasn't normal. No, I reacted like a drug
addict would've. I was so disgusted I felt like vomiting. But that was
just the beginning.
An hour later, after I'd been gallantly assured by the
officer that I wouldn't be attending my friend's wedding that day, I
heard Mary's voice outside my cell. The officer was speaking loudly,
letting her know that he was planning on doing me a favor... which
everyone knows is never a real favor. He wasn't going to come over and
help me work on my car or move some furniture. No, his "favor" was
this: He'd decided not to charge me with a felony.
Think about that for a second. Rapes, car-jackings,
murders, arsons - those are felonies. So is yelling in an airport now,
apparently. I hadn't realized, though I should have. Luckily, I was
getting a favor, though. I was merely going to be slapped with a
"Here's your court date," he said as I was released from
my cell. In addition, I was banned from Portland International for 90
days, and just in case I was thinking of coming over and hanging out
around its perimeter, the officer gave me a map with the boundaries
highlighted, sternly warning me against trespassing. Then he and a
second officer escorted us off the grounds. Mary and I hurriedly drove
two and a half hours in the rain to Seattle, where we eventually
caught a flight to Vegas. But the officer was true to his word - we
missed my friend's wedding. The fact that he'd been in my own wedding
party, the fact that a once in a lifetime event was stolen from us -
well, who cares, right?
Upon our return to Portland (I'd had to fly into Seattle
and drive back down), we immediately began contacting attorneys. We
aren't litigious people - we wanted no money. I'm not even sure what
we fully wanted. An apology? A reprimand? I don't know. It doesn't
matter though, because we couldn't afford a lawyer, it turned out.
$4,000 was the average figure bandied about as a retaining fee. Sorry,
but I've got a new baby on the way. So we called the ACLU, figuring
they existed for just such incidents as these. And they do
apparently...but only if we were minorities. That's what they told us.
In the meantime, I'd appealed my suspension from PDX. A
week or so later I got a response from the Director of Aviation. After
telling me how, in the aftermath of 9/11, most passengers not only
accept additional airport screening but welcome it, he cut to the
"After a review of the police report and my discussions
with police staff, as well as a review of the TSA's report on this
incident, I concur with the officer's decision to take you into
custody and to issue a citation to you for disorderly conduct. That
being said, because I also understand that you were upset and acted on
your emotions, I am willing to lift the Airport Exclusion Order...."
Attached to this letter was the report the officer had
filled out. I'd like to say I couldn't believe it, but in a way, I
could. It's seemingly becoming the norm in America - lies and
deliberate distortions on the part of those in power, no matter how
much or how little power they actually wield.
The gist of his report was this: From the get go I wasn't
following the screener's directions. I was "squinting my eyes" and
talking to my wife in a "low, forced voice" while "excitedly swinging
my arms." Twice I began to walk away from the screener, inhaling and
exhaling forcefully. When I'd completed the physical exam, I walked to
the luggage screening area, where a second screener took a pair of
scissors from my suitcase. At this point I yelled, "What the %*&$% is
going on? This is &*#&$%!" The officer, who'd already been called over
by one of the screeners, became afraid for the TSA staff and the many
travelers. He required the assistance of a second officer as he
"struggled" to get me into handcuffs, then for "cover" called over a
third as well. It was only at this point that my wife began to cry
There was nothing poetic in my reaction to the arrest
report. I didn't crumple it in my fist and swear that justice would be
served, promising to sacrifice my resources and time to see that it
would. I simply stared. Clearly the officer didn't have the guts to
write down what had really happened. It might not look too good to see
that stuff about the pregnant woman in tears because she'd been
humiliated. Instead this was the official scenario being presented for
the permanent record. It doesn't even matter that it's the most
implausible sounding situation you can think of. "Hey, what
the...godammit, they're taking our scissors, honey!" Why didn't he
write in anything about a monkey wearing a fez?
True, the TSA staff had expropriated a pair of scissors
from our toiletries kit - the story wasn't entirely made up. Except
that I'd been locked in airport jail at the time. I didn't know
anything about any scissors until Mary told me on our drive up to
Seattle. They'd questioned her about them while I was in the bowels of
the airport sitting in my cell.
So I wrote back, indignation and disgust flooding my
"[W]hile I'm not sure, I'd guess that the entire incident
is captured on video. Memory is imperfect on everyone's part, but the
footage won't lie. I realize it might be procedurally difficult for
you to view this, but if you could, I'd appreciate it. There's no
willful disregard of screening directions. No explosion over the
discovery of a pair of scissors in a suitcase. No struggle to put
handcuffs on. There's a tired man, early in the morning, unhappily
going through a rigorous procedure and then reacting to the tears of
his pregnant wife."
Eventually we heard back from a different person, the guy
in charge of the TSA airport screeners. One of his employees had made
the damning statement about me exploding over her scissor discovery,
and the officer had deftly incorporated that statement into his
report. We asked the guy if he could find out why she'd said this -
couldn't she possibly be mistaken? "Oh, can't do that, my hands are
tied. It's kind of like leading a witness - I could get in trouble,
heh heh." Then what about the videotape? Why not watch that? That
would exonerate me. "Oh, we destroy all video after three days."
Sure you do.
A few days later we heard from him again. He just wanted
to inform us that he'd received corroboration of the officer's report
from the officer's superior, a name we didn't recognize. "But...he
wasn't even there," my wife said.
"Yeah, well, uh, he's corroborated it though."
That's how it works.
"Oh, and we did look at the videotape. Inconclusive."
But I thought it was destroyed?
On and on it went. Due to the tenacity of my wife in
making phone calls and speaking with relevant persons, the "crime" was
eventually lowered to a mere citation. Only she could have done that.
I would've simply accepted what was being thrown at me, trumped up
charges and all, simply because I'm wholly inadequate at performing
the kowtow. There's no way I could have contacted all the people Mary
did and somehow pretend to be contrite. Besides, I speak in a low,
forced voice, which doesn't elicit sympathy. Just police suspicion.
Weeks later at the courthouse I listened to a young DA
awkwardly read the charges against me - "Mr. Monahan...umm...shouted
obscenities at the airport staff...umm... umm...oh, they took some
scissors from his suitcase and he became...umm...abusive at this
point." If I was reading about it in Kafka I might have found
something vaguely amusing in all of it. But I wasn't. I was there.
I entered a plea of nolo contendere, explaining to the
judge that if I'd been a resident of Oregon, I would have definitely
pled "Not Guilty." However, when that happens, your case automatically
goes to a jury trial, and since I lived a thousand miles away, and was
slated to return home in seven days, with a newborn due in a matter of
weeks...you get the picture. "No Contest" it was. Judgment: $250 fine.
Did I feel happy? Only $250, right? No, I wasn't happy. I
don't care if it's twelve cents, that's money pulled right out of my
baby's mouth and fed to a disgusting legal system that will use it to
propagate more incidents like this. But at the very least it was over,
When we returned to Los Angeles there was an envelope
waiting for me from the court. Inside wasn't a receipt for the money
we'd paid. No, it was a letter telling me that what I actually owed
was $309 - state assessed court costs, you know. Wouldn't you think
your taxes pay for that - the state putting you on trial? No, taxes
are used to hire more cops like the officer, because with our rising
criminal population - people like me - hey, your average citizen
demands more and more "security."
Finally I reach the piece de resistance. The week before
we'd gone to the airport my wife had had her regular pre-natal
checkup. The child had settled into the proper head down position for
birth, continuing the remarkable pregnancy she'd been having. We
returned to Portland on Sunday. On Mary's Monday appointment she was
suddenly told, "Looks like your baby's gone breech." When she later
spoke with her midwives in Los Angeles, they wanted to know if she'd
experienced any type of trauma recently, as this often makes a child
flip. "As a matter of fact..." she began, recounting the story,
explaining how the child inside of her was going absolutely crazy when
she was crying as the police were leading me away through the crowd.
My wife had been planning a natural childbirth. She'd read
dozens of books, meticulously researched everything, and had finally
decided that this was the way for her. No drugs, no numbing of
sensations - just that ultimate combination of brute pain and sheer
joy that belongs exclusively to mothers. But my wife is also a
first-time mother, so she has what is called an "untested" pelvis.
Essentially this means that a breech birth is too dangerous to
attempt, for both mother and child. Therefore, she's now relegated to
a c-section - hospital stay, epidural, catheter, fetal monitoring,
stitches - everything she didn't want. Her natural birth has become a
We've tried everything to turn that baby. Acupuncture,
chiropractic techniques, underwater handstands, elephant walking,
moxibustion, bending backwards over pillows, herbs, external
manipulation - all to no avail. When I walked into the living room the
other night and saw her plaintively cooing with a flashlight turned
onto her stomach, yet another suggested technique, my heart almost
broke. It's breaking now as I write these words.
I can never prove that my child went breech because of
what happened to us at the airport. But I'll always believe it.
Wrongly or rightly, I'll forever think of how this man, the
personification of this system, has affected the lives of my family
and me. When my wife is sliced open, I'll be thinking of him. When
they remove her uterus from her abdomen and lay it on her stomach,
be thinking of him. When I visit her and my child in the hospital
instead of having them with me here in our home, I'll be thinking of
him. When I assist her to the bathroom while the incision heals
internally, I'll be thinking of him.
There are plenty of stories like this these days. I don't
know how many I've read where the writer describes some breach of
civil liberties by employees of the state, then wraps it all up with a
dire warning about what we as a nation are becoming, and how if we
put an end to it now, then we're in for heaps of trouble. Well you
know what? Nothing's going to stop the inevitable. There's no policy
change that's going to save us. There's no election that's going to
put a halt to the onslaught of tyranny. It's here already - this
country has changed for the worse and will continue to change for the
worse. There is now a division between the citizenry and the state.
When that state is used as a tool against me, there is no longer any
reason why I should owe any allegiance to that state.
And that's the first thing that child of ours is going to
December 21, 2002
Nick Monahan works in the film industry. He writes out of
Los Angeles where he lives with his wife and as of December 18th, his
beautiful new son.
Copyright � 2002 LewRockwell.com