Airport security is a trail of chaos.
A family wrestles a stroller through checkpoints. A woman in uniform eases a man in a wheelchair around rolling luggage. A man with three bags whips off a belt and empties his pockets, his fingers fumbling as he rushes.
Security is a great equalizer. We are all reduced to a childlike state, as business men and teens in sweat pants and women in dresses stand barefoot, without accessory.
Early in my traveling, I decided not to let the delays and inconveniences of this scene phase me. As the turmoil ebbs and flows on all sides, I watch without emotion. It’s the only way to navigate this process without inducing anxiety.
The line before the body scanner begins to swell as a TSA security man ushers the bewildered mom herding her son through the proper channels. I watch my crates stack up on the other side of the ex-ray machine, folding into others without their owners to collect them.
As I pass through the scanner, a security woman stops me.
“I need to look at your hair,” she says.
“My hair?” I laugh, trying to imagine what they could have seen that would resemble a security threat tucked in my layers.
“A little head massage…” she says, scratching my head with the blue fingers of her gloves.
“Oooh I love your highlights!” she says.
Her friendliness draws me out of my stoic stupor. I turn to look at her, smiling in surprise.
“Thanks! I just got it done,” I reply. Her own hair is twisted into black dreadlocks, which she has collected into one cord with a rubber band.
“Really? Did you do it yourself?” she asks.
“Are you kidding?” I say. “No way. I do not trust myself.”
We part with a nod of understanding. I comb through the wreckage the conveyer belt has produced and gather my bags, bemused at this refreshing deviation from the stale enounters I usually have at security checkpoints.
If you look carefully, there are usually bright spots amid the blur of chaos.