Upon entering the so-called “profession,” Maya Romain wasn’t aware of her particular brand of sadism. Didn’t know just how dormant it had been all those years before she arbitrarily decided to pursue a job posting advertised near her favorite local bar. “Open call for TSA agents,” read the flier, accompanied by a date, time and location. She found it odd, of course, that the TSA would be so careless with regard to the type of clientele they might attract with such a public bulletin. But then, maybe that should have been her first clue as to the institution’s comfortableness with what Billy Corgan would call “the freaks and ghouls.”
Maya couldn’t have known just what a freak she was. How much the nature of the job was going to tap into that part of herself she had suppressed by working in “ordinary” service occupations. The kind where the worker was the one to be abused, not the other way around. With the TSA, it was like a whole new world of previously untapped potential had opened up. And Maya was ready to go down the rabbit hole with abandon. It was a fellow agent, Frank, at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport who opened her eyes to this alternate dimension. Who showed her that being abusive toward others going through security went totally unchecked by any “higher authority.” What’s more, it was as though the passengers expected to be treated like shit. Would almost be completely disoriented if they weren’t manhandled in some way.
It didn’t take long for Maya to catch on to the notion that most people working for the TSA had long-standing suppressed rage issues. Rage that could be passive aggressively channeled in a role such as this. Maya herself was not ready to admit just how much she had pent up these past few decades of life on Earth, having turned thirty-one right before she was hired. It was Frank, a robust gay Black man, who immediately decided to take her under his wing. As he put it, “You seem age appropriate enough to be my friend.” It was a joke, of course, as he was somewhere in his fifties and had been working in the Atlanta airport in some form or another for the past twenty years. “Eventually, the TSA calls,” he noted of spending too much time at the airport.
“When I got my first job working at Starbucks, I would always find myself walking past the checkpoint, looking over. Watching how easy it was to brutalize people for no good reason. It didn’t make me mad or upset. It just really got me thinking: ‘damn, that would be a good way to release some…energy. And bitch, you best believe I have a lot of energy.” Maya did believe it. But what Frank couldn’t know is that she had far more. Reserves of it that began pouring out of her as she deliberately made travelers’ lives an absolute hell. Especially the ones who complained that they were going to miss their flight. That was when she really got off on taking her time with the frisk. Who the fuck did these people think they were? To believe that they were so important and above the rules that they shouldn’t have planned better by getting to the airport earlier. Why was it her responsibility to ensure they got some kind of “VIP treatment” by being moved quickly through the checkpoint? Fuck that, it wasn’t. She would only take her time all the more; and yes, invariably, most of the whining passengers who ended up in her line did end up missing their flight. But no one ever accused her of anything. Took her aside to “scold” her. There was no higher power than the TSA. They were God, as far as anyone else was concerned, in the airport setting. The portal and the gateway. But Maya was no angelic Saint Peter. She was more like Cerberus at the gates of hell. Her bark had bite, too.
Frank found that out a few months after she had been hired, when the two were working the same X-ray scanner. For whatever reason, an elderly Asian woman, who hadn’t been on a plane since before 9/11, decided she would not be going through the full body scanner. That it violated her personal beliefs about not exposing her body to any kind of radiation. This is where Maya felt the crass need to make a Hiroshima joke, which Frank obliged by laughing at. The woman seemed to pick up on the very real possibility that she was the source of their tittering, and proceeded to get angry as she insisted, “I won’t go through that.”
Maya smiled a Grinch-ish kind of smile and said, “Okay ma’am. There are other ways to get you through. Follow me.” With that, she took the woman into a holding area where she subsequently spent twenty minutes forcefully patting her down. To the point where she let out several audible exclamations that could be heard over the garden variety din of a bustling international airport. “Please contain yourself, ma’am,” was all Maya could offer as “comfort.” When the process was over, Maya delivered the coup de grâce by saying, “I’m sorry, but you’re still going to have to go through the scanner.”
The woman broke down sobbing. In between gasps for air, she continued to refuse, ultimately never making it through. Maya wondered about her most of all (which is really saying something, as there were many passengers she’d fucked over to wonder about). If she was ever able to somehow get to her destination. Though she doubted it. Sometimes, the airport process is enough to make you realize catching up with family and friends isn’t really that important. Maya was simply there to remind the masses of such a reality. Because you never really know who you are until faced with adverse circumstances.
Yet still, they came in droves. She couldn’t understand why people were so willing to suffer, to endure needless pain. Working for the TSA, you learn a lot about human psychology, and, of course, it only solidifies the view that human beings truly are a pathetic, undignified species. Maya was sure of that after inflicting enough “cavity” searches. Her dreams were punctuated by the sound of her own latex glove bombastically being stretched at the wrist so it could smack against her hand authoritatively. She hoped the sound haunted the nightmares of others as well. If it were up to Maya, she would single-handedly (a term that has quite a bit of literal meaning here) make every person too afraid to travel. Why did they need to be up there? Polluting the Earth, indulging in their attempts at middle-class luxury.
Granted, she was aware that, without them (the wannabe middle-class fucks), she would have no job. Least of all one that allowed her to have so much free rein on being abusive. It was a quintessential catch-22 for Maya. Because the longer she stayed at the job, the more contemptuous she became. Even Frank was growing offput by her increasingly venomous behavior. Luckily for him, he was being transferred to another airport in Florida soon, and would no longer have to deal with her attitude. Something that was beginning to infect him to an unwanted degree. Maya, naturally, chose not to see that a large catalyst for Frank’s departure was her own black aura. Which had descended upon Atlanta’s air traffic control waves like a dark cloud. Frank had had enough. And so, evidently, did the passengers that were forced to go through the obscene handling of Maya.
So it was that after three years and roughly 1,500 formal complaints, the Department of Homeland Security itself got involved in petitioning for Maya’s formal review. Nonetheless, she was merely “slapped on the wrist” and given a warning. That what? Another 1,500 formal complaints and maybe she’d be here again? But still miraculously able to keep her job? She laughed fiendishly to herself as she drove back to ATL; “Send Me An Angel” played on the radio. They couldn’t touch her. Not the way she would keep touching everyone else she felt obliged to fuck with purely because she could.