Remember When I Was In A Movie And Also Strip Searched?
When I was 19 I was a featured extra in a movie that typically airs at 1am on Lifetime. It was hugely glamorous. I spent most of my time avoiding looking directly into Sean Young’s eyes while wearing an over-sized pastel smock and matching scrunchie.
The fact that I’d even made it to the shoot was a miracle. For a variety of reasons, I didn’t have a driver’s license. I had, instead, a laminated state ID. (Thanks for nothing, Rhode Island who’s DMV is now in an abandoned Apex Department Store #truestory.)
That I was not immediately detained and gifted with the fecal finger of truth should give a person pause.
Against all odds, they let me and my friend Jedward* – who was the film’s screenwriter - board. He ruminated on the finer points of engine failure while I popped my Xanax cherry thanks to a terribly irresponsible work study colleague who’d passed off a handful of the pills when they heard how truly terrifying I found flying to be.
After successfully shooting the role that would earn me such commendations as “Did you have to make up all the different types of donuts for sale?” and “Was that floral smock yours?” Jedward and I sprinted back to DFW to catch a flight that would put us on the ground with just enough time to make it to a theatre final. You know, because that is totally reasonable, and not at all a recipe for gut-roiling anxiety.
Of course we missed our flight. After some scrambling, we got on the next one. It was full, so there’d be no carry-on luggage. The attendant passed us back our identification and in a moment I’ve been over and over in my head ever since, I held it up and said, “Will I need this again?” and she said, “No, no, just check it.” Now, I am not Nell. I have been in the world a fair amount of time and pride myself on being able to accomplish tasks like eat at restaurants and buy shoes. What I’m saying here is that – fear aside – I’d flown before. I knew I needed my I.D. Post September 11th world, Texas, common sense, what have you – none of these thoughts even glanced across my mind so eager was I to hop on that big metal bird.
Jedward breezed through security. He may have turned and done jazz hands but I can’t report on the veracity of that statement. I stared at the security officer. He said, “I.D.?” Spluttering, I explained that the gate attendant had told me I wouldn’t need it anymore.
I began blushing like a guilty, blond, terrorist which was demoralizing because I like to think that if I were ever recruited to some sort of Covert Agency (Fuck yes capital letters) I’d be Sally Freeman Cucumber Levels of cool about my missions when in reality here I was guilty of nothing and about to confess to any number of crimes.
The security officer shot me a very solid “Really?” look. The one that’s in every romantic comedy at an airport where the dude or lady or ladydude is all, “I don’t have a ticket, but the [blank] I love is getting on that plane and -” cue the “Really?” look. At this point in the movie, the protagonist usually dive bombs around security and there’s a lot of running and John Williams music and then some making out and also fireworks, which to me seems very unsafe at an airport.
That didn’t happen here. Instead, Officer Really sighed, took out a Sharpie, a large piece of cardboard, and a string. I had no idea what has happening. He was either overcome by my beauty and had to capture it on paper, or – and I legitimately thought this was a possibility – he was making me counterfeit identification in a MacGyver-esque fashion.
He finished his writing and with a few quick stabs, had made a couple of holes and tied each end of the string to the placard. I reached to take it. Instead, like Leia to my Han, he draped it around my neck.
I looked down and saw the words “ NO IDENTITY”. Yeah dude, I should have said. I’m 19. You don’t need to remind me that my identity is in flux. Instead, I just hung my head even lower. No wookiees would croon with proud delight this day.
“They’ll handle you from here,” I looked up to see that the ‘they’ in question were three totally ripped, totally carrying semi-automatics, members of our brothers in arms. I felt some very feral sort of panic claw at my bones and considered bolting. Instead, I took solace in the fact that I hadn’t peed myself and trundled along, the identity-less nucleus of the group.
And where was my employer and erstwhile friend Jedward during all this? Was he standing just on the other side of security, panicked, confused, worried, possibly calling a lawyer? NO. The dude was at the gate already! The gate which was a shuttle ride away!
I scowled at him, which probably seemed beyond awesomely menacing given my company. He looked up, unfazed. “Hey, what’s going on?” The fact that I appeared accompanied by security did not even touch this guy. I like to think it’s because he so respected my ability and charisma that I could have very likely amassed an entourage between security and the gate.
The flight was already boarding. I continued glowering as I was led past the gate agents into a small windowless room where I was told to sit and wait for the female TSA agent who’d be conducting my strip search. I whispered, “Will I make my flight?” My guards only chuckled and left locking the door from the outside as I thickly wondered what underwear I was wearing.
Nervously, I jammed my hands into my coat pockets, to discover the three remaining Xanax I’d been gifted. Raw panic consumed me. Unmarked pills! No identity! Strip search! Anal Probes! Reeling like a shrooming bear on a unicycle I considered my options and quickly deduced that I was too pretty for jail and swallowed all of the pills. This was stupid. I’d only taken one pill on the flight in and I’d basically been Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids only less cute and with more facial sweat.
It felt like a year passed and then the door unlocked. I stood up and tried to look normal. “This must be,” I thought “what every day is like for Melanie Griffith.” The agent in question looked me over, “Oh sweetie,” she said, “It’s gonna be fine!” I wanted to believe her but then she started talking about the strip search she was about to conduct, and I remember going passive and quiet and how maybe prison would be okay because I would immediately become someone’s bitch and thus have ample protection. Standing there in bra and panties, letting some strange Texan feel me up, my terror vanished and I found myself thinking “Okay. Okay. This isn’t…the worst.” Frankly it was weirder walking through a crowded thoroughfare like an ultra-violent lady Joe Pesci with no identity. I mean, yes, the lady told me she liked my underwear set, and yes, that was weird, but I mean – she was trying to make the best of shitty situation.
Once it was established that I was not hiding a shiv in my vagina, I was allowed to dress, given a stern lecture about proper identification, and told I was being put on the next flight, which had already started boarding. As I tootled onto the plane, doing my best not to vomit, fall over, or touch the faces of every person with facial hair I passed, I found my seat, and found Jedward had waited. He barely looked up to acknowledge me. I stared at him.
“Dude,” I said, “You waited?”
“Yeah,” he said, not looking up. “I got you ice cream, but then I ate it.”
*All names have been changed to Jedward forever.