Not Quite What I Expected

Wilson Diehl

Wilson Diehl
Seattle, Washington, USA
March 09
You can find more of Wilson Diehl's work on Babble, Salon, and her blog, She's also published some poems in some places and made a short film called "How to Go on a Man Date." She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Iowa and teaches writing at Hugo House in Seattle.


Editor’s Pick
DECEMBER 22, 2010 4:58PM

The Female Assist

Rate: 24 Flag

I am not, as a rule, an irritable flyer. I don’t yell at the gate agent when my plane is delayed or at the TSA people when I have to endure extra-thorough screening or throw away my water bottle. I show up, set my sense of humor as high as it will go, buy a dried out scone from Starbucks, and go on my merry way. If you want to wave a little strip of paper over my baby’s sippy cup of milk to make sure I’m not going to blow up the plane with it, be my guest.

When a total stranger insists on feeling up my one-year old, though, that’s when I lose my cool.

It happened at the end of a trying—and tiring—visit to my childhood home, which has, over time, become overstuffed with the relics of my brother’s and my life as well as our parents’ and their parents’, too. For ten days I prevented my toddling child from breaking any of a zillion pieces of crystal displayed on a glass cart in the dining room (not to mention the ones displayed in a glass display case in the guestroom) or choking on one of the various stray pills lurking in the wooly, hard-to-clean corners of the bathroom. My brother and I also managed to squeeze in the dreaded Conversation With One’s Retirement-Age Parents that goes something like, “So where exactly are you planning to live when you can’t, um, stay in the house anymore? And what are you planning to do with all this, erm, stuff?”

I’d had to break it to my folks that it wasn’t a coincidence I left Iowa for Seattle—one of the furthest places you can be from Iowa while remaining in the contiguous United States. I told them as gently as possible that I actually don’t want them moving to the city I now call home because contrary to their belief that this set-up would be “easier” on me, it would, in fact, be the end of my sanity. If they need someone to take care of them when their health fails, they’ve got my brother. That’s what the firstborn is for—no matter that he’s a boy!

Thanks to years and years of therapy, I hadn’t cried once.

I was, as they say in the business, clearly setting my boundaries as well as those of my not-yet-old-enough-to-set-her-own daughter’s. By the time I was making my way through the tiny Cedar Rapids airport, pushing the stroller up to security, the last thing on my mind was what would happen if I set off the metal detector with the baby in my arms.

The first time I had to be wanded by the TSA was on the way to Hawaii for my honeymoon. I was five months pregnant—and showing all over the place. “You sure you’re not wearing a belt?” a uniformed someone barked as I set off the metal detector twice in a row. What pregnant lady wears a belt, I ask you—particularly on a six-hour flight to Hawaii? When the “female assist” was called over to wand me, she took one look at my already-formidable-before-pregnancy-and-now-borderline-obscene-cleavage and said, “It’s your bra.” Apparently 34-Hs really pack in the metal.

I’ve taken twenty or so flights since then, and my bra has set off the metal detector about half the time. Each occasion is the same—I’m asked numerous times by a disbelieving TSA guy whether I’m sure I’m not wearing a belt, carrying anything in my pockets, wearing hidden jewelry. Then much beeping, wanding, and more beeping. I’ve been told by various female assists that I “shouldn’t stick my chest out so far,” that I should cross my arms over my chest as I walk through, and that only the really high-quality bras set off the machine—so at least I know my girls are well supported.

As any woman who arrived at motherhood via the traditional route will tell you, being a mom means learning to tolerate frequent intrusions. Forget about all the probes and tubes and vacuums and hands up your various orifices during labor—I’m talking about coworkers touching your belly, the mailman touching your belly, junkies on the bus touching your belly. And once your belly is no longer taut with possibility but flabby with post-partum (and leftover pre-partum) snacking, the personal questions begin. Stringy-grey-ponytailed men at the coffee shop ask whether you breastfeed. Your step-mother-in-law asks whether you breastfeed. Your 13-year-old half-brother-in-law asks whether you breastfeed.

By the time the baby’s first birthday rolls around, most of us no longer even bother closing the door when we pee. If you want to wave a wand around between my legs to make sure I’m not gong to blow up the plane with something tucked into my crotch, fine. It’s happened so many times now, I know exactly how far apart my feet should be without looking at the footprint guides on the floor.

When I flew to Iowa this past time I didn’t even bother slouching through the detector multiple times to try to get a different result. “It’s my bra,” I told the TSA guy at SeaTac, looking him in the eye as I uncrossed my arms and stuck my chest out as far as it would go. Despite having read about the new intimacy of pat-downs and despite the TSA agent saying, “I’m now going to run the back of my hand along your bra line,” I was as taken aback as everybody else has been when the TSA agent traced the underwires of my bra in their entirety—which took about twenty minutes.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when the TSA insisted on patting down my daughter on our way back home to Seattle.

“You’re kidding,” I said, thinking they were.

They weren’t.

My husband had returned to Seattle a few days before us, and I’d never really thought about it but he’s always been the one to carry the baby through security. When I walked through the metal detector with her, naturally I set it off. “Oh, it’s just my bra,” I muttered to the TSA guy, backing up and trying it again with a slouch made awkward by the twenty-pound baby in my arms. The machine beeped again, and I reached for the stroller so I could set the baby down somewhere clean while a female assist had her way with me.

The TSA guy reached out to stop me. “No, Ma’am. You cannot get your items until you’ve been hand-screened.”

I asked where I should put the baby while I was being patted-down.

He looked around anxiously for the female assist. “She has to be patted-down, too.”

Some uniformed bureaucrat was going to touch my baby all over the place, including between her legs? Were they going to remove her diaper, too, just to be sure? I mean, there’s gel in those diapers and quite possibly over three ounces of liquid, too. Would they take her from me and lay her on the table for this procedure?

The mama bear in me roared instantly to life. “It’s just my bra!” I shouted, for all of eastern Iowa to hear. “Can’t I just go to the bathroom and take it off and then come through again? Or one of you could carry the baby through and I could come through again on my own. It’s not her,” I reiterated. “It’s my bra.”

“I’m sorry,” the TSA guy said, seeming more annoyed than sorry.

“I’ll take it off right here!” I said, reaching around with the hand not holding the baby to start undoing the four hundred hooks in back.

The TSA guy stepped closer as if to stop me. “Once you’ve been selected for extra screening we have to follow through.”

“But it’s not her fault,” I said, going from mama bear to mama’s girl as my eyes welled over at my utter inability to shield my child from injustice, from inappropriate touching, from bureaucratic inanity, and from airport floor filth—not to mention from the inevitable trials her dad and I will cause her as we age.

The female assist arrived and kindly ignored my tears. She waved a hand nearish the baby’s torso and called out, “Okay, she’s good. Bring the stroller over.” She smiled at me and said, “You don’t want to put your baby down on the floor here. It’s filthy.” Then she caressed me all over the place, told me she was “so sorry,” and sent us on our merry way home to Seattle, a blessed 1,800 miles away.

Author tags:

motherhood, travel, true story

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Well written, funny, and disturbing. Has the need for security eliminated people's common sense?
What to do, there are those who have no problem using even an innocent child to hide explosives and weapons. It flies in the face of common sense and decency and many in this country cannot fathom the idea of walking on a bus and blowing up dozens of people. Or crashing a plane into a building, but it is a reality.

We want to be safe, but we don't want to be inconvenienced, intruded upon or delayed. When it comes to acts of terror common sense goes out the window. We in this country have this idea that our individual rights are greater than the rights of the whole, this self importance is lost on most of the world.
Wow! I guess I'm surprised that the Iowa airport is the one causing all of the fuss. I flew in and out of Chicago shortly after Thanksgiving and figured I'd get to experience the extra screening. Imagine my surprise when the shaven-headed, tatooed, rather frightening looking man in front of me set off the alarm several times and they didn't even make him go through the full-body scan or pat-down! Amazing.

For M Todd - other countries are also targets for terrorists but don't make their travelers go through these procedures. We've gone over the line.
Well written...can relate on both the intrusive nature of the airport and boundaries for elderly parents.

@MTodd. Any person that thinks its possible to thwart the Boogyman at every turn is deluded. Common sense and common decency is not an unrealistic expectation on civilized society and principles should not be negotiated away because the boogyman might 'getcha'.
Next time: Wrap the baby in a soft blanket. Then use that blanket to pad the end of the luggage scanning conveyor belt and lay the baby on it. While holding up everyone behind you, change the baby's diaper, being sure to take the time to wipe her thoroughly, put diaper rash cream on her and get her dressed. Then hand TSA the used diaper. Ideally time it for when she's most likely to poop. Be nonchalant and look them straight in the eye.
This is not about airline security anymore. This is about getting people accustomed to, and accepting of, serious violations of personal integrity and individual rights. It's about grooming and conditioning all of us to acceptance of "authority's right to abuse us at will".

Fifty years ago people would not have allowed this by anyone - especially not the government. Now we line up like the sheeple we have become and actually buy into the "security" bull-twicky. And just as you don't "get involved" when it happens to someone else, so too will others not get involved when it is you.

Never in history has everyone become an island; thoroughly and completely alone in the midst of many.
Sedona: Boogeymen are mythological creatures and do not exist. Real people blew up the world trade center, tried to set off shoe and underwear bombs on planes.

Blue: Some countries prescreen their citizens before they can even travel. We on the other hand allow our citizens to travel freely and without restrictions (a good thing) and therefore have to check more thoroughly at the last point of entry. Some see this as less intrusive way of insuring the safety of all travelers while preserving the freedoms of all citizens. A bomb the size of a cigarette package can bring down a plane if it is in the right place.

What does a terrorist look like? It could be anyone even a mother with a baby or an old person in a wheelchair, who knows. If we consider only certain people potential terrorist (Arab looking or dark skinned people) then we are racial profiling which is a bad thing, right? This means everyone is suspect and open to search even parents and babies.
M Todd - or maybe we could just accept that air travel is just about the safest means of transportation there is and stop worrying about every little thing that could happen every time we fly. How much do you worry about every little thing that could happen before you get in your car? Do you realize that driving is orders of magnitude more dangerous than flying? Maybe we should subject everyone to invasive security procedures before they're allowed to drive? (Actually, I'd best shut up, as that's probably the next thing TSA is working on.)
Funny frustration...a great attitude and a fun article. Have you tried wearing a wireless bra just for flying?
Dienna: I don't worry about travel or all the things that could happen. Now for the reality part. There are those who want to bring down planes. They will use any method to do so. There are two schools of thought. One watch and invade the personal lives of everyone without cause in the name of security. The other is do not limit personal freedom, but at the points of contact search and question those who could actually do harm to others.

The words common decency and sane go out the window when you are dealing with extremist because in their mind anything that matches their limited ideology is permissible. To them even blowing up a child is OK as long as it meets their ideological goals. So do we limit freedoms of all or do we inconvenience the few at the point of impact. If someone said 10 years ago a few men with box cutters could crash 3 planes and kick off two trillion dollar wars killing 10s of thousands, most would say that is insane and paranoid thinking. It is only unreasonable, insane, and over reaching until it happens then it becomes reality.
As horrible as your experience was, it was also so well-written and fascinating (the family angle was also so interesting). My daughters are all grown up now - in their 20s, but honestly, if we went through security together and I saw one of these TSA people try to feel them up, I think I might lose it. This entire system is ridiculous. And for the commenter who would give up privacy and their civil rights for a little more security, they don't deserve either (I'm paraphrasing).
Well done - certainly deserving of the OS cover.
While waiting in line for security over Thanksgiving, I whipped off my bra (the old unhook-take-it-out-through-the-sleeve maneuver) and stuffed it in my bag. If anyone was paying attention, I didn't notice or care. I am soooooo tired of those wires setting things off! Great story.
"The mama bear in me roared instantly to life."
Best Motherly line ever.
@M Todd: all of these instances of US citizens packing explosives into their infants' diapers on domestic flights, can you name some of them for us, please?

She set off the *metal* detector. Correct response: wand her, wand the baby, find the metal. It's worked for 30+ years without issue. (Because if she really hid C-4 in her Huggies and *didn't* set off the metal detector - which explosives typically don't - no one would have tried to look there.)

Anyone who's been through a metal detector more than once has inadvertently set it off - forgotten change, belt buckle, watch, gum. What used to be, "oops, let me take this out of my pocket and go through again," has become, "don't touch my junk."
"The words common decency and sane go out the window when you"
read the crap posted by the neurotically frightened trolling toads such as m todd.

Most of us who are emotionally healthy do not live our lives under the black cloud of,

"Oh, what if, what if, what if".

Your hands must be as twisted as your frightened little mind from all the wringing you so obviously do.

I would at this point normally try to make some logical, erudite argument as to why our current reactions are failing us. People more eloquent and persuasive (and clear) have done as much ad nauseam.

If anyone could have heard all of the arguments both for and against what we're putting ourselves through and _still_ think this is all a good idea, I'm afraid I'd be unable to convince them otherwise.
Fudo: If you would have asked how many people with box cutters crashed planes and killed over 3000 people before 9/11 the answer would be none. Part of the job of security is to consider all potential as well as known threats.

Maybe the real issue is despite all the outcries over racial profiling deep down we are put off they would waste their time checking white Americans. But, what does a terrorist look like? So my question to you is, Is it possible to smuggle explosives in the diaper of a child?
Doesn't todd the scarecrow ever give up?
XKS: Just politely responding to questions without personal insults.
Perhaps we should all consider that, if we got the hell out of other people's countries and stopped trying to rip off their resources or impose our way of life on them, we'd not have to worry about airline bombs being smuggled aboard.

Mr. Todd implies that the security excesses are due to us having to defend from insane attacks by fanatics. Is it not we who attacked them first? Let me ask Mr. Todd this; If some super, super power were invading our nations, how far would you go to retaliate? Would you fly a plane into a building? Would you bomb their airlines? Or would you bend over and kiss ass the way we expect those we've invaded to do?

When you talk about "getting real" just, for one tiny moment, get real enough to look at it from the other guy's side as well as our own.
I'm not too crazy about being felt up myself. Why should it take the treatment of children to set people off? The only reason this policy was initiated was that the new scanners had been installed and there were worries almost immediately about their safety--they subject people to high levels of radiation, which is especially of concern for frequent travelers. But they also cost the government billions of dollars, and there are well connected companies that make them with billions more on the line. So...give people a "choice": either get felt up, or go through the walk-in microwave. This is the kind of false choice the security state exalts in. It's a smarmy, nasty kind of logic. No thanks. I'll take the train, or tele-commute.
Wilson - Of course I'm not criticizing you. You didn't come up with this weird, cramped, paranoid little nightmare version of America.
Sky: Yes if we had an energy policy that did not depend on foreign oil, war and propping up dictators the world would be a better place. Those who wish to blow up our planes feel justified and fight their war with us the only way they know. We use predator drones they use box cutters. It's fucked up.

Our economy has been based on war since 1940 and we keep electing those who support the same policies that continue out of control defense spending, increased deficits, no real reform and more and more governmental control. It does not say much of us as a nation that we keep sending the same people back to Washington.

But, with that all said and done, do you want to be protected when you fly or if your family is blown apart will you just say "Oh well we had it coming." It would be hard to be so philosophical if it was my skin or my family that did the dying.
Everyone knows Sioux City, airline code SUX, is the epicenter for Arab terrorist. Rated. //-o)
M Todd,

I grant you that when sinking into the river it is no time to mention that I should've taken the other boat. That said, how much time would it take for the government to announce that they are ceasing all hostilities as of now, and will be withdrawing all military personnel ASAP?

For what it's costing in the actual war, the loss of respect, the lives of young people and this homeland security with its loss of rights and freedoms, it would have been cheaper to have just bought the friggin' country. Five grand to every adult would have cost a fraction of what has been spent and made us into gods in the eyes of those people. They'd have paid attention when we asked to be allowed to put bases, pipelines or any other damn thing we wanted there. Friendly attention. Not hostile. The Taliban and Al Qaeda would have been hard pressed to match that!!
Thanks for writing about this and sharing your experiences.

I've heard that some people are volunteering to go through the checkpoints two or three times, just to get extra pat down searches.

Frankly, I’m tired of all the airport HOO-HAA, and choose to travel by train. It takes longer, but nobody gropes me or my crotch.
Can we stop using the terms 'feeling up' or 'being felt up' when describing hand searches? Whatever the rights and wrongs of airport security procedures, it's unfair and misleading to use a term which implies an inappropriate and aggressive sexual advance, when that's not what's happening. The TSA personnel who've been ordered to carry out these searches did not make the rules, and referring to them in the same way we talk about sexual predators is grossly unfair.
Sky: I think it is also important to understand that the term terrorist is not just for Islamic extremist. There are a lot of players on the global field. One of the largest acts of terrorist in the United States had nothing to do with oil or Islam. The Oklahoma bombing was purely homegrown. There are a growing number of potential groups who's ideology includes acts of terror. I define acts of terror as any violence directed at civilians for the sole purpose of disrupting or crashing governmental or financial structures within a society.

The nature of airplanes make them a number one target because a relatively small device can bring one plane down. If one plane is downed it can cause thousands of planes and millions of people to be grounded. Myself I cut the TSA some slack and understand that their task of keeping the airways safe is not a simple one. So if that means added security and a few more procedures then that is the price we pay to keep the rest of our lives relatively free.
I hated the utter pretentiousness of this article. Not only does the author present herself as a long-suffering martyr for simply being a mom, but her attitude toward her retirement age parents was heartless. I went to grad school with dozens of women just like her--she has that classic MFA program narcissism going; she sounds like almost every female I encountered in my writing workshops. I urge her to work at a soup kitchen for a while; she needs to develop a sense of humanity, a realization that there is more to life than HERSELF. Dear god, bet she's writing for the Oprah Mag next.
welcome to :
This is a shopping paradise
Nice hate-on from stgordon. Christmas Trolls, Christmas Trolls, Don't know where they are!
@m todd: did you know there are more people killed each year by pigs than by sharks? If that proves anything it's that humans are remarkably bad at evaluating risk.

Lock your doors, don't venture outside, dont open the door to anyone, because some misfortune *might* befall you. Some radical homegrown militia might *possibly* put bomb components in a diaper, so let's all agree to let our children get groped by people whose backgrounds havent been checked - after driving through areas associated with some of the worst gang violence.

You are far more likely - by whole orders of magnitude - to be killed in your own home by a random sociopath, run off the road or shot at by someone with road rage or just stabbed for your iPod than you are going to be blown up by some fanatic. That is not my opinion. That is a statistical fact. When you start crying, "I need the government to put their hands down wveryone's pants so I can feel safe," then maybe you just need to go curl up in a corner in fear all by yourself. The adults in the room recognize merely getting up in the morning carries some risk, and if you're unwilling to deal with it you can stop trying to participate.
Fudo: The issue is not what will or can kill you or the fact all things have risks. It is not fear mongering or paranoia to look at potential and real risks and take sane steps to reduce those risks and deaths.

Another way to look at your pig shark data is what is the percentage of people who come in contact with pigs die compared to those who come in contact with sharks. I would bet that the ratio of encounters to deaths is much lower with pigs. I have actually worked with pigs and can say the risk is very low compared to swimming with sharks.

Fudo what would you do to ensure someone does not blow up a plane? Would you remove all security because of the temporary infringement of a traveler's personal privacy? Truth is 99.999% of all travelers wish no harm, will not blow up a plane or would never consider putting a bomb in a baby's diaper and the searches of those 99.999% of the people will only result in a mild disruption of their travels. But, if you or a loved one was on that plane with the one who would - would you just consider it an unfortunate statistic?

Fact is there are millions of people and thousands of planes flying in the air and one bomb the size of a pack of cigarettes could bring it all to a stop. Statistically the chance is very low of being killed by a terrorist, that does not change the fact the very very small risk is very very real in the amount of damage it could do. 9/11 not only cost the lives of thousands, it triggered a economic downfall of most of the major airlines, cost billions in new security, gave those in power another excuse to reduce our general freedoms, triggered two wars which has cost tens of thousands of lives and a trillion dollars. Those are historical realities not paranoid delusions.

Simple Fudo what would you do to stop that one from boarding a plane and killing hundreds if not thousands and maybe triggering another round of wars? How would you find that one needle in the haystack?
The TSA IS about security but what they do is a committee decision and they hit what the committee says they should hit.

Now as for traveling, I bought a belt with a plastic buckle and wear slip-on shoes and carry a backpack with a mesh pocket in the front that I dump everything in my pockets that is the least bit metal into and then got a carabiner from REI that I clip my watch and necklace to and then clip to my carry-on just before I hit the checkpoint.

I like to make it as easy on myself as possible getting through the gauntlet to the gate area. I mean, come on people, you know there is a metal detector and you know that having an underwire bra is going to set it of (unless you are immature enough to want to play the odds) so now bitching about the hassle of being groped and fondled and 'inconvenienced' is just stupid.

Hell, my wife used to wear a non-underwire bra to get through security and then change into one when we got through just because of the hassle factor.

I mean, smart people set themselves up to be able to walk right through (hopefully) and stupid sots wear their entire collection of metal bearing junk and are always so pissed to be 'caught'.

And, one interesting thing that I found out through experimentation was that it I showed up at the security line wearing a hat, I got the extra wand action most of the time but when I started putting it in my carry-on before I got there I usually didn't... I also usually got the wand action if I wore dark sunglasses too which is more explainable. So, no hat or dark sunglasses. I have also, contrary to TSA statements, had to pull out my iPad and have my bag re-x-rayed more often than not. Even after pulling my notebook out so now I pull both out.

There are alternatives to underwire bras and there are alternatives to metal buckle belts. You can save some hassle...

You know that it's going to be an issue and you assume that TSA is going to make an exception for you because you have a kid?

And for all of the paranoiacs, you make me laugh. It IS about security and YOU are being asses. Air travel is a perfect target for terrorists and THAT is why the TSA exists AND if you don't like it, take the bus...

Please people, use your brains out there. It's a scary world...
welcome to :
This is a shopping paradise
Christmas Festival gift . To your friends,
a pleasant surprise . Reputation , quality, absolute guarantee .
The same style, not the same, the quality with the price . please log in: "fashionsb" com

welcome to :
This is a shopping paradise
Great debates advantage of the new security is it is forcing these conversations!

I don't mind the pat-downs--I request them over going through x-ray or other sci-fi machines when pregnant. But I recently discovered that baby pat-downs have to be same-sex too. TSA wanted my 2-year-old boy to step away from me, voluntarily, and be patted down by very large man without any baby skills. Needless to say, before long they had a frantic, screaming child who couldn't be removed from my neck and they had to march out their hierarchy to grant us permission to be wanded as one body. Anyway, I think the same-sex business is weird (and sexualizes what is supposed to not be sexual). Statistically, most terrorists are men. I think women are more sensitive to behavioral vibes (i.e. we have built-in creepy men detectors). So, if the objective really is security, I think that it's a waste of intuition resources to have women only checking women.
A lot of nuances here, and total loss of common sense on the TSA 's part. Well written,
fyi, even considering some spectacular airline disasters, it takes quite a lot to take a plane out of the sky - they're remarkably well engineered. You'd have to do better than a bomb "the size of a pack of cigarettes" if you wanted to be sure of injuring more people than you would, say, on a bus.

Oh, and the level of disruption you speak of would happen if it went off on said bus, or a train, or in the middle of Times Square (as was attempted recently).

The _real_ disruption happens through our response to the matter, as we fall all over ourselves trying to check for bogeymen under everyone's bed.

A) backscatter x-ray machines/naked body imagers do NOT detect explosives. Dogs and electronic chemical signature sniffers do. The "underpants/Xmas bomber" would not have been caught with the current imaging technology (so says the TSA). Metal detectors also do not detect explosives.

B) Most explosives cannot be set off without components that _would_ be caught by a metal detector. Even if your diaper bag were packed full of thermite, you'd need some cleverly disguised electrical components to get it to go off. (It's again why the "underpants bomber" failed - he attempted to light it with a match.) Trained screeners - more well trained than the ones who currently have a 70% failure rate - would be able to find them. While you'd be tempted to suggest a chemical fuse, I'll point you again to item A above.

For what we've spent on machines that invade privacy at best, induce fatal illnesses in the least, and utterly fail at their intended function, we could have had more and better trained screening personnel.

Box cutters are not explosives. To quote security expert Bruce Schneier, "Only two things... have made us safer: a locked cockpit door, and passengers who know to fight back." Even the TSA screener in this post said to "hunch over" or fold her arms over her chest to defeat the metal detector. Body piercings seldom register. Razor blades are small enough to get snuck through. But they are not bombs.

The planes targeted on Sept. 11, 2001, were because of the amount of highly explosive fuel they carry and their mobility. There are many more vulnerable targets that are easier to hit. They already tried to take out the Trade Center with a car bomb, remember. _That_ was the target, not the plane.

Anyone serious about blowing up a plane while it's in the sky would have better odds putting a bomb on a timer into checked luggage, or better still into a package - as packages are carried on commercial flights and are *typically not screened.* They needn't sacrifice their own children.
in answer to the question of "what would (I) do" to ensure I or my loved ones were not blown up on a plane, I would answer, "never go out of doors," as that is the only way to take reasonable precaution.

I live and work in and around New York City - you know, the place in America that actually _has_ been hit by terrorist attacks, as opposed to, say, Wyoming. Not only do I know people who worked in "that building" on "that day," I'm a couple steps removed from people who were on those planes. I was also in the area the _first_ time "they" tried to blow it up, and went through the ensuing chaos.

I also frequent Times Square, where another would-be jihadist tried to blow up a car in the _open street._

Under different circumstances (since we're playing the "what if" game) I might have been killed any number of times - and in ways not involving a plane.

I also worked two blocks away from that massive steam pipe explosion that killed at least one person and brought half the city to a standstill, possibly contaminating hundreds if not thousands with toxic dust.

Manholes blowing up into the sky and construction cranes collapsing are not uncommon occurrences. I am much more likely to be taken out by a rogue cab driver - and I fear them more for their lack of driving skill than their chosen religion.

What would I do to ensure no one tried to blow me up on a plane? Simple: don't give anyone cause to do so.