May I (touch you wildly inappropriately in the name of airport security)?

Her name was Keiko, – at least that’s what I imagine it to be.  She never told me her real name.  Our time together in the Narita International Airport outside of Tokyo was brief, but her touch would stay with me forever.

I was traveling back from a trip to China in the early years following the tragedy of 9/11, and I had a tight layover in Japan.  I exited the plane and attempted to make my way into the main terminal.  However, before I could, the crowd I was walking with came to a sudden stop.  As we slowly funneled our way, into a long, winding line, many began to wonder aloud what was causing the delay and if connections were going to be made.  We turned the corner, and walked past shops.  We meandered between counters of efficiently dressed, yet friendly looking young men and women giving “information,” but having no idea what was going on or English skills that were not at a level to relate any information to anyone from the plane.  Still, though, they nodded and smiled politely, and with a wave of the hand (much like the Barker’s Beauties on “The Price is Right”) advised us to keep following the line.  The Germans, English, Australians, and Americans surrounding me furrowed their brows, rolled their eyes, and slowly walked on.

Eventually, after a Disneyland-like zig-zag processional, I turned the corner and was met with a choice. Our one long line split into three.  Again, no one knew what we were in line for, and suddenly my mind raced back to seventh grade, Mrs. Nelson’s English class, reading of “The Tiger, or the Lady?”  Which door?  Which door, indeed.

I made my choice and committed to it.  Another line unfurled before me.  We slowly moved forward and I could see the line turning around a corner.  As I approached the turn, I saw Keiko.

Keiko, was a young Japanese woman working airport security that day.  She was in her late twenties, and had a short straight bob cut that hung freely from the pink beret that sat ever so slightly at a tilt on her head.  She wore a white short-sleeved shirt and pink skirt that ended below her knees.  Her feet were adorned in heavy, sensible, thick-soled black shoes.  To bring the ensemble together, a matching pink sash was across her chest, and on her hands were delicate, white cotton gloves.  Next to Keiko was a wooden box that had been painted gray.  As each passenger approached, they were invited by her to stand on the box, and a conversation took place, and then she would quickly pat down the person’s arms and legs.  I understood what the lines were for now.  Because I couldn’t hear the conversations taking place ahead of me, I quickly lost interest, and began looking more at the shops and restaurants around me, and the interesting faces of those also in line.

I made my way to the gray box, full of confidence and boredom.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve been through airport security.  I’ve never been one to worry much about it.  In fact, today, with the new scanners that see through your clothes, I secretly take pride in knowing that somewhere out there, even if it’s only for a minute or two, there’s a naked picture of me in the world, before it is deleted.  I digress….

This time, though, was different.  My time with Keiko would not be forgettable. With a broad smile, and another “Barker’s Beauty” wave of the hand, she invited me onto the gray wooden box, and said, “Please.”    I stepped onto the box, still bored, but I quickly realized something was different.  Keiko, looked up at me and raised her hands to either side of her face, and said the words that would come to haunt me forever.

“May I?”

Knowing I had a plane to catch; knowing not to joke around with airport security in any country; but not knowing exactly what she was “May I-ing” about, I said, “Yes.”  She then proceeded to run her fingers through my hair, under the collar of my shirt, and along my shoulders. She then came around in front of me and raised her gloved, Mickey Mouse-like hands up.

“May I?”


She ran her arms from my shoulder, into my armpit, and then down my right arm, and then repeated the process again on my left.

“May I?”


She reached under my arms as though I was a toddler she was going to lift me, but slid her hands down my torso, across my chest, and then around to my back.  She returned to my front, and the hands came up.

“May I?”

I swallowed. “Yes?”

She grabbed my belt buckle and slid her fingers behind it, making sure nothing was attached, then slid her hand around the belt on either side.  I became very aware of not only the people standing around me waiting for their turn on the gray box of humiliation, but also of the crowds walking around, the people in the stores, the people eating the strange hot dogs with no ketchup but plenty of lettuce, and I knew deep inside, they all felt sorry me.  We all knew what was coming next. All of us full of dread.

Quickly, and with such a knowledgeable speed that it would shatter all illusions I had about how I was special to Keiko, and how she was treating me with respect.  Until this point, I believed that she understood that I came from a different culture, and I knew that she knew, I wanted to take it slow.  I wasn’t that kind of guy.  Keiko didn’t care.  She made me feel cheap.  Keiko then put her fingers inside the waistline of my pants, and slid them around to meet at my spine before coming back around the front of my pants.  Then, slightly but deliberately, Keiko shot her hand down my pants.

Yes…..Keiko copped a feel.

I was shocked, but not entirely certain of what had just happened.  Had I imagined it?  Was it an accident?  Before I could over analyze the situation, the gloved hands again returned to either side of her head with its dorky, crappy lookin’ hat.

“May I?”

Go ahead, I thought.  What else can you do? In some parts of the world Keiko and I were practically married now. She slid her hand down my leg and examined my ankle and shoe and crossed over to the other shoe, the ankle and then worked her way back up.  Then, all questions in my mind were cleared up.

Keiko did it again.

This time it was a quick grab from underneath.  I didn’t know what to say or do.  Keiko was again too fast for me to process it all.  Another Barker’s Beauty wave of the hand, and a big smile, and a “Thank you,” was all I go from Keiko as I stepped down from the box and continued on my way to my next plane.  It was my Japanese “walk of shame.”

What exactly did I get?  The princess or the tiger?  Both?

I never saw Keiko again after that afternoon.  She never called, but then, I didn’t expect her to.  Our time was fleeting, but we would always have Tokyo.


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Categories: Asia


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2 Comments on “May I (touch you wildly inappropriately in the name of airport security)?”

  1. The Merwin Family
    September 21, 2012 at 6:36 am #

    This was after visiting us, wasn’t it? Looking forward to another installment based on your China adventures. May I suggest our trip to Xi’an? Man, really bringing back the memories!

    • September 21, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

      It was! Xi’an (and especially that bus ride) are definitely going to show up at some point.

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