Thursday, December 9, 2010

The TSA Pat Down

by: BJ Morris

I "opted out" of the airport scanning device yesterday.  Not because I object to the extra radiation or anyone seeing my private parts.  I probably should be concerned about the radiation; I mean jeez, they make you wear a lead vest at the dentist so there must be something harmful in it.  And the part about someone being able to see my private parts?  The person looking at the image is not someone I will probably ever socialize with, so there's no uncomfortableness there.

No, I opted out because I wanted to have the experience of the pat down.  There's been so much hype in the news lately that I just wanted to see for myself.

I approached the x-ray machine and told the TSA agent that I did not wish to go through the machine.  She rolled her eyes and spoke into her headset, "We need a female assist."  I was allowed to pass through a glass door beside the x-ray machine and stand beside the conveyor belt while I waited for my female assist.  After a minute or so, an extremely unpleasant woman motioned for me to follow her.  "Where are your things?" she barked.  I pointed to the bin where my shoes, purse, laptop and jacket were.  She made no move toward them so I started to pick the bin up.  "Don't touch that!" she snapped.  "Is this all you have?"  "Come with me."

I was taken to an area at the end of the conveyor belt and asked to sit down.  "I'm going to pat you down.  I will be running my hands along your arms and legs and inside your thighs.  Do you have any sharp objects that I should be aware of?  Any metal inside your pockets?"  I responded pleasantly, "No".  "Are you wearing a belt?"  I responded no to this question although I WAS wearing a belt.  The belt had a plastic buckle so I didn't think it would count.  She said that when she ran her hands along my buttocks and breasts that she would be using the back of her hands.  What in the world difference does that make?  She said if this was uncomfortable for me, we could go to a private room.  A PRIVATE ROOM?  I REALLY don't think I want to be in a private room with this woman.

She started the pat down.  She had me face away from her as she ran her hands along each of my arms.  Then she ran her hands down my back and touched my behind with what I assume was the back of her hand.  Again, what difference does that make?  She said she was going to run her hand along the inside of my waistband, but when she pulled up my shirt and saw my canvas belt, she was incensed.  "I thought you said you weren't wearing a belt.  Take it off!"

OK, so I took my belt off and handed it to her.  "Harrumph", she sighed as she put it in the bin with the rest of my things.  She ran her hand around the inside of my waistband (which was pretty tight, I might add) and then she started on my legs.  She slowly ran her hands up my calf and lower thigh, gaining speed as she got higher.  When she reached my nether regions, she jammed her hands forcibly into my nether regions practically lifting me off of the ground.  She did each leg and then she did it from the back side.

She came around the front, and true to her word, she ran the back of her hand underneath each of my breasts.  She did not seem concerned about the underwire in my bra.  (If I hadn't been wearing one, she would have had to lift each breast to run her hand underneath it.)

Meanwhile, a former colleague passed by, recognized me and jeered at me.  I laughed along with her at the ridiculousness of this process.  Terrorists were probably also passing by laughing while the TSA wasted time touching my private parts.

The two people I was traveling with had both "opted in" for the scanner and STILL got patted down, but they only patted down one leg on each of them.

Finally, she finished the pat down and told me to stand perfectly still while she took her gloves over to a machine to see if there was any questionable residue on them from the pat down.

By the time the whole process was done, I got to my gate with 5 minutes to spare before the plane pushed back.

(This was written in 2010 BEFORE I joined the Trusted Traveler program, so I now enjoy the benefits of TSA Precheck!)

Enjoy your travels!