Yesterday, upon leaving Colorado, I had the pleasure of experiencing the TSA at it’s finest. I found myself in the line with the new full-body scanners. With a few extra minutes to spare, I decided to “opt-out” of the radiation and “opt-in” for a pat-down. I’ve flown a handful of times since the scanners were implemented but have somehow managed to avoid them. Not so lucky today…
I removed my shoes, my jacket, my jewelry and loaded everything onto the x-ray belt. When the agent realized that I was not going to go through the scanner, he shouted, “WE NEED A PAT DOWN ON 2!” as surrounding people turned to watch. Um…sorry that I’m not interested in the guy literally 3-feet away sneaking a peek of what’s under all my clothing. I waited patiently but inquired about my things that had now exited onto the other side of the x-ray belt. The TSA agent stated, “This is my checkpoint and I cannot leave my mark. There are cameras everywhere, your stuff will be fine.” Ah- yes, your mark. Please don’t leave it. Naturally, I was irritated and started the usual huffing and puffing and swaying from side to side with my arms crossed. Eventually he literally breaches security and has me come through to the other side without any x-ray machine, scanner or pat down. I could bolt, but I don’t. The agent tells me to ‘stay right here and don’t move’ while they continued to search for a female agent. I guess I was allowed on the other side of the barrier so I could keep a closer eye on my belongings.
Eventually a woman about 50 appeared with blue gloves and waved me over. She collected my things and I walked barefoot (disgusting) across the floor. She asked if I had everything and then gave me a brief speech that went a bit like this: “You understand that the machines you opt-ed out of are not harmful. You still have the option to return to the machine. If not, I will use a gloved-hand starting at your head and down to your toes. I will use the back of my hand, bracing my self on your hip, while checking between your legs and on your behind. I will also brace myself on your hip while I feel around your bra with the back of my hand. You have the option to do this in private. Do you understand?”
While I began to fully understand the grossness of the pat down to come, my nervousness came out in laughter. (Mostly because I couldn’t imagine going into a private room- that seems MORE inappropriate! Let all these folks be witnesses.) The agent offered my patient mom a seat (which she of course declined) and began what seemed like one of those 5-minute-mall massages. She flattened my hair (which irritated me) and then talked about Plexiglas (she wanted to know if I knew that you could see through it) and some article she read about the lack of dangers of the TSA scanners. Really, lady? She also asked if it ‘opt-out’ often and why- none of your darn business. It ended abruptly after about 3 minutes and she stepped to the side to wipe her gloves with some special paper. She told me to wait because she was checking my clothing for radioactive and explosive residue. She joked about how to say those two words with the agent next to us the entire time she was ‘processing’. She then said, “You’re good to go!” and walked away.
After gathering all of my things, my mom and I giggled and conversed about the lack of professionalism and the obnoxious scene they create in an effort to humiliate people who opt out of the scanner.
I walked away feeling a little violated, in need of some hairspray and as a new member of the “no-fly” list.