Saturday, February 9, 2013

tsa pat-downs and the blogger

originally posted on the posterous site. december 4, 2010 at 09:47:00am

okay, i have been absent from the blog-o-sphere for a while, and i apologize for that…and i do have some entries on my to-do list, that i hope to address and write this week, but today’s is about my experiences this morning.

pat-downs. i don’t think in recent history (like the past six weeks) that there has been a hotter topic. and honestly, i have been of the opinion that if you decide to opt out of the full-body scanner for whatever reason, then you should be subject to the pat-down. this procedure is in place to protect our nation’s skies (and in part the economy) and fellow passengers -- all good ideas. all things i have agreed with, and i have questioned under my breath all those people who say that the pat-down is invasive and disturbing…well question no more, i was the subject to a tsa pat-down this morning, and not by choice.

i flew out of washington dulles international airport (iad) this morning bound for san francisco. iad has backscatter scanner technology in place. this contraption uses x-rays instead of radio waves to scan the person, essentially producing a skeletal impression of the body and not the “naked” pictures that so many are upset about.

i will interject here that i do have body piercings – sorry mom – and that one is stainless steel and the other is titanium, and then of course my ears are pierced, i wear sterling silver hoops and have for many years. all of my extra holes are above the belt though.

as i stepped into the backscatter scanner, i did as told, put my feet in the blue boxes, and put my hand above my head, simple – well apparently though for the people in the control tower my mid-section lit up like a christmas tree. as i walked out to the staging area, the tsa agent told me that he needed to get a supervisor. another agent asked me if the four unclaimed articles were mine and proceeded to collect them. i was told that i would have to be patted down.

the supervisor took my items and i followed him to a room off to the left side of the security area. once in the room with two imposing tsa agents, i was told that there was an anomaly in this area, the agent motioning on his own person his crotch. again, none of my anomalies are below the belt. the other agent, the supervisor, told me that he was going to do the pat-down, and explained the procedure to me, where he would use the back of the hand – on my butt – and where he would be using the front of his hand – essentially everywhere else. (so it’s okay to feel my crotch up, but not okay to pinch my ass?)

that said, in this room, you are essentially at their mercy, i started and remained facing the wall, and i couldn’t help but to think the whole time “stranger danger”. there was no way for me to know what was going on behind me, minus the uncomfortable pat-down that was going on. i can say that this disturbed me more than the lack of information, unless i’ve seen you naked or am paying for that kind of touching, i want to see what is going on!

he then came around to the front, all opened palmed, and frankly the leg portion of the pat-down was just as invasive as getting your inseam taken at the tailor, no biggie, until he put his in and around my waist band. in my opinion, he never searched the area where the anomaly was found on the scanner. he left and said that he would be back, that and instructed the other agent to get my name and information.

i asked the agent if this was going to blacklist me, and he said no, that they just needed the information, why would I ask such a thing? oh i don’t know mr. somewhere between security guard and armed police officer, i want to know if now need to be at the airport 3 hours before my flight instead of two – i didn’t say it, but i sure as hell thought it! the only thing i said to him, was that it was probably a piercing and if there was a difference between titanium and stainless steel when they showed up in the scanner, he didn’t know. i will admit that i left the experience shaking, pissed and feeling violated.

now before you comment about this is a procedure that needs to be done and stuff like that, part of me still readily agrees with that but as a consumer and citizen, i deserve to be put at ease, to have questions answered and asked of me – had they asked if i had piercings, we would have skipped the waist band search and I would have willing lifted my shirt and shown it to them. the addition of mirrors in the exam room would have put me at ease cause I would have been able to see what was going on and a better explanation of why my personal information was taken and a copy of the form where my information was recorded would have been nice too.

i fully understand why the pat-down has to happen, but i have to admit that this lack of information and communication from the authorities is quickly moving us in the direction of police state. i’m a polite traveler, i say hello to the tsa agents, i wish them happy holidays, i take my laptop out, i put my shoes on the belt not in a tray – i follow the procedures to a “t”. why can’t i get the same in return? hell, i wasn’t even offered a cigarette after he put his hands down my pants. sure the pat-down is intimidating, and to some degree it should be, but there is a difference between intimidating and “stranger danger uncomfortable”. i guess with the republicans back in control, we can begin to look forward to the further erosion of civil liberties, what’s next gitmo for a failed body scan? of course, tsa will transport you there by bus or boat since you can’t board a plane. i can’t wait for the return flight home…

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