My experience with the new TSA screenings

Posted on
Nov 22, 2010

When I was 15, I had my first boyfriend.

On our first date, he took me out to dinner; we had pasta alfredo and milkshakes. It was quite sweet. We occasionally watched movies together, and while I’m sure even he will admit that while he was far (and I mean faaaaar) from being a gentleman, he waited a respectable time before making any attempts to venture into uncharted territory.

Fast forward 15 years (almost to the day) to this past weekend. Rand and I flew to Boise for a quick (but long overdue) visit with friends. Meaning that we went through security twice, and were subject to the new TSA screenings, which included our choice of back-scatter radiation or a federal-sanctioned groping.

The result? In short, the TSA owes me some pasta alfredo. And maybe a milkshake.


Actual TSA sign visible after going through security in Boise. Yes, there are kids wrapped in the American flag.

Rand and I flew out of Seattle on Friday morning. If you’ve been following the blog over the past few weeks, you’ll know that I’ve been thinking about the new TSA scanners quite a bit. They’ve had me fairly rattled, and I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what I could do about the whole thing. I even created a Facebook group about the cause. I knew the scanners had been installed at SeaTac, but I had spoken to a few people who had flown last week (including @pwcarey) and the scanners weren’t even in operation during their time at the airport. I wrung my hands together and hoped that would be the case when I flew out.

But, as usual, I had no such luck. When Rand and I reached security, the scanners were up and running. Now, apparently the full-body scanners are only being used if a passenger has been specifically selected for additional screening – at least, that’s what I’ve come to understand. But in the pandemonium of SeaTac, it seemed that most people were being sent through the scanners. There wasn’t any explanation or context given. No placard explaining the technology, or how it worked. There wasn’t even a sign saying that there were new search procedures in place. Instead, it seemed that the TSA had provided as little information as possible. It makes sense – the less people know, the less they’ll question what’s happening.

As I got to the front of the line, an agent told me to wait a spot a few feet in front of the scanner. To my left was the old-fashioned metal detectors of old. I was shaking, literally. My hands were quaking.

“I want to opt-out.” I said.

The agent, a woman, stared at me in a mix of shock and utter annoyance.

“You want to opt out?” she said, in an exasperated tone.

“Um, yeah.”

She sighed heavily and rolled her eyes.

“You realize you’ll have to have a physical pat-down?”

I nodded. She again sighed.

“Female opt out,” she said into a small speaker at her neck.

Rand was standing near me, and the same agent looked at him and waved him through the regular metal detector.

“Oh,” I said, not realizing it was even still in operation. “Can I just go through there with him?”

“No,” the agent said, holding up her arm to block me. “You’ve opted out.”

I watched Rand walk through. I wondered if perhaps I had opted out too early – maybe they wouldn’t have sent me through the scanner at all (I started blaming myself – that’s what people do). I waited. I held my hands behind me. I couldn’t hold them still. After a while, I was let through a little gate and led past the back-scatter machine to a carpeted area where they did the pat-downs. They explained to me the procedure beforehand, and asked again if I wanted to go through with it. I nodded.

Here’s the thing: the pat-down wasn’t actually that big a deal.

Don’t get me wrong: I disagree with it, with the back-scatter machines, with basically EVERYTHING that the TSA has done in the last few months. But the pat-down in and of itself wasn’t that bad – especially when you consider how much worse (and potentially dangerous) the scanners are. In the past, I’ve been “randomly selected” for “additional screening” and had to get pat-downs, and found that this one wasn’t that different (they do seem to spend more time around your naughty bits. They really focused on the inner curve of my boob. But how the hell could I fault them for having good taste? I mean, the inner curve of my boob is AWESOME). In the end, I was convinced that the pat-down was the best way to go.

It doesn’t mean the TSA isn’t grossly over-stepping their bounds. They definitely are. And it doesn’t make the whole situation any less ridiculous (at some point, when they were feeling the inner waistband of my jeans, the absurdity of the scene hit me: what could I possibly conceal in there?). But personally, I think the TSA was much more annoyed by the whole thing than I was (so obviously I will keep opting out).

Once the pat-down was over, I still wasn’t free to leave. The agent had to run a piece of paper over her gloved hands, which was then put inside a small machine to test for explosives. Once the  test comes back clean, you can gather your things and go.

As I stood, waiting for the test to come back (and thinking again about the sheer idiocy of it – I mean, I don’t have so much as a parking ticket to my name. The most un-American thing I do is listen to the music of Cat Stevens), I asked the agent who patted me down if lots of people opt out.

“Not really,” she said. “It’s just a few people who are (she put her finger next to her head and swirled it, signifying “crazy”). They’ve just listened to too much media. The machines really are safe.”

I simply muttered, “I’m not so sure about that.” And I quietly wondered to myself if she actually knew what “media” meant.

Seconds later, the results came back: apparently my body is not explosive, but I tend to think it’s still smoking (heh heh heh). By the time I was done, Rand, who is currently using a cane due to an injury, and is pretty damn slow, had been waiting for me a good while. This of course, is all part of the TSA’s plan: they want to make you wait as long as they can.

When I reached over to grab my things from my husband, I looked at my hands. They were still shaking. Uncontrollably. And that’s when I got mad. Because all this stupid security theater that the TSA had implemented succeeded in doing one thing, and one thing only: terrifying Americans. I hope the irony isn’t lost on any of you.

When we got to Boise, we joked to our friends that “I got groped for you guys!”

And on the way back to Seattle, at the end of a delightful weekend (thanks, Marshall!) I had to go through the intensive screening again – this time, Rand was selected, too (though “selected” is really the wrong word. People who are sent through the regular metal detectors seem to be the exceptions). We both opted out, both were patted down. The crew at Boise was far friendlier than the folks at Seattle – they were considerate and respectful of our request to opt-out (no eye-rolling, no heavy sighs).  Again, they explained everything they were going to do beforehand; they patted the inside of my thigh, the inner curve of my boob, the inside of my waistband. And again, my search took longer than Rand’s (even though he was also patted down).

This time, though, as I walked away, I noticed my hands were far steadier than they had been before. I attribute this entirely to the kindness of the TSA agents in Boise.

So … what can I conclude from the whole experience? Here are my final thoughts on the matter:

  • Nearly everyone seems to get selected for the additional screening. The TSA can claim that they aren’t selecting everyone, but I’ve been picked twice in two days. I think they simply say that it’s random so that they can exclude people who look like they might be problematic. If children or someone with a prosthesis walks through, the TSA can use this loophole to send them to the regular metal detector without a problem (though they might not).
  • If you’ve been selected for additional screening, you can’t opt out entirely. A lot of folks have been asking about this. You must either go through the scanner or get a pat-down. Otherwise? You could face legal action and up to a $10,000 fine.
  • TSA agents are fed-up. This is a good sign. It means that, unlike with the Borg, resistance isn’t futile, and opting out actually sends a message (I hope).
  • The pat-downs aren’t that bad, if you know what you’re getting into. And if you realize just how terrible the alternative is.
  • I didn’t see too many kids flying, so I can’t say whether or not children are being patted down. My understanding is that they are forced to go through the same checks as adults.
  • Somebody owes me a milkshake.

That’s pretty much it. If you guys have any additional questions, leave them in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer.



Leave a Comment

  • I love that you stood up to TSA. Amazing.

  • I wish, wish, wish we didn’t have to fly. But we have to move, I would like to see my parents and nephew again, and we have to eat so my husband has to travel for work. I’d take the opt-out. That’s okay for me. But I get completely sick over the idea of someone touching my daughter, and not flying is not a choice (move to England from Hawaii via boat? That’s 12 weeks of my life I won’t get back). This is ugly stuff.

  • How long would you say the opt-out in Seattle took (like, how much extra time should one plan for if one is looking forward to being groped)?

    • Everywhereist

      Susan – it totally depends. We were lucky – it was a slow weekend at both SeaTac and Boise, so it probably only took an extra 10 minutes or so. But I imagine on a busy day it could take much longer. We left about 15 minutes earlier than usual, and had no problems. If you are going on a busy day, I would give yourself an extra half hour to account not just for your opt-out time, but that of other travelers as well.

  • cute story

    I’m not trying to be a grump here, and it was a cute story, but really, the irony you allude to when you are describing the shaking of your hands and comparing it to terrorism is misguided at best. That is not terror. That is being a wimp. As is my commenting without putting a real name.

    • Everywhereist

      Sorry, cute story, but I disagree. I was shaking in fear. The nebulous threat of terrorism has never caused me to react like that. But the reality of knowing someone I don’t know is about to put their hands on me? That’s enough to cause me to shake (and seriously, man- or woman-up and leave your real name. I respect dissent, but I like knowing where it’s from. I promise, I’ll be cool).

      • cute story

        After you …

        • Everywhereist

          Wait … what? Not to sound entirely egotistical but … you don’t know who I am? Um … did you look at my twitter feed? All the details of my life are on this blog. My engagement. My family. My baby photos. I’m all out there, buddy. News of my engagement was on the cover of the Seattle P-I. People who I’ve never met KNOW the details of my life. Sigh. Whatever.

        • It doesn’t really matter what either of your names are. Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and other Founding Fathers published news stories and opinion papers using pseudonyms, and it didn’t detract from the validity of their discourse.

        • Everywhereist

          And once again, Christine is the voice of reason and maturity. And that is why I love her. She classes this blog up.

      • jon

        Great post, Elizabeth. I excerpted it and linked here (and to the FB page) in One hero’s TSA experiences in Seattle on I Will Opt Out.

        Jonathan, the scanners don’t actually make flying safer. So why do you think that passengers should be forced to go through them submit to groping?

        • jon

          ooops, sorry, not sure how the comment went here — i meant it to go at the bottom of the page. sorry about that.

        • Everywhereist

          Thanks, Jon, but my name isn’t Elizabeth. 🙂

    • Agreed.

      I’ve been losing sleep over these new procedures for a week now.

      Guess how much sleep I lose before a normal flight. None (unless my flight’s really, really early).

      I am terrified to take my child to the airport. I won’t allow this to happen:

      I’m opting out on Wednesday. I’m opting out my child. If either or both of us get “randomly selected” we’ll both opt out, but they will not touch him inappropriately, or I’ll march us back out of the airport. Screw the $10,000 potential fine. To protect my child from molestation I’ll fight $10,000 any day.

      Thanks G for sharing your story. I’m hoping to actually sleep tonight, that’d be a nice change…

      • Everywhereist

        Amen, sister.

  • 1. Those TSA posters are galling in the extreme.

    2. Wouldn’t mind the PG version of Rand’s groping, you know just so I know what to expect next time we travel (barring any new, insane TSA regulations).

    3. Let me (us) know if you come across any stories of toddler groping in the opt-out line. I don’t want to send my kid through the machine, but I also don’t want her to feel violated before she’s able to even process what it means.

    4. Thanks for something like closure on this particular Everywhereist epic.

    • Everywhereist

      Philip – it sounds like little kids are getting groped – the one thing I would consider requesting is a female agent to pat-down your kiddo. It sounds like they aren’t respecting the gender lines when it comes to kids. I heard one account of a male agent patting down a terrified little girl.

  • European

    Well done for opting out to both of you, and keep up the good work. We’re on the slippery slope to a 1984 existance and every bit of resistance helps.

  • I went through the machines in San Diego and it took about 10 seconds. I think I will opt out from now on, but the thing that alarmed me the most was the 10 year old girl I watched get patted down after her mom opted her out. The look on her face was fear and the agent patting her down was a man.

    • Everywhereist

      Natalie – that is HORRIFYING! The poor little girl. I hope someone reported the incident.

      • Why aren’t parents saying no?

        Do they not know the TSA announced they wouldn’t use the enhanced pat-downs on children 12 and under (which was all over the news last Wednesday).

        Are they unaware of the gender rules?

        Not trying to victim-blame here but I’m a little shocked at how parents, informed or not to these procedures, stand by without at least inquiring about what’s happening to their kids. Do they just accept the violations as law? If so, that’s tremendously sad. I’ll be sure to spread the word between chasing my child around the busy airport Wednesday.

        • Everywhereist

          I’m not sure why they aren’t saying “HELL NO.” I think part of it is confusion. Part of it is fear. Hell, part of it might be groupthink.

        • I heard that went into effect after I traveled and saw that happen. Plus it was at 4pm on a Saturday and there was no one in the check in line so they were putting everyone through the scanners or doing the pat downs. I didn’t report it, but it made me extremely uneasy. I would be saying “HELL NO” for sure if it was my kid, but people are scared. I have a dog I travel with and they were confused on how to screen her, my “mom mentality” kicked in and I got extremely defensive over her- And she is a dog, not a kid. I can only imagine how parents are feeling.

    • Rod

      This is just plain child abuse. TSA’s new policy, of course, is to prevent us from taking pictures so we won’t be able to prove what they are doing. . . typical police-state mentality. My wife and I will not be flying until this mess is cleaned up, by which I mean until these leaders have been replaced.

      • Everywhereist

        Rod – it’s funny that you say that, because I read something a while ago that made me smile: it said that never before has one topic been able to unite so many people of different views: liberals and conservatives alike hate the scanners.

  • Brava! That’s what I plan to do also – opt-out and go for the pat-down. I’m not at all concerned with someone seeing my naughty bits (I am rather proud of them actually), but it’s the radiation of the back-scatter machines that concerns me. Perhaps what the TSA could do to make the whole groping process a slight bit more palatable would be to throw out a few compliments, such as “wow you must work out, nice muscle tone!” or “your husband/wife is a lucky man/woman!”……

  • Steve

    I was unsure about which I’d prefer before reading this, as it felt like choosing between two equally frustrating options. But now, I agree with you completely. Although, I do live in the NYC/Philly corridor and something tells me TSA agents at any of the myriad of airports in my area will not be as pleasant or respectful as they are in Boise. Thanks for this, though!

  • bean

    love you, g. i’ll buy you a milkshake a luna park. <3

    • bean

      err, *at* luna park. :B

  • I’m familiar with the pat-downs, and I’ve had pretty invasive ones. I remember one in Greece, for which I was randomly selected. The woman agent unceremoniously put her hand down my pants (the “waistband” check), and I felt the same way–geez, my last *date* didn’t get that far; could you at least shake my hand and tell me your name before you do that? Or could I at least opt in to have a male agent do that so it could be a bit more fun for me, even if he’s not going to buy me dinner?

    I’m usually not this political, but it seems like changing our foreign policy so that less of the world hates us might be cheaper than buying all these “naked” scanners.

  • There has to be a better way… A bloodhound can find contraband in a crowded storage area, can track a person more than a mile away. Sniffer dog teams could simply be set passively besides the checkin area/metal detector area. As passengers file by, a dog would detect the presence of explosives on a person: even if sealed and disguised in their carryon, as Mythbusters proved not long ago.

    It’s really silly to put gloves in an chemical detection machine when a dog will do a better job, and no need for invasive pat down. I daresay the dog could spot an explosive before the person was even pulled aside.

    To me, this seems cheaper, more reliable, much much much less onerous on the public. I really can’t see any reason not to employ this method.

    But think about all of this silliness for a minute. They’re wiping their hands in underpants because of the “underwear bomber” last year… who failed to achieve his goal, because alert passengers stopped him. They stopped shoebomber Reid too. I think that’s the whole thing: in the past, these terrorist losers were expected to be hostage takers. After 9/11 we know they intend destruction, and so as a body, we are alert to danger signs: we’re a pack, not a herd. (Hunters not sheep.)

    So imagine a system of metal detectors, random screens, dogs to catch any sign of explosives (no reason they can’t patrol the airport waiting areas too), and then… trusting us to defend ourselves if all of these protections fail, which is unlikely.

    I agree that we can’t go back to the way it was pre-9/11, but Homeland Security has just gone way too far. Patting down toddlers is absurd and potentially traumatizing. No TSA agent will ever pat down my kids, under any circumstances.

    • Everywhereist

      I’m not going to lie: I’m not even a huge dog lover, but if they had German Shepherds roaming around the airports? I WOULD BE TICKLED PINK. That would be so awesome. And, weirdly, I’d feel safer, too.

  • Joe

    Like the Boise agents, if they all just used some tact and common sense, these “frisks” would be slightly more “comfortable”. Instead of incidents like this ( ).

  • your freedom

    Everyone should Opt Out and only for the simple fact that it isn’t fair that as Americans we must pay the price for a few idiots who decide that they want to blow up planes. It is not our fault that security cannot do their job properly and people shouldn’t have to go through cancer machines because they are at fault.

  • When we went through San Francisco six weeks ago, we were forced to go through the scanner. They refused to let us go through the metal detector or opt for the pat-down. It was the scanner or we didn’t get on the plane, and they were quite rude about it. This despite the fact that we’d been through security screenings at the previous airport, and had not left the SFO airport, or even the secure area. We were just changing terminals to catch our next flight.

  • Well, I think I have finally decided to put my two cents in. I’m basically of two minds:I love to travel, I want to be safe, and I don’t really mind a little x-ray, or a little feel-up. Its just part of the state of mind that I pur myself in right before I enter an airport…be calm…be polite…be patient…in other words, I just want make it inside the plane.
    And I have been following your posts for a long time thinking, you know, the worst part of this is not the personal invasion or potential hazardous conditions, but really, I feel for the screeners. Who wants this job? Who wants to feel up a million stinky, fat, bitchy travelers? How can I accuse these people of molesting me when I know that they would certainly prefer to have their hand anywhere in the world besides my inner boob? It sucks for them. I feel like they are receiving a lot of abuse. Yes- its their job, but jeebus! Do I think these people could be more polite, friendly? Yes, but again, they are just doing their jobs. As I was thinking about it, I saw an article in the Huffington Post about what the TSA “agents” feel about the reaction to the pat-downs…its kind of sad…It’s all so cheap and ineffective…

    • Everywhereist

      Nicole – very good point – these folks are going through a lot. Part of me wants to say, “Well, they can quit” but on that same note, I could just stop flying, right? It’s definitely a tough situation to be in. I’m actually anticipating a TSA agent will end up suing the organization because of what THEY’VE had to go through. That would be an interesting shake-up.

      • That would be an interesting lawsuit…”Judge, I have to tell you – The amount of “junk” I had to touch left me sleepless and now, all I can see is…well…”junk”…I need at least 1 mil in mental damages alone!

  • I’m gonna opt out, but I’ll help them with the pat down by just stripping then and there. And if they have an issue, I’ll call them on the hypocrisy that it’s okay for me to be rendered naked on a computer screen but not okay for me to be naked-naked.

  • arrgh…I posted twice —delete one please!! too much wine!

    • Everywhereist

      Removed the dupe!

  • Lisa

    Ditto on feeling safer with dogs. My boss brought up the subject of all the recent security and asked for opinions. He practically had to beg me to stop talking.

  • Monica

    I went through the regular detector and set it off (giant boobs – giant underwire). They pulled my 3 year old daughter for a thorough pat down, even though she had been through the detector with no problems. They did hers first, and then me. (PS She’s deaf so they couldn’t explain to her why they had their hand up her skirt.) Awesome.

    • Everywhereist

      Monica – That is HEINOUS. Please tell me that you reported it to the TSA and to the ACLU. Not that it will do much good, but still. I hope your little girl is doing okay.

  • This whole conversation is depressing. Not for the comments, which are intelligent and insightful, but for the fact that we even have to have it.

    I fear that unless and until these new TSA procedures start hurting the airlines’ bottom-line, we’ll be stuck with them.

  • Hi Everywhereist! Big fan, first comment. Just wanted to let Edward know someone in San Diego already had the bright idea to strip down to their skivvies and beat the TSA screeners to the punch.
    didn’t end so well…

  • One of the classic con law cases taught to law students involves a challenge to the use of infrared cameras to try to find grow houses in residential neighborhoods. The Supreme Court ruled this type of investigation unconstitutional. They said it violated folks’ 4th Amendment right to be protected from unlawful searches and seizures. Part of the rationale in the case was that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their homes. If that type of investigation is illegal, then I think scanners that show people’s naken bodies are WAY illegal.

    But that’s just me.

  • amber

    i’m not from america, so am not familiar with what exactly is a ‘pat-down’. is it someone touching your body and feeling for anything suspicious?

    if so, in malaysia, we’ve got that for years. in addition to the metal detector, everybody gets some thorough patting, by either male or female security depending on your gender, from shoulders, stomach, upper to lower part of legs.. i’ve always feel uncomfortable with people touching me in any way.

    • Everywhereist

      Amber – that is precisely it. They use their hands (either the front or the backs of them) and pat your entire body, trying to feel for anything you might have hidden there.

      • amber

        well then, i’m sure you’ll be uncomfortable going through security in Malaysia (a South-East Asian country). pat-down is performed, whether you’re travelling domestic or international, to front and back of body.

        usually, it’s done by an older lady (from my encounters), but still… it’s compulsory, so i’ve never thought much about it and always thought it’s a normal procedure. until, reading about this fuss on pat-down by Americans.

        but, the new scanner thingy is really terrible. it’s hot news all over the net. the coverage on Gizmodo is enough to make one shudder. i wouldn’t want to go through it either, and you’re absolutely right to refuse it. it’s too revealing and against one’s privacy.

        • @Amber I’ve been to Malaysia. The pat down performed there is standard around the world though it’s usually not done to every person, only those randomly selected. This “enhanced pat down” in the US is a whole different level of touching.

  • As a former Preboarding Screening Officer (the fancy title for TSA agents in Canada) I can say that at no time did I ever want to want to physically search anyone. Hell I hate doing random scans on people, and that didn’t involve any physical pat downs. That job was tiring, thankless, and full up of bureaucratic bullshit. In my case I worked for security for 5 years because I really didn’t think there was anything else better. For an entry-level job, for someone with no university education (at the time) it was the best paying, easiest (read: mundane) job I could get. When I quit I took a massive pay cut, but my stress level has gone from the ‘fucking insane’ level to ‘normal.’ I’ve been on both sides of the table, and I don’t think they way security has been going about things is the best. Bomb sniffing dogs could definitely be an alternative. And I think Canada and the US could learn a lot from the El Al security system, we try but we’re nowhere near the level they are. But that requires a whole new mindset from the public, government, security companies and screening agents. It requires more extensive training, and higher hiring standards than what’s current out there – we used to joke the only thing you need to get hired is two feet, and a heartbeat. It’s not far from the truth

    But anyways I digress. I’ll admit my coworkers and I used to slow down lines when we wanted to piss off our supervisors, or when we got a jackass in line. But I certainly wouldn’t think security would slow down the entire line just to prove something to the public, especially coming up on such a busy travel weekend. After all it just means a longer day for those working security, taking more crap from the public. Even though I haven’t worked security for a couple of years we had to check the waist bands on physical searches too, because you can hide some pretty serious shit there…. just because it’s small doesn’t mean it’s not as dangerous.

    Still I’m so glad I got of that job while I could. I still know people who work there, and think there isn’t anything better for them. To me anything is better than that job.

  • I’m concerned about the radiation from the scanners. It seems possible that we’ll end up killing more people with these scanners than the terrorists ever did in the first place. Then what has it accomplished? Some false sense of security? Just because the 9/11 attack happened with planes doesn’t mean there are not (many) other ways to commit an act of terrorism.

  • I can understand the frustration and also the fear that comes with being subjected to this however the security of getting a bomb onto a plane or even a replica is now much tougher to do and so I am happy to be subjected to a bit of inconvinience so long as the airplane is secure. I do not take my personal space or annoying security checks to seriously. Just put up with it and let it go.

    • BoJack

      Yeah, but the thing is that all of those “bombers” that failed, as well as 9/11, were done by the GOVERNMENT to JUSTIFY these scanners and pat-downs. What’s the easiest way to convince the public getting their genitals touched is a good idea? You get an agent to put a “bomb” in their underwear, and have it fail. No offense, but you’re just another ignorant sheep, Jonathan. Have fun when martial law hits after another false flag attack.

      • “No offense, but you’re just another ignorant sheep” – Well I took offense. Either way what does it matter, if the government is behind everything (which I dont think they are) then I still dont care because there is nothing I can do about it, might as well just go with the flow and get patted down. And BoJack no offense, but you’re just another paranoid fruit loop 😉

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  • Wanted to follow up on our travels.

    I flew Wednesday and Saturday with my 4 year old son.

    We went through security at Tampa International. I swear, walking up to the scanners I could feel my heart pounding and my body go clammy. Yuck. Also, I was shaking. Still, I tried my best not to *look* so frazzled for fear they would call us out because of odd behavior.

    They allowed us through the metal detectors. The only thing they checked extra was his backpack, with the juice box in it. They swiped it but let us keep it. Phew.

    On the way back we went through security in Omaha. Again, I was watching and ready to opt out. They let us through the metal detectors there as well.

    No incidents, thankfully. Though I believe the lady behind me opted out since she was subsequently patted down and I heard them call for a “female assist”. It seemed awkwardly done but nothing too aggressive or violent.

    So, we got through without issue.

    I must admit I was relieved, though answering my 4 year old’s honest question, “why do we have to take off our shoes?” was a little difficult to explain without scaring him. I believe in honesty, which didn’t make much sense to him so I followed up with “we’re letting out feet breathe” which prompted many more questions than the “sometimes bad people hide weapons in their shoes, so this is for security”…

    We made it. Hope everyone else had a relatively uneventful holiday as well.

    • Everywhereist

      Kristen – I’m so glad things went smoothly for you – it definitely sounds like a small percentage of people actually get sent through the machines (I’m still trying to figure out why I’ve managed to get picked two out of two times). It must have been tough explaining to your four-year-old about why you needed to take your shoes off … I can’t even imagine what I would have said.

  • brava Everywhereist! from what I heard, many young good looking female travellers are “randomly selected” and TSA agents aren’t too keen on touching men. does that sound like remotely close to what you saw at the airport?

    anyhow, I hope you will find time to repost your experience on our site. (copy and paste!) we encourage people to opt out in order to avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation, not to mention the invasion of privacy. though the radiation level is supposed to be very low, any TSA agents can set the strength at will.

    They’ve gone too far.

    • BoJack

      Well, I’ll be leaving from Atlanta Airport in 5 days to go to England, so I’ll post my experience from there in a week or so. Cheers!

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  • J

    Oh please…

    You people are so soft. Are you really complaining about being scanned and body-searched? Do you think they are doing it for no reason? Just to piss you off? Just to “violate” your rights not to be touched? You think TSA employees enjoy “groping” your children? For goodness sakes, leave it alone. They are doing it to ensure YOUR safety. If you aren’t willing to accept small inconveniences in your lives for the sake of airline safety, maybe you should move some place where you are arrested for “opting out.” Suck it up and deal, these new measures are the least of your worries in a day and age where terrorists are trying to fly planes into buildings.

    • Everywhereist

      Yeah, I have this pesky habit of questioning authority and gross infringements of my rights. I didn’t realize they were doing all of this to keep me safe! This changes everything! I’m going to get my lady bits vajazzled with the words, “TSA 4EVA.” They’ll get to see it next time I go through security.

      • J

        While I appreciate your sarcasm (and, for the record, it would be hilarious to see the TSA agent’s reaction when he/she saw “TSA 4eva,”), I dont agree that this is “gross infringements of my rights.” It’s not like they are taking everybody in the back and giving them a full rectal exam (which, by the way, IS legal if you are suspected of having something up there). It’s a body scan. Really? Is that really such an infringment? Is that really so traumatizing? I dont know, I just dont get it. Maybe it’s a female thing, having their breats cupped or what not (even though they can check my male parts all they want, more awkward for them than me). I think it’s well worth the slight inconvenience and the peace of mind that my flight will be safer.

        • Everywhereist

          For me, a body scan is most definitely an infringement. It’s absurd. If you are okay with having your genitals irradiated, go for it. Hell, I hope you even enjoy it. That would make it a win for everyone.

          Frankly, my account was pretty even-handed and fair, and I’ve been insulted by you and the commenter below enough. I’m over this discussion.

        • J

          Sure, your account was fair. It’s your opinion. But am I not allowed to disagree? Since your blog is so popular, I assume you are prepared to deal with people like me differing from you when you post something opinion-based, yes? Sorry to have insulted you by disagreeing.

        • J

          And also, you should do some research on radioactive exposure. These scanners are virtually harmless unless you’re travelling and being scanned several times a week.

  • hello stevens

    Ya know, would you feel safer on the plane if they did a BAD job of searching the person next to you, who is about to light her bra where enough C-4 can be hidden and blow a hole in the plane? Don’t laugh, it takes less than a few ounces INSIDE your bra’s fabric and a blasting cap that hidden in your laptop.

    Am not in favor of all this, but get a grip. If you don’t like it, stay home, take a car, walk or whatever. “standing up” to the TSA and make them the bad ‘guy’ when they trying to protect you is plain silly and not funny at all.

    Reading the comments I see there are plenty of people who faults the TSA trying to save their @ss because it was ‘inconvenient’. Wish they’d have two planes, One is no search and the other with search. Would you go on the ‘unsearched one’?
    Ask yourself next time.

    The best answer is, don’t fly if you oppose this ‘inconvenience’.
    “But I have to get there!” You say?
    Find another way or shut up.

    • Everywhereist

      How can you implore me not to laugh when you are SO DAMN FUNNY?

      BEWARE THE BRA BOMBER! I can’t wait until I have to pop off my discount Nordstrom Rack underwire brassiere and toss that in the bin, too.

      • J

        Yeah, because there’s NEVER been an underwear bomber before. That’s unheard of. See, I can be sarcastic too.

        • Everywhereist

          Sniffle – you can! I am SO PROUD. 🙂

    • J

      Thank you, thank you.

      • Everywhereist

        And also, you are totally right. There was an underwear bomber. Thank god the TSA’s efforts caught him in time!

        Oh, wait …

        • J

          If you remember, the underwear bomber was one of the reasons TSA started their new screenings. But I guess they should just let people through, since they didn’t catch that one before he got on the plane….I mean, what are the chances of someone trying THAT again….

  • KB

    Just out of curiosity, has a terrorist attack ever been foiled by a pat-down? Is it shown to be effective at all,
    or just someone’s unproven, loathsome idea of pseudo-deterrence? I like the dog screening idea, and I would guess
    that it is not only more effective, but cheaper, quicker and more acceptable to travelers. We should all demand
    some kind of proven efficacy since all of us are forced to spend billions of extra travel dollars on this cosmetic
    (“see we’re doing something”) crap. Infuriating. Treating kids as described above is just wrong.

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  • Noelle

    I’m coming into this conversation a little late but I’m just wondering what company is selling the scanner machines? Is the government buying all the machines from ONE company? And, maybe I’m sounding a little political-conspiracy-crazy, but who’s benefiting from the sales of these extremely expensive machines? I just find it bizarre that if sniffing bomb dogs would actually do the trick (or close enough – whatever that means), wouldn’t that be a cheaper and safer option? So that leads me back to…what company is making/selling these machines and are there any sketchy ties to the government, blah blah blah? I may sound crazy hahaha but it’s worth asking!!! We can’t trust anything nowadays.

    • Asenath

      L-3 Communications makes the back scatter scanners, the bag scanners, and other equipment used by TSA. You aren’t crazy to ask that question.

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