Editor’s note: This is part two of Karen’s missive on TSA security. This time we learn how to defensively dress, pack and maneuver through TSA checkpoints. It’s tough when you are considered a terrorist first and an innocent American only after being scanned and frisked. Read part 1 here.
Anyone who has to travel learns live with TSA’s airport security regime. I try my best to comply with all the rules. Oh, I did sneak through a 5-hour energy drink (they are expensive and I didn’t want it to be confiscated) in my purse once by hiding it under my camera – and still not have to go through the scanner.
I now dress defensively – I pick my outfit for my flight by what would be the easiest to practically undress out of so I cannot draw attention to myself and get quickly through the line. Style? Forget it.
I once wore a pair of lace up boots. They looked so chic, but took forever to get on and off. Never again! Same with sandals – no matter how hot it is, no way am I ever walking through the security area in my bare feet. Ick!
Recently, I carefully tied a stylish scarf around my neck. So stupid! Of course, they told me to take it off and I was stymied when I tried to duplicate the delicate knot at the end of the security “dance.”
I avoid cardigan sweaters or any jackets unless I’m willing to reveal what I’m wearing underneath. Learned that when I made the mistake of wearing a revealing camisole under a blazer that I was forced to remove despite my protestations that what I had on underneath was only designed to peak out at the neckline of the jacket. It was not a pretty sight as I felt like I was walking through security in essence in my bra. In fact, I now avoid all layering of clothing – too much hassle of taking them all off and then putting them back on again.
I got a lighter weight computer that’s easy to take out and put back in again. I have all my small shampoos, conditioners, hair spray, mousse, skin moisturizers, contact lens cleaner, contact lens solution, face creams, tooth paste – OK, I have a really hard time fitting all that in one quart plastic bag. Do they have no comprehension of all a woman (at least this woman) needs for her “toilette?” (I almost always check a bag so I can bring all the above mentioned items without the hassle of having to squeeze them into that quart-sized plastic bag.)
I travel often enough that I felt I had thoroughly mastered the TSA’s rules. The packing, unpacking, and packing again. The dressing, undressing, and dressing again. And then they introduced the whole-body scanning machines and/or the “enhanced” patdowns.
The security line jig
Now, when I go through security at the airport, all my senses are on high alert. I watch carefully to see if I can quickly and unobtrusively find the line that they might be directing to the metal detector instead of the scanner.
Unlike the TSA, I profile.
I don’t get behind families as they are often sent through the metal detector so the next person in line gets directed to the scanner. I look quickly to find a young-ish male, hopefully one that’s swarthy or a bit foreign-looking in the hopes that the TSA agent will concentrate on him and wave me through the metal detector. Of course, it’s really frustrating when it happens the other way around and my idea of the one potential terrorist going through security is waved through and I’m directed to the scanner. What’s with that?
I also try to scan the security horizon quickly to see if there are any lines that don’t have a whole-body scanner and I shift into that line no matter how long it is. Of course, this opportunity is quickly evaporating as our broke country has somehow been able to spend millions on these $200,000+ machines this year alone, not to mention the whopping annual budget of the TSA itself. (The hoards of blue-shirted TSA agents at airports these days does appear to be helping to cut down on the nation’s unemployment rate, though.)
Sometimes it all works, making me want to surprise the TSA agent with a big hug as he or she points me to the metal detector instead of the scanner. Often it’s a mission impossible, though, and I – the horrible potential terrorist that I am until proven innocent – am pointed toward the dreaded scanner.
When I refuse, I’m told, definitely derisively, it’s either the scanner or the patdown. They could care less about my 4th amendment rights. Or, if I stamp my feet like a child, which I have done. Or, if I tell them I’m the furthest thing from a terrorist that they’ll ever find. In fact, I’m told to stop complaining or they will fine me. (Makes me wonder about my freedom of speech, too.)
Then I’m subjected to an even more unreasonable search — the enhanced patdown. (And, since enhanced implies “better,” I think they should call it invasive or at least the thorough patdown.
After enduring that experience – and it’s happened at least five times over the past year – I’m left feeling unnecessarily violated no matter how much they explain what they are doing and that they are using the backs of their hands as they go over my breasts or up into my crotch. It always takes me quite a while to recover.
Granted, I could decide not to fly, but that doesn’t seem fair. I could just acquiesce and go through the scanner, but that’s against what I believe is wrong. I really don’t want my rights stripped away – literally, actually – and this is the only way I can stand up and say “no.”
I remain shocked that the American public is going along with this. Honestly, if we were required to go through this indignity by a conquering enemy, we’d fight back. We’d refuse. We’d never let them do this to our children, or our elderly, or our infirmed, let alone ourselves.
I’m encouraging everyone I can reach to please stand up and refuse the whole-body scanners. Stop allowing our government to peer through our clothing, prod and handle us this way. Somehow, I don’t think Washington, Jefferson, Adams or Hancock would have put up with this. Neither should we.