Lots of readers and friends ask me how I deal with TSA checkpoints at airports. They know I don’t approve of all of the searches and have privacy concerns. But, the airport checkpoint is not the place to argue the issues you don’t like. TSA officers have to go through their motions just like you have to go through the motions. Register your disgust with the system or your problems with it through comments or in letters to TSA and your representatives.
In the meantime, here are my ten steps to a smooth trip through a TSA checkpoint.
Before you start reading, these are my personal comments. Note: I am a male. There may be different issues for women. I heard recently that one woman was patted down after going through the metal detector because she was wearing a full skirt. If there are women-specific actions I will add them, or put together a post about women (probably by a woman).
1. Look at the security line. Look for the whole-body scanners. Avoid those lanes that funnel into these scanners. Not only is your privacy being violated and you are be doused with who knows how much radiation, but the good old magnetometers move people faster. Nothing against kids and families, but avoid them in any security line.
2. Take everything out of your pockets. Everything. The new whole-body scanners cannot even stand to see a Kleenex.
3. Have a special pocket where you regularly put your valuables and loose junk like pens, receipts, business cards, etc. when going through the scanners. I use the zipper pocket on my Gore-tex jacket that I always take with me when I travel.
4. Take off your belt. No whole-body scanner likes them and will reject you. You’ll probably have to take the belt off anyway and then get a pat down. Plus, even when going through the old-fashioned metal detectors, you never know when they are going to set the darn thing off.
5. Shuffle quietly through the line. Try not to make eye contact with any TSA officer. TSA officers are now trying to chat us up. Since we have no idea what words are considered threatening or what actions indicate that you may be a terrorist, it is better to speak to no one. I think we as passengers have the right to remain silent at least as far as conversations go.
6. Wear slip-on shoes.
7. Pull your computer out of your briefcase (unless you have one of those TSA-approved bags that can be opened partially and laid flat).
8. Remember to have your liquids in small bottles packed into a baggie. TSA repeats regularly — 3-1-1. I honestly forget what it actually is supposed to mean. As for the baggie? Don’t think any baggie will do. You must have a quart-sized baggie. I still haven’t figured out why TSA is so insistent on the size of the baggie. Place the baggie in a separate bin from your computer.
9. Ask to opt out if you cannot avoid the line with the whole-body scanner, politely. That will cause some commotion and you may have to wait a bit for a pat-down artist to arrive. Be pleasant. He doesn’t particularly like patting you down any more than you like being patted down. I normally ask him to give my back a few extra scratches before sending me on my way. The TSA pat-down guys normally chuckle about that. I am fairly certain that asking for a back scratch is not a signal that you are planning to bomb a plane.
10. Carefully pick up all of your belongings at the end of the baggage scanner after going through the magnetometer, or after you get your pat-down. You won’t believe how many laptops, cameras, cell phones, wallets full of credit cards and cash, and keys get left at TSA checkpoints.
There you go. Ten easy steps to get through security. In other words, cooperate (except for going through that blasted whole-body scanner).