Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My “Enhanced” TSA Experience

I didn’t really know what to expect when I stood in line at the airport last week. I had read about the new security procedures, but wasn’t particularly worried about getting though them. I have a pretty laid back approach when I travel – go with the flow.

Stepping into the full body scanner was surreal. These science-fictiony contraptions kind of reminded me of the “beamer” on Star Trek. You stand in a round glass tube with your arms above your head and the walls swirl around you as some guy in another room sees you naked. As discomfiting as this was, I endured it without too much trouble. But then, for some reason, I got the pat-down.

A female TSA agent motioned me out of the scanner and pointed to two of those foot stickers on the floor. I assumed the position, wondering what was going on. The agent, who didn’t say one word to me through the entire procedure, played with her walkie talkie while I stood for perhaps 2-3 minutes, waiting for who knows what. Then she abruptly stepped over to me, motioned that I should extend my arms and then began running her hands over my body – in places only my doctor and husband have ever touched. I was shocked speechless. I couldn’t even think to tell her to not touch my junk.

Oh, and by the way, I had an audience for the whole thing. Judging by the way they stared, it must have been quite a show.

Maybe it would have been better if the TSA employee had explained to me what was happening, why I was subjected to a pat-down in addition to the scanner. Or let me know that I had the right to a private pat-down away from all the eyes. But I doubt that even these actions would make this a tolerable experience. It was too humiliating, too invasive, too dehumanizing.

I dread my next trip.

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