“Pat downs or Full-Body Imaging? TSA Airport Backlash” screams the headline for an article on OpenMarket.org. My only quibble with the piece is that the headline implies there is an either/or choice at the security barrier. I went through the process on Monday and got both the scan and the pat-down — and more.
I was traveling from D.C. to Maine via the Baltimore airport. The line was moving very slowly thanks to a woman who refused to be scanned or groped. This confused the TSA officers to the point that they began chatting about what to do with her.
As usual, I stripped myself of anything metallic except my earring and buttons. I put all of it in a gray bin and pushed my bag through the machine, after having to wait for several people in wheelchairs to cut in front of me and go through the process.
I went through the scanner fully cooperating and followed the instructions. Yet I was still taken aside as I exited the machine. No warning bells went off like with the old metal detectors, so I thought it might be random.
As I was asked to move aside, a TSA woman said to me: “Do you know you look like Ron Jeremy (the porn star)? I guess you get that a lot.” I replied that I also got “Gene Simmons,” which I preferred. Needless to say, I replied to them in a polite manner despite the inappropriate banter.
They took me aside and did the pat-down, feeling all over my body as is their habit. Then the TSA officer proceeded to feel my stomach as if I were a pregnant woman. He explained that I had a hard patch on my stomach and they wanted to check it and make sure it was all me. It was painful and disturbing.
I informed the TSA officer that it was the scar from my colon cancer operation that went from my crotch to my sternum. A day later the scar still hurts from the kneading and prodding. I was informed they were checking in order to determine if I had anything sewn into my stomach. I offered to lift my shirt to show the TSA officer the still rather graphic scar, but he refused.
So in just five minutes I was told I looked like a notorious porn star by a TSA female employee and then had my scar examined by a man. I was so very pleased to be reminded of the painful and frightening (I had post-op complications including “dying several times”) experience of a few years ago.
I guess there is a new category of suspect persons to the TSA: “traveling with scars.”
What exactly did all this have to do with stopping terrorists? Why was it necessary to embarrass and humiliate me? What was accomplished by this disgusting display by a power-drunk staff? I have never had this sort of experience before despite my frequent traveling both in the U.S. and abroad.
Surely it would have been better had the dozens of staff on hand been inspecting packages in the holds of airplanes instead of kneading my scar.