My Adventures With TSAPosted: September 9, 2013
I know there are folks who have their issues with the Transportation Security Administration. I’m not one of them.
TSA was given the job of protecting us. They do the best they can with the tools they’re given.
Yes, things happen. Grandmothers get searched. Babies sometimes become suspect. I get searched sometimes. I’m comfortable trading those things off for the added safety the agency provides.
We don’t have to agree on that. You’re not wrong if we disagree. I just needed an opening paragraph or three for some jabbering about TSA.
Yeah, Check THAT Out
On a trip a few months ago, I passed through one of the x-ray scanners. I’d carefully triple checked to make sure that there was nothing in any of my pockets. I put every bit of metal I had in my carry-on. The only thing that I thought could cause some alarm is a titanium plate and screws that were part of a surgical repair to my neck. I passed through the scanner, then waited for a TSA officer to clear me.
I wasn’t cleared. The officer told me that they’d “detected an anomaly” and he was going to have to pat down my shorts.
Like I said before, I have no issue with TSA and that extends to when I’m the one getting the pat down. The pat down was professional. There wasn’t anything in my shorts that was not original equipment. Best of all, I got several weeks of jokes out of “the anomaly in my shorts.”
Be Cool. Act Straight
Now, in spite of my support of TSA, I am always nervous when I deal with them. I’ve read that some of their staff have trained to pick up on behavioral cues that may show that a passenger is a security issue.
When I go through screening, I think about being observed and wonder what they’re looking for. I try different strategies to make sure that I’m not looking sketchy to TSA…because I’m not sketchy and I want to get where I’m going.
Sometimes I stay very formal. I say ma’am and sir and please and thank you and nothing else. And then I think that I was too formal and aroused suspicion.
The next time, I’ll go through and try being gregarious. I greet the screeners before they greet me. I tell jokes. I thank them for looking after us. Then, while they scan my bag, I think “you were way too outgoing and acted like you’ve got something to hide. Why would you even try to act that way? It is the exact opposite of you.”
All Posers Should Be Searched, Every Time
Not long ago, I’d cleared security and was on my way to my plane. An announcement came over the terminal’s public address system –
May I have your attention, please. A cane was left at security check point B. If you are missing your cane, please return to check point B to claim it.
This announcement raised two questions for me. First, if you can stroll on down the concourse without your cane, how bad can it be? You’ve proven you don’t need the cane.
A person carrying a cane that they don’t need leads to my second question – shouldn’t that person be screened further? Best case, he is a poser who thinks a walking stick makes him look distinguished. For that, he should be searched. But if he isn’t a poser, why is he insistent on taking a stick on a plane? I’m not carrying one, no one else has one. Why does Mr. Forgetful Cane-man need one?
Mr. Cane-man needs to go to the back room for some serious discussion.
I See London, I See France. You’re Not Wearing Underpants
There was a woman on my last flight who was not wearing underwear. I knew it. About a dozen other passengers knew it as well. No, she wasn’t wearing a thong. Here is how things were layered immediately adjacent to her:
- Red denim
- Butt skin
Did you see anything between red denim and butt skin? Neither did I.
Here’s the thing. TSA does not screen for the type of skivvies you choose on a given day. If you wear your Tuesday panties on Friday, the government won’t know or care. Go on and wear underwear when you fly.
Going without at the airport could lead to unintended consequences. The lady in red hadn’t factored in that she’d have to sit down on a bench to re-tie her shoes after security screening. The physics of her pants, the lack of a belt, and bending at the waist lead to some shifting of those pants.
I spent ten minutes in line listening to this woman complain about being screened because she was “obviously not a terrorist”. In the end, she exposed eight to ten inches of vertical smile while she tied her shoes. She griped about TSA seeing too much, then forced several dozen of her fellow passengers to see far more than any of us wanted.