Okay, yes, I am late to the table with my thoughts on the latest TSA rules and regulations. However, I am not actually late as I am finding out more ways to be distressed by everything.
When I first heard about the p*rnographic body scans and advanced pat downs, I had very little reaction to it. I do not fly for business and fly less often for pleasure than I would wish. I do choose the “expert” lane when offered, and I think I deserve it. I never need to be told to take off my jacket. I always put my shoes in the gray bins. I never put anything else in with my laptop. I never leave my cell phone in my pants pocket. Hell, I hardly even choose to wear an underwire bra when travelling. I have the thing down pat, and while I think it is a hassle, I didn’t really thnk it was much to bitch about. To be honest, if some dude or woman wants to get their jollies looking at a terminator style anonymous photo that shows the outlines of my bits–fucking go for it. I really don’t care that much. If the ogling is not up close and in my face, it really doesn’t matter to me.
As for the pat downs? Well, I am not thrilled at the “more touching” aspect, but I didn’t get too excited about that part either. I touch people a lot at work, and I am required to get more intimate with patients’ intimates than I prefer. Since I get absolutely no thrill from this, I figure anyone else touching way too many people for a living would be unlikely to get kicks out of it either.
Two things have changed my feelings about the new rules. The first is children. I won’t link it because everyone else has, but there was video of the 3yo girl who freaked out at seeing her teddy go “into the hole.” Said freaked-outed-ness (in addition to her age) made her unable to stand still enough to complete the scan. Two unsuccessful tries on the scan earns you a pat down. The video of that terrified kid climbing up her mother’s body to try to get away from the patter made me incredibly sad. I get it, really, I do. However, these screeners obviously need much, much more training in how to deal with kids. Or, perhaps they could engage the parents for assistance/ideas that might help the kid through it. I am glad that I do not have any children so decisions about how to handle them are not mine to make.
The thing that has me totally squigged out is the report claiming, “The woman who checked me reached her hands inside my underwear and felt her way around. It was embarrassing. It was demeaning.” To be honest, I am not sure I would find such an incident to be embarrassing or demeaning. I would, however, find it disgustingly germy if a TSA agent put hands covered with the same gloves she had searched god-knows-how-many other people “down my pants.” I am not a germaphobe by anyone’s definition. I wash my hands a billion times a day at work because they have secret spies to make sure I do. I also do this because it is proven to help prevent patients acquiring infections while in the hospital. I do not carry any purse sized hand sanitizer in my car or on my person. I do not (as many of my colleagues do) take my clothes off in the garage before entering the house as they may have some evil hospital germs on them. I wear my work sneakers in real life. Gererally speaking, I am not worried about germs. That goes for the outside of my clothes only! Anything on the inside (underpants or bare skin) is off fucking limits to dirty shit. This includes those freaking gloves I mentioned before. They have touched too many potentially dirty things to be put INSIDE MY CLOTHES! I swear I would much rather do a strip search than let them touch me with gloves they have had on for an hour or more. Okay, taking a deep breath. Perhaps I will get lucky and make it through the scanner on the first or second try–and not be randomly selected for a pat down. This would be the best scenario for me. Failing that, I could ask nicely that the screener change gloves for me. (It is not unusual these days for a patient to ask me to wash my hands when I enter the room. I do this to make them feel more confident–even if I know I just walked from the sink at the desk straight to their bedside.) If neither of those options are successful, I think I will be one of those people making a scene. I make scenes rarely, but I am fully capable. Demanding to be taken to a private room and strip searched instead of being touched by used gloves just might qualify. In fact, I would rather be publicly strip searched than touched by dirty gloves.
Add all this to the fact that I do not believe that the increased TSA security has made us any safer. The problem on september 11 was not that the screeners didn’t find the box cutters. The problem was that box cutters were legal on an airplane at that time. Americans thought being “hijacked” meant being flown to Cuba and held for ransom. The heroes on Flight 93 in Pennsylvania set the example for what will stop these bastards, and the passengers on the flights with the shoe and underwear bombers followed their lead. I do not consider myself a hero by any means. However, I do know with all that is in me that if some fucker starts acting squirrely on a plane and tries to light shit on fire–I will be among the many “everyday passengers” who will react quickly and sit on his or her fucking head until somebody shows up with handcuffs and a gun. That is the way to stop events like 9/11. Not patting down 3 year old kids who just want to make sure his/her teddy bear made it out of the dark hole, or putting grubby paws on me or anybody else.