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As I mentioned on twitter earlier today, I had a bit of an adventure at the TSA today.

Short version: Nothing too exciting, but a few things of note. No, I didn't get arrested or detained. No, I wasn't wearing my kilt (I chickened out. Besides, it's in the 30s in Seattle...) I did opt out of the full-body scanner, AND my bag was tagged for additional screening; I don't believe these two are related. And, oh yeah, another girl going through the line was so fed up with the groping she got that she pulled up her shirt above her head and screamed "Can you see everything now?!" (Before you ask, yes she was wearing a bra.)

Long version:
My consideration whether to wear the kilt went as far as getting the kilt out of the closet, but it never made it into my bag; I chickened out that early. It's kinda a hassle anyway, and not warm enough for weather in the 30s. As much as I'd love for it to play a larger part in my story, this is likely all I'll say about it. :-(

My flight was at 8:45, which meant getting up at 5:45am, after getting to bed at about midnight. Even so, I didn't have time to get breakfast or my daily tea before hitting the airport. For some reason, I remember long term parking being in the garage in the middle of the terminals (this is SFO), but apparently, it's way the hell north involving a 15 minute shuttle ride to the International terminal, where Virgin America is. In any case, it took me a lot longer to get to the airport than I expected, so I was rather in a hurry to get through security.

There were two security lines: First Class (lots of pin stripes and expensive shoes), and Chumps (a mix of Uggs, hipsters, and old-lady-jewelry; I wasn't wearing any jewelry, and don't own any Uggs, so by process of elimination, I must have been one of the hipsters.) There were a few pin-stripes queued up most of the time I was in line, and the Uggs were stacked up 4 rows deep in the queue. The First Class row had one of those full-body back scatter X-ray machines, and the Chump line just had a metal detector, so I naturally assumed I would get to avoid the problem all together.

As luck would have it, just as I reached the end of the Chump queue and started taking my shoes off (my laces might be laced with barbed wire; that's why they're called laces!), one of the TSA goons noticed the First Class line was empty and started channeling a few Chumps over there; I was one of these chumps.

I got to the X-Ray and politely told the TSA agent that I Opt-Out. They stopped me, and the whole line behind me, and got on the radio to call for "Male Assistance, Opt Out." They walked me through the Chump line metal detector (which then held up BOTH lines), then had me wait another few minutes while the Male Assistance arrived.

They pulled me aside. I say "They" because there were two TSA agents. One was doing all the work, but occasionally looked back to the other for a prompt, as if he was being trained. (I view this as a good thing.)

The agent asked whether I wanted a private pat down, and I declined. I'm not ashamed of my body (neither was Topless Lady; more on that later), and part of my goal was to let other people see what's involved in this new procedure, so I let it happen in public.

He then proceeded to forcefully touch me on nearly every square inch of my body. Seriously. I don't think my colonoscopy was as thorough and comprehensive as this "pat down." The only part of me he didn't touch was my face and head (which were clearly exposed), and the bottoms of my feet (which were busy supporting the rest of me.) And we're not talking about light touches, we're talking full-on would-have-pushed-me-over-if-he-wasn't-pushing-on-the-other-side groping. I kinda enjoyed the part where he was checking out my upper back; I had to resist the urge to say "Ooo, a little higher.. Yeah, right there." All kidding aside, I'm serious, he was damn sure he felt my whole body and didn't miss anything. He checked my collar, my belt line, my frontal pubes, my lower pubes, and my crevasal cavities... He was comprehensive.

Through out the entire process, he was very clear about what he was going to do. At no point did he touch me without first telling me he was going to touch me there, whether it was a sensitive spot or not. (This is also good.)

When he was done, before I was allowed to start putting all my accouterments back together (belt and shoes on, laptop, CPAP, wallet and phone back into pockets and luggage, etc), the agent did a thorough wipe down of his gloves with the white circular pads of paper and put it in the machine to detect explosives. This struck me as interesting, though in hindsight I'm not sure why. I think I just wasn't expecting it. Part of me puts this in the Good Thing category, but a more cynical part of me lumps it together with all the others in the Security Theatre category. In any case...

Let me back up. About the same time I was pulled over to the side for my gate rape, my luggage was also tagged for a "random" search. So through out my groping, I was asked lots of "Is this yours?" type questions. They took my CPAP and suitcase through the X-Ray machine several times (I'm not sure what they were looking for the second and third times that they didn't see the first time) and gave them a good wipe down with the circular paper pads they use for detecting explosives. They pulled out the pack of baby wipes I now carry with me everywhere and ran THEM through by themselves (WTF?) I'm really not sure what got them in a tizzy about my stuff. They did it all in plain sight so I know they didn't do anything nefarious or inappropriate, just seemingly arbitrary and unnecessary.

They were different agents searching my body and my stuff, but they happened at about the same time. When the Stuff agent was looking for me to inform me it was flagged for further search, he seemed genuinely surprised to see me with the Body agent, so I'm confident they didn't flag my stuff because I opted-out.

Time to put on the tin-foil mind control prevention hat for a second and play a what-if game. I noticed today that the last few times I've flown, my luggage has been flagged for further search. Sometimes I know why (for example, I wasn't aware that crimp tools (or any non-blade tool for that matter) above a certain size weren't allowed), but other times, like today, I didn't have anything they don't allow, and I didn't forget to pull my laptop and CPAP out (like I have in the past.) I did everything right this time, and they still flagged me.

A security researcher name Moxie Marlinspike, and several others like him, have been tagged by DHS in some way that has cursed them to not just have their luggage checked every time they go through security, but to actually get pulled aside, detained, and questioned every damn time they fly. Moxie claims he has no idea why he's on any list.

It's obvious that he's on a list. It is far less obvious for me, but I'm beginning to wonder. Knowing that these lists exist, it's not too far of a stretch to consider that there are varying degrees of "pissed-off-an-agent-in-the-past" and that maybe attempting to carry a crimp tool through security put me on some list somewhere and that I will forever be pulled aside for my bag to be groped and x-rayed several times. I will report on my experience when coming back.

Now the part you've all been waiting for: TOPLESS GIRLS!

It's really not that exciting... While I was being groped, I was facing the lines of people as they were being herded through the machines. A middle aged woman (40s or 50s) was being groped and was obviously upset about it. At one point, she had one of those mental Fuck-It moments, pulled her top up over her head, screamed "NOW! CAN YOU SEE EVERYTHING?!" and flashed the several TSA agents who had all started collecting around the belligerent woman. Several "Oh!"s and "Ma'am!"s and "Uhh..."s came from the agents, and she put her shirt back down, but they continued their search, apparently didn't find anything, and let her on her way. I was still being violated, so I didn't see where she went, or if she made any phone calls or anything. I was, however, thankful that I was not the most annoying traveler there.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 22, 2011 8:38 PM.

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