My adventures and mis-adventures as I travel here and there

Airport Full-Body Scanners Pose A Travel Conundrum

My husband and I recently had a debate over which would be the better option at the airport, in light of the new security scans and alternative pat-downs. (“Better” could be defined as healthier and/or less traumatizing.)

The usual pat-down is the alternative for those who choose to opt out of the new nude full-body scanners. It might not be as great of a trade-off as it sounds, however, since TSA staff have been instructed to give a more thorough examination than travelers are used to.  How thorough is this, exactly?

My husband did a mock pat-down of me to illustrate how he imagined the new, more invasive procedures might go. When imagining that stranger was doing it, I felt violated and a little upset! I really don’t relish the thought of airport personnel rifling around in my crotch or any other place on my body that I hold near and dear. I’ve had the back-handed pat-down before and didn’t mind it at all, and I had imagined that the new procedure probably wouldn’t be terribly horrendous, but after my husband’s “demo” I almost didn’t want to risk psychological trauma!

On the other hand, who really wants a stranger to see a naked picture of them just so they can get on a plane? My husband has threatened to just show up nude at the airport and save them the trouble… Still, the images probably aren’t saved permanently anywhere and there probably aren’t any health risks from going through the scanners every once in awhile… or are there?  TSA claims that the pictures will never be used or seen anywhere else, that they’re more skeletal than fleshy, and that the scanners are safe for our health, but a whole lot of money was spent on getting these machines into use.  Monetary investments always create bias.

Our next flight is planned for the spring. We’re flying to California, and my husband has threatened to have us drive instead. I think that’s going a little overboard, but at the same time I’m still not sure which is the better choice if faced with a rock and a hard place: nude scanning or invasive groping? I still haven’t been able to decide.

The changes have provided inspiration for everything from cartoons about body scanners and pat-downs to “Don’t Touch my Junk” T-shirts.  The same scanner images appear everywhere, along with illustrations of how easy it would be for someone who got hold of your picture to merely invert the image and see your body in detail.

In the spotlight is Meg Mclain, who relates to Alex Jones a tale of trauma, overreaction, and humilation when she refused both the body scanner and pat-down. Her story, however, isn’t substantiated by video surveillance of the airport. Two videos, one of the scanner area and one of her exit, seem to contradict her story. I think we need to be careful not to get all riled up over accounts like this in which the person in question either deliberately expounded on the facts or remembers the events differently than the way they actually happened…

On the other hand, the stories in this news report sound pretty bad…. I especially feel sorry for the old man who was just trying to go celebrate his wedding anniversary with his wife. 😦

On a positive note, anecdotal reports from friends who’ve flown recently indicate that the pat-downs still aren’t so offensive. I look forward to hearing from more people I know before it’s my turn to fly the friendly skies. Your comments on the subject are especially welcomed!

December 1, 2010 Posted by | Airplane, Airport Security, Transportation, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Airports and Flying: What NOT to put in Luggage

Note to self: do not ever put a can of V8 into a checked luggage bag again!

I should have known better, but when we got to the airport yesterday, I threw some unconsumed liquids into a checked bag so they’d make it through security. This included a can of V8 (I love V8!). This unfortunate can of V8 exploded in my suitcase in the air over Oklahoma or Missouri or Illinois and, when mixed with a similarly burst bag of cashews, made a disgusting mess all over my clothes and roller blades (yes, I had roller blades in my suitcase) and crocheting. So gross.

It seems that I will never be completely trained when it comes to modern air travel. I remember my first few flights after 9-11. I made all kinds of mistakes and am just happy that I manage to have a particularly non-terrorist look. On one flight airport security x-rays found two pairs of scissors and a razor blade in my carry-on…. oops. On another occasion I triumphantly attempted to carry a suitcase onto the plane which contained all of my carefully-wrapped Christmas gifts for my family. I was so proud of myself for having everything done ahead of time, just ready to slide under the Christmas tree. The looks security personnel gave me, however, when they saw a HAMMER in one of the packages was nothing like admiration, but rather dismay. How could this girl be so stupid?! Lucky for me, I was able to check my bag, and my dad still got his hammer. Some people aren’t so lucky, however. Yesterday in the airport the boyfriend and I were noticing the mailing service the airport provides where you can put your taboo items in a little bag and have them mailed to yourself. The prices caught our attention: $20 for a liquid bottle??? I guess this helps people to get their priorities straight, as most items aren’t worth that much in the first place. When the boyfriend mistakenly left his overnight bag in his carry-on and had to forfeit his toothpaste and shower gel, only a few tears were shed. What happens, though, when you make similar mistakes regarding more expensive or sentimental items? $20.

Don’t just assume, however, that you can forget what’s in your bag and then either surrender it or mail it to yourself when the x-ray spots it. Sometimes you can be prosecuted or prevented from flying even if the banned inclusion was an honest mistake. Furthermore, security personnel can decide at their discretion whether or not you may keep a taboo item to mail home or whether they must take it from you forever. It’s a good idea to stay updated regarding what is currently allowed and what is not.

Hey, does anyone have funny airport stories? Stupid things you mistakenly left in your carry-on? I’d love to hear them. A good compilation of stories like that would be extremely entertaining!

One last thing: You know those funny booties airports provide for you to wear on your feet when you have to take your shoes off? The ones that look kind of like shower caps? Well, I tried those for the first time yesterday and kind of fell in love temporarily- they were so comfortable! As a person who spent her entire childhood barefoot, I sometimes bemoan the constriction of shoes (while at the same time having an insatiable love for shoes, which is weird). The booties made me feel like I was going barefoot all through the airport, but without getting my feet dirty or stepping on icky feeling dirt and crumbs. So I kept wearing them. I wore them…. probably longer than anyone who is normal would dare (people gave me funny looks)… but it felt so nice that I didn’t care!

While on the topic of acting a little insane in airports, let me share my favorite bit of airport weirdness, courtesy of Nalts:

April 19, 2010 Posted by | Airplane, Travel, United States | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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