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

I’m in the… Where??

Map of the Philippines

Map of the Philippines

I think it’s August 17, anyway. This time travel thing is really messing with my head. I’m currently in the air between Manila and General Santos City. In the last 24 or so hours I’ve spent at least 17 hours in an airplane and gotten about 5 hours of sleep. Oh, and I’ve skipped half a day.

I left Dallas at 9am Wednesday morning and flew to Detroit. There, after a several-hour layover, I got on a lengthy flight to Nagoya, Japan. Wouldn’t you know it, the entertainment system experienced technical difficulties (meaning: no movies). Unable to sleep for nearly the entire flight, I was left to my own thoughts for 12 hours. Everyone got $150 in vouchers, but it was still the worst plane ride of my life. Time absolutely crawled. I was considering the fact that the time I got sick and threw up several times could be a worse flight, but then upon landing in Japan my stomach began to roll. I don’t know if it was the weird breakfast they fed me or the extreme lack of sleep, but I had trouble keeping my stomach calm long enough to de-board. So yeah. I left my breakfast in Japan. The fact that Japan is so freaking cool pretty much makes up for it, though! Ok, I know I only saw the airport, but that alone makes me sure I’ll have to go back. The Japanese are so fun! Their quirky little signs (that I got in trouble for taking pictures of), their interesting bathrooms, their high-pitched voices… what could be better!

Leaving Japan, I boarded a 3-hour flight to Manila, where I was supposed to meet up with the rest of the group. That flight was much better, especially since I actually got a little sleep. Maybe I’ll slowly get the hang of this sleeping while sitting upright thing. They kept interrupting my dreams though, once to give me a customs form and once to give me my “supper”. Ah, yes, the food. Someone let them know I should have vegetarian, so that was good. My first supper was actually an excellent little bit of some curry stuff, a rice thing, and some greens concoction. What was weird was having breakfast after zero sleep. Weirder still was being served a second supper on the way to Manila when I’d never had lunch and breakfast was still an unpleasant Japanese memory. I didn’t finish it, afraid it would follow “breakfast”. Finally, I arrived in Manila around 11:30 PM their time, which would have been 10:30am central time, 8:30am pacific. It was weird, but I was super glad it was bedtime. After wending my way through a massive immigration line, I found my bags and was just as quickly found by the rest of my group. Happily, there were no problems at customs (I retain bad memories from re-entering the United States). Unfortunately, after waiting forever for the mission’s minibus to pick us up, we had only 3 hours to shower and sleep at the mission compound before leaving for our next flight.

I woke up this morning feeling clean (good part), but really sick (bad part) from lack of sleep. Getting on this flight went without a hitch, but right now we’ve hit some pretty serious turbulence and I’m trying not to pay attention to the fact that one of our group just utilized the little bag in his seat pocket.

The Philippines is great so far! Very warm and humid, but not as bad as Texas! Everyone’s really friendly and polite. Driving through the city, it was easy to see that it’s a very poor country. I do love the jeepneys and those little carts powered by bicycle. The drivers here are amazing because they can squeeze into tight little spaces and never get a scratch.

August 17, 2007 Posted by | Philippines | , , , , | Leave a comment


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