’Tis the season to be jolly, or so they say. Depends how you look at it. As I contemplate what gifts to get friends and family, I know one thing I definitely don’t want from Old St. Nick is a picture of my ‘naked ass body’ plastered all over the Internet. It seems that beside the latest round of Wikileaks documents hitting the Web and the potential terror-related damage it brings, the biggest dilemma facing folks during this second round of holiday travel is “To Screen or Not to Screen.” Ahem, I mean, when one of theKardashian sisters compares an airport security pat-down to being raped and a former Baywatch babe and Playboy model says the screeners made her feel like a piece of meat, it’s an issue.
If you’re planning on staying in town, you’re off the hook for now. But, guaranteed, most of us will be stepping onto an airplane at some point over the next year. Personally, I spent the entire week before Thanksgiving agonizing over this very thought. Luckily, my flight was scheduled to take off the day after T-Day, so I was able to gather advice from the hundreds of firsthand accounts I read on the Internet and the dozens more interviews I watched on the news, including hundreds of “I’ve been violated” complaints pouring into the ACLU, eight-year-old kids screaming in protest while getting felt up by strangers, cancer survivors removing fake breasts and even one man’s bag of urine busted at the scene, soaking him through and through. All in all, it sounded like a horror show, one I would not look forward to. Figuring I’d make my final decision when I arrived at the airport, I toyed with these various scenarios during my 40-minute ride to get there.
The X-Ray Factor
Due to a bad Internet connection at my in-laws, buying a last minute, fig-leafed, ‘x-ray blocking underwear set’ was out of the question — although kudos to the inventor for a pure dose of brilliant capitalistic spirit and a Batman sense of humor. I bet the ballsy New Yorker who showed up at LaGuardia in just his skivvies last month would have loved a pair.
Deep in thought, I first I pondered the possible health risks of radiation. I love how the TSA puts out some press release by so called “medical experts” (who I’m sure were probably hired by the TSA) telling the public not to worry, it’s perfectly safe. Really? And the FDA’s done years of testing on this? Hell, even at the dentist during your once-a-year x-ray they put that heavy blanket on you and skedaddle out of the room before the first drop of dribble comes out of your clenched mouth. For the occasional traveler, maybe it’s not so much a concern, but what if you’re a frequent flyer? Do you want to take a chance? Remember how the government assured first responders that World Trade Center dust wasn’t toxic? OK, that might be an extreme comparison, but over a lifetime, hey, you never know.
Modesty Is a Virtue
Next, I thought, if I decided to go through the x-ray machine, would I care if some TSA agent saw my boobs or the extra weight I’ve recently gained that I cleverly hide under my clothing? What if I knew it was a male screener — would it make a difference? Would they save the images and laugh at them later in the workroom? (Ah, we now know that’s a “Yes,”thanks to Gizmodo.com and a ‘Maybe’ on the workroom laughs.
And, if not my image, how about the token fat person already dealing with enough embarrassment sometimes having to buy two seats? I already feel their shame. On a side note, I wonder if New York Senator Chuck Schumer has felt any shame since pushing these new security measures on his constituents, ignoring their concerns about this very issue and telling them to basically deal with it. Especially since, barely a month after his ignoramus remarks, he’s now crowing about new legislation aimed at punishing those who distribute or publish the said images. Nothing like being a day late and a dollar short for about 35,000 passengers whose images have already been posted, sans clothing, on the Internet. Thanks for nothing, Chuck. And Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, you’re no better, assuring the American people the “imaging technology that we use cannot store, export, print or transmit images.” Big surprise — the DHS fails the American people yet again.
We all know the story about the San Diego man taken away by security after he threatened an airport screener to not “touch his junk,” all the while recording the entire incident on his cell phone. Well, it is the age of the Internet, so if you haven’t been sent this“Don’t Touch My Junk” video spoof on YouTube yet, you might be officially living under a rock. I thought about who would perform the pat down on me. Would it have to be a woman? What if I got some cute 20-something guy and I started blushing –in front of my husband, no less? What if it was a cute 20-something girl and my husband started blushing? Ewwww, what if some gross guy waiting in line behind me got into watching it? Worse, what if the guy who patted me down was gross himself? My mind started racing; the possibilities were endless. OK, calm down — I remembered I could request a private room, but how long would that take? What if I miss my flight? ARGHH! Maybe the naked snapshot wasn’t so bad after all. At least that’s what one female techie/hacker thought. And, to prove it, she actually concocted her own portable version of the x-ray scanner, still able to capture folks in the buff, just at a lower resolution. Talk about a great Secret Santa gift for that weird guy at your office who you just know is a big perv.
Get Real, Get Smart
But on the serious side, for some, the TSA pat-down is not a joke. Many of the complaints to the ACLU have been from victims of sexual assault and rape. For some, enduring these invasive pat-downs and the feelings of violation that must come with it is unthinkable. It’s like emotional torture. And for what? Are we really any safer? It’s no secret that the terrorists are always going to be one step ahead of us. Shoe-bomber: take off our shoes. Underwear bomber: get an x-ray. Terrorists will just come up with something new, while our homeland security will only be as good as their last plot. Think, people: the Christmas Day bombing attempt happened one year ago and only now are these x-ray machines being installed and they’re not even at every airport. The only surefire way to enhance security would be to scrap the antiquated “always on the defensive” system and start — gasp! — profiling for terrorists, just like the Israelis do. When was the last time one of the bad guys stepped on one of their planes? Not since the 1960s.
I say, enough with the madness. If I see one more Midwestern silver-haired grandmother taking off her Easy Spirits and being forced to shuffle through security, jingling all the way in her cute little Christmas socks with attached bells, I’ll scream. It’s just such a waste of manpower, time and money. We’re sacrificing safety for political correctness and we will pay for it eventually. Because one of these next times, we will not be so lucky.
So, after this diatribe, are you still curious which lesser of two evils I chose? Well, sadly neither. I got to the airport, one in which the newfangled x-ray machines had been installed, I stood in a security line only six people deep, handed over my license and boarding pass to a TSA agent, who examined them both for barely a minute, waving me through to the standard “throw your bag on the belt, take your shoes off and walk through the metal detector” line. All in all, it took about 10 minutes, tops. A complete let-down for the journalist in me. I wanted to know what the fuss was all about. I wanted to experience the fear, the shame, the excitement.
In conclusion, if we’re not blown up by terrorists first, we’re all probably going to die of cell phone-related brain tumors by the year 2020 anyway. And it seems that over 80 percent of Americans support the use of the new screening machines. So, after we exempt the kids, the grannies, the crime victims and the flight staff, we might as well enjoy a quick “squeeze-n-snap” while we’re still young enough to care if the agent violating us and the passengers watching us are actually getting off on these ridiculous new security regulations. Oh, well, there’s always next time.
For a complete list of airports and terminals with enhanced screening measures, check out flyertalk.com.