Thursday, April 11, 2013

The TSA Groper and I: The Seattle Patdown

I've waited several days before composing this blog. One should always calm down before touching the send or post button. We’ve all heard of the TSA Follies, and perhaps seen some of the videos – the toddler, grandma, and celebrity/politician patdowns, and confiscations. We know the screeners have a tough job trying to prevent another 9/11. Yet, some are overzealous, or worse. I encountered one last Sunday in flying from Istanbul to Orange County via Paris and Seattle. I may be one of the few travellers who liked the “x-ray” screeners. My knee replacement will automatically set off the metal detector. If it doesn’t, something is wrong with the setting of the metal detector. I signal to the screeners that my knee will set off the machine, which it does. The response will, of course, be some sort of patdown or wand screening, perhaps even with a chemical patch swab. No problem – I get to airports early in case of delays. And snafus. Last Sunday in Seattle was different. An older “gentleman” (the term is used loosely), who looked creepy, commenced a long, slow, through patdown, including pulling open the waist band and sending his long fingers down to the “package.” He suffered from a case of lingering fingers. I’m sure TSA would utter the usual patter that he was simply acting within the prescribed TSA guidelines. None of the other TSA gents paid attention. This cretin was either extremely diligent or grossly “overzealous.” He may also simply have been stupid. Mind you, I had previously gone through security at Amsterdam and Paris earlier in the day. This was the security check after you leave passport control and customs before returning to the main terminal. There must be a presumption that as you retrieve your suitcases for customs you will pull out, amidst the crowds and video cameras, a dangerous item, such as a pocket knife which TSA is proposing to legalize. The groper didn’t find anything. It wasn't embarrassingly or humiliating - just troublesome.

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