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Toucha Toucha Touch Me

November 29, 2010

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I’m an early adopter.  Certainly for technology purposes, but in the case of the TSA and the overly friendly security folks, for sure.  I flew to Seattle earlier in the month for business out of Newark Liberty Airport in NJ.  I waited in a hopelessly long line of clueless people, as per usual.  When I went through the scanner I set off the alarm.  I went through again, same thing.

I was taken aside by a TSA agent who began to explain that she would need to do a “pat down” of me.  I kept trying to move her along, saying I didn’t really need the explanation, but she kept insisting I did.  Finally, she put on her rubber gloves and got down to business.

What followed was something that usually, for me at least, comes after dinner and a movie.  We got close, or should I say SHE got close.  Hell, she got everywhere. 

Yes, the new pat downs are more invasive than ever.  Luckily, I got an agent who got it done quickly.  But questions abound:

1.  I didn’t have the option to refuse the pat down – there was no full body scanner nearby.  So what was my other option?  A trip to the “back room”?  Oy!

2.  What’s next?  Full body cavity searches?

3. If you are gay, can you request an opposite sex screener?  “Don’t ask, don’t tell” at it’s finest!

4.  I was traveling alone, but I cannot imagine being all that excited about being groped in front of my co-workers.  How much time should I allow to set off the alarm, go get groped in the back room away from my traveling companions, and still make my flight?

5. How much fun will I be if I whip off my underwire bra at security through my clothes.  Men are SO fascinated by that!

My father has complained for years about his treatment at TSA due to an artificial hip and knee – I can only imagine how this is going to be for him.  He may never come North again!

I’m trying not to be critical of the TSA.  It’s their job, and I get it.  I just don’t know how much of this is really helping, and how much is just security theatre. 

How about you?  Did you have any grand TSA experiences this holiday weekend?  Are you making changes to your travel routines as a result of fear of the “Grand Grope”

7 Comments leave one →
  1. November 29, 2010 6:21 pm

    My underwire sets off the Newark detectors, but no others for some reason.

    I won’t go through the full body scanner when I go away in a couple of weeks. When my husband asked me why, I told him I had too many medical problems to count already and that no one really knew what those things do. In addition, I’ve been felt up by people I wouldn’t have dinner with later on, but I’ve never let them see my genitals.

  2. November 29, 2010 6:44 pm

    I’ve flown several times this year, and was randomly selected for the full body scanner on three trips (twice in Indy and once in California) which I opted for and not against to avoid the invasive “pat down”. Here’s the thing – or my opinion at least. It’s become verboten to complain about security invasions since 9/11. I’ve been lectured by friends for talking about rights invasions and how not doing what we are doing is putting us at risk. I know I am commenting on a New Yorker’s blog, so I’d be interested in hearing your take on that as you have a perspective I lack, but especially for those of us not living in NYC, complaining about airport security and other invasive security measures has become the off-limits dinner table talk dujour. It started with the Patriot Act – one of the most right-revoking pieces of legislation passed in this countries’ history, and has progressed to what appear to be borderline molestations at airports where your options are be seen nude and get exposed to radiation, or get aggressively groped. The worst part for me is all of this is reactive security – not proactive – which with technology advances seems to me we could do a better, more low-key job. I’m with you on the TSA – I don’t fault them for doing their job as this goes to a higher level, but my question is where does it end? Where does it stop? And have we given the those we are trying to protect ourselves against exactly what they want? Revocation of the rights of American citizens? I don’t have the answers and will continue to cooperate and deal with the invasions as part of the price of admission to fly, but it’s a bigger issue in my opinion. PS – I go sans bra when I go through security – I put it in my carry-on then put it on in the restroom 🙂 TMI maybe but I’ve never actually activated the initial scanner but rather seem to get randomly chosen for the more invasive screens.

  3. Kathryn permalink
    November 29, 2010 9:14 pm

    I have not flown since September, and at that time opted out of the invasive scanners, went into the Family line, and did not get a pat down. But I have watched the YouTube video of the little boy who set off the alarms and had to take his shirt off in front of hundreds of people to be groped by the TSA agent. As a mother of a little boy, to say that I am horrified that such practices are allowed is an understatement. I live in NY, I was in the city when the attacks happened, I had friends who were across the street from WTC when the planes hit. I get it–we need to be ever vigilant. But we don’t need to give up our rights in order to be so. I wonder how the airlines will feel as their passengers exercise their rights to less “secure” ways to travel–like driving or train–or opt for Go-To Meetings and virtual conferences. Three people in this house sure will be exercising those rights. TSA–there’s got to be a better way.

  4. November 29, 2010 10:06 pm

    Laura, I’m curious as to why EWR is so bra-unfriendly. Maybe it’s a Jersey thing.

    Katie, as a NYer, I get the need for security. But as a former marketing manager for Bruce Schnier, I also see that there is security theatre, and real security. Profiling and interviewing of passengers may not be popular, but it can work as effectively if not more so. Sure, we haven’t had any successful attacks since 9/11, but neither have any other nations, and they don’t do the grope.

    Kathryn, I would have been fine in the full body scan machine, but it wasn’t an option at Newark. In Indy, I was “randomly selected” for extra screening, which I thought for sure would be the machine, but turned out to be a wipe of my hands for explosives. As if…

  5. November 29, 2010 10:11 pm

    Don’t put up with this garbage! Boycott Flying COMPLETELY, until sanity returns! Please join us:

  6. David permalink
    November 30, 2010 8:17 am

    I got the amusing hand-wipe for explosives last month, and got the full treatment flying out of Indy yesterday. That was significantly less amusing. They did the full body scan, did not even comment on my request for a DVD or at least an 8×10 glossy print, then ALSO did the invasive pat down. For that procedure, the same gender rule is a joke. I’ve been married for decades, so if there is a rule that a stranger MUST go places that only a select few have been how about having the cute latino girl with the sassy pony tail do the work?

    The bearded man that for some reason had me thinking back to my altar boy years was fast, but it would be a stretch to call him “efficient”. The pat down happened because the scanner found a suspicious mass in the crotch area, right of center. It was my roll of ones and fives, which I showed him. Couldn’t I just have turned my pocket inside-out and been done?

    I travel a fair amount, not quite as much as you but enough, and I’m used to the hoops we need to jump through. These are the things that we need to do, the “security theater” Bruce writes about, to keep the dim from doing something stupid. As a teen I once asked my dad why we bothered locking the front door of the house, as there were half a dozen easy ways to break in, and none of the locks were all that robust. His answer was that door locks keep out the good people making bad decisions. The bad people are going to get in if they really want to, so we just have to trust law enforcement to keep the bad guy count down. So I’ve always looked at the shoe removal, belt removal, gun powder scans, etc as that push-button front door lock. It keeps the loons from doing stupid stuff.

    But as this tall, bearded stranger slid his open palm slowly up my inner thigh, I couldn’t help wonder what will be next. Ellen, if your back room scenario plays out I’m going to insist on a voucher for a free meal from an airport restaurant.


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