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Holiday travel, TSA: 'Don't touch my junk'

It finally happened.

This intrepid editorial writer (if there is such a thing)/traveler (again, questionable on the definition) had her choice, either the box (otherwise known as the Advanced Imaging Technology -- or dreaded, body scanner), or an extremely personal pat down in front of a very large group of impatient and otherwise disinterested strangers. That is, if I chose not to go into a private (and time-consuming) area.

Which one?

Body scanner. Quick, easy solution for someone traveling from Baltimore Washington International Airport back to "sunny" Buffalo. Time had already been devoured in a slow-moving security line and, for the first time in years, the usual walk-through scanner had gone off. The sharp buzz was jolting. "Do you have anything in your pockets?" the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer politely asked. "No. Maybe it's the "bedazzlers" on my sweater. I've got another shirt on underneath. I'll put the sweater through the conveyor belt." Buzz!

"Are you wearing an underwire bra?" asked the helpful (male) TSA officer. Gee, that's a bit personal. Similar to the "boxers or briefs" question former President Bill Clinton received from a gutsy high school student so many years ago.

Well...OK. Now, it's a choice. Body scanner or pat down. Clock is ticking.

"I'll just step into the body scanner. Will it take long?"

"No," answered the TSA officer. "Stand on those footprints and hold your hands up."

Done. Exposed to some stranger, somewhere, forgotten for the moment and racing toward the gate. That wasn't so bad. Was it?

Apparently, this editorial writer wasn't the only one faced with the dilemma and who, after all the hemming and hawing, decided the best option was to meekly give in to a system TSA heads insist will offer the flying public better protection.

Resistance is futile.

Just ask opponents who promised mass protests at the nation's airports over the holiday weekend. The result: a faint whisper instead of an outcry, if the numbers and reports are to be believed. The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe quoted TSA officials, "Everything went smoothly overall." At the nation's busiest airport, Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport, 39 out of more than 47,000 passengers last Wednesday declined to use the machines. David Carr of The New York Times writes about "A Media False Alarm Over the T.S.A." 

Still, it didn't stop truly intrepid travelers like college student Jimmy who videotaped his Speedo-wearing adventure through the Salt Lake International Airport last week. You be the judge:


And then there was the passenger who refused to go through the body scanner and upon hearing he would have to undergo a full-body pat down threatened TSA workers, "...if you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested." That statement earned John Tyner a talk with a TSA supervisor... 

Tyner didn't want anyone looking at his naked body. Understandable. And then there are some health concerns about low levels of radiation exposure. Also, understandable. Privacy. Security. Catching a plane. What are the options? And where are the limits?

When rushing to a plane, the decision becomes easier. Or, does it?

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer


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