I had total knee replacement surgery on my left knee in June of 2008. As a result I “ding” when going through security at airports so I must be “cavity searched ” (my terminology) or sent through a body scanner each time I elect to travel by air. Since that date I have endured much embarrassment at the hands of (literally) the Transportation Security Administration – or more fondly known as TSA. I have been scanned, patted and fondled by the best
I always fly out of our local airport and we only have 3 flights per day. Considering that I live in a town of less than 100K it is rare that I do not know at least one other person on the flight and most of them get a good laugh over my “pat down”. It is also rare that I do not at least recognize the TSA agent doing the honors. I have been patted down by a lady who has known my husband for over 50 years. I even had one agent say, “I remember you…..knee…. right? Well step over her and put your feet on the mat and your arms out to your side.” Really?
Last month my husband and I were flying home from Hawaii and since they had one line with a body scanner I opted to be photographed instead of fondled. As I was waiting in line I noticed an elderly lady up in front of me with a cane. They were making her go through the scanner and it appeared difficult for her to stand unaided. She actually got inside the scanner one time and was made to walk back out and take her jacket off. She had on a sleeveless dress underneath and appeared quite embarrassed to have to “strip” to a level that she was uncomfortable with. I heard her comment to the young agent, “I am 94 years old, why on earth are you doing this to me?” Because she was traveling with a woman who I later found out was her daughter, I refrained from interfering. But, I can tell you that it took a bit of restraint on my part to mind my own business. She ultimately was cleared to go, as was I. Once through security I walked over to see that she was okay and told her how sorry I was for the way she was treated. We exchanged introductions and I told her about PolitiChicks and that I was going to include what she was made to endure in an article. She seemed quite pleased and thanked me for my concern for her well-being.
And then – a couple of weeks ago I was flying home from Huntsville, AL. When I arrived at security, the line was short so only one lane was open. They had body scanners for all lanes so at least I knew I would not have to endure the dreaded “cavity search”. As I stood in line and waited, I wanted desperately to photograph what I was seeing. However, I decided against taking that chance, as one photo would have probably gotten me, at a minimum, invited to a private screening room for a one-on-one interview. Please read carefully – there were 7—–I counted three times – SEVEN – TSA agents and 2 airport policemen monitoring this one line. There were so many of them behind the conveyor they were tripping over one another like an old episode of Laurel and Hardy or The Three Stooges. Multiply this by the number of security lanes, open at airports, all over the U.S. at any given moment and think about the “thousands” who are simply “standing around”. There was an agent to direct me in the scanner, one to direct me out, and another who I was told to see after exiting the scanner. When I asked him what his purpose was he said, “I’m the one who tells you that you are cleared to leave. You can go ma’am”. At least he was polite. Considering that the average annual salary for a TSA agent is $35K, I think he was paid extremely well to perform the duties of his position.
Our illustrious federal government threw a Band-Aid at a bleeding artery when they set up the TSA. My experience would have been comical if I did not know the meaning of sequestration and if I did not have friends being furloughed or terminated from their positions due to budget cuts. It would have been comical if I did not know that the likelihood of them catching a terrorist was slim and none. It would have been comical did I not know that millions of dollars are being wasted each and every day to inconvenience non-threatening travelers like you and me.
Maybe next time I will just stay home.