Jess and I just got back from Baltimore late Wednesday night. A short three day trip for some personal business, sans kids. After all the media attention, we were already concerned about the “enhanced” security at the airports, but Baltimore is 24 car hours away, so we have to fly.
Well, at Dallas Love Field (KDAL) there was just the old method of metal detectors. Empty most of the stuff from your pockets and move along. Well, at Baltimore Washington International (KBWI) the scanners are in place and being used.
When we walked up to the security line, Jess asked, “Are those the new scanners?” Yep. She didn’t like the look of them one bit, and even hesitated a little bit. I did point out that not everyone was even being asked to go through, just about every third person.
We emptied our pockets of everything metal or electronic, and stepped up. Jess was waved through the normal “old school” metal detector, but I was instructed to go through the scanner. He, the TSA officer, did not inform me of my right to refuse and get a pat down instead, just told me to go through. I refused, politely. He THEN informed me that would mean I would get pat down, to which I replied “Let’s do this.” I knew the consequences of my choice, but there was no way in hell I was going to get a almost naked image of me taken and God knows what done with it, since the TSA is being very vague about what they actually do with those images.
Another officer stepped up and asked if I had anything in my pockets. I replied I did, my wallet, and he asked me to put it on the belt, to which I refused. I have NEVER been asked to remove my wallet or chapstick, since they are not metal, and most people don’t even notice them. This was new to me, and now I am very unhappy because I have already asked for a pat down, so why do you give a crap what I have in my pockets?
He said that I had to totally empty my pockets. I again refused and asked, again politely, to speak to a supervisor. He said that a supervisor “will just tell you the same thing, so I don’t know why I need to bother him.”. I then, more firmly but still politely, asked to speak to a supervisor. He argued a little bit more, I interrupted his excuses, and said “I have expressed my desire to see a supervisor. I have been polite, can you please just do as I ask.” Well, I suppose he didn’t know what to do with a polite but firm passenger, so he said “OK, fine.”
About a minute, perhaps not even that long, passed and supervisor came up and asked what was going on. I told him I had refused the body scanner, and refused to put my wallet on the belt, where I can not see it, they wont take responsibility for it, and I would be separated for perhaps several minutes while I pat down. I suppose that argument, again politely expressed, just made a lot of sense. He moved me through the normal metal detector, with my wallet in hand, and asked me to have a seat in the pat down area.
Another officer, Officer Bell, came up to me and asked for my wallet. I handed it over, and he said he would now go through with it me watching. “No problem,” I replied. My wallet is very small and very tightly packed. He really did seem uncomfortable with it, since he didn’t see how to get things out without potentially causing a huge mess. I asked him how he wanted to proceed and the supervisor, who was standing near by, said that he would personally run it through the scanners (the old normal ones) and ensure that it never left his sight, except while in the scanner, and he would take personal responsibility for it.
“Fine. Thank you.” That seemed like a very fair arrangement and let us both achieve our goals. His of getting me checked out and on my way and me of not losing my wallet at BWI.
He did that and came back and handed it back to me. Thanked me for my cooperation, and left the area.
Officer Bell then asked me to step on the spots on the floor mat, and put my arms up, palms up. He had latex gloves on, was well groomed, and professional. At all times he told me what he was going to do. He started with my shoulders and chest, worked down to my stomach, and then went to my back. He was not rough, forced, or any of the other crap I would have expected based on the media’s repeated telling of the situation.
He then said he would use the back of his hands to go over my buttocks. I replied “alright”. Done. Now, again telling me before hand so I am very informed, he said he would use the back of his hand to go down the zipper of my jeans. “Sure”. Again, done. Not forceful, not threatening, in no way invasive. He then moved down my legs and about 90 seconds after it started, my “enhanced” pat down was finished.
I collected my things and moved along.
Now, the real question is, was my experience normal? Or was the entire staff, with one possible exception, just amazingly polite and professional? I hope not. I hope exactly what I went through is what can be expected no matter what airport you are in. I think the entire TSA situation sucks, and we, as a country, could do better for our security. But, my experience, and the entire time I stayed polite, honest, and professional, and I am glad to see it was not too much to expect them to treat me the same way.
What about the rest of y’all? Anyone pass on the new scanners and ask for a pat down? How did it go?