As often as I fly, I consider myself pretty lucky regarding my experiences with the TSA. Until today, I have only had to opt out of the ‘strip-me-naked’ scanner twice – once in Atlanta as I was flying to Miami, and then in Miami, as I was flying back to Atlanta after my trip to Costa Rica. Both times, the TSA agents didn’t do anything extraordinary, and the public molestation was at least done with a measure of decorum and professionalism by a female agent.
Today, however, was different. While going through security at DCA, I wasn’t give a choice of going through a normal metal detector. It was either the ‘X-Ray vision’ machine, or a pat down. I very politely chose the pat down. Suddenly, the male TSA agent, who had been smiling and winking at me just moments before, turned into quite the bully. First, he wanted to know why. I politely responded that I simply preferred to not go through the machine. By that time, my bag, containing my iPad and iPhone and wallet, and my computer had already gone through the scanner and were waiting, unattended, at the end of the conveyor belt. When I politely inquired about the safety of my belongings, he responded, and I quote, “Baby, that’s the risk you take when you decide to opt out.”
Thankfully, a much nicer agent was standing nearby, so I ignored the first (who kept repeating that same phrase to me) and asked the second to make sure my belongings were safe. He assured me they would be ok because there were cameras everywhere. Great. At least when they got nabbed, we’d have a blurry image of who did it, right?
The same nice Agent made at least three announcements that a female agent was needed for an opt-out, while the original agent kept asking me, “What are you scared of?” and reminding me again that I was risking losing my belongings by opting out. He also had a comment or two about my Free the Hops t-shirt. Probably a mistake wearing that to the airport. Branded me as a rebel.
A male passenger that had chosen to opt out right after I did had been taken care of almost immediately. I suppose he wasn’t as much fun to torment.
Ten minutes later, a female agent finally walked over and escorted me to the molestation zone. She was very professional, but way too thorough as far as I’m concerned. However, I thanked her for professional manhandling of my personhood and gathered my, thankfully intact, belongings. Once I had my phone in my hand, I turned to take a picture of Agent Numero Uno. However, he was nowhere to be seen. That’s a shame as I wanted to share his picture with future DCA travelers so they’d know which security line to avoid.
My story isn’t terrible. Other travelers have dealt with far worse at the hands of the TSA Gestapo. I’d love to point out though how different my experience would likely be if Agent Winks-a-lot had been an employee of the airline with which I was flying, instead of a low-level government lackey. Instead of being treated with the kindness and care that a paying customer who is politely obeying all of the rules should have received, I was treated with derision and suspicion, and a distinct lack of respect.
I was bullied. By my government. For no reason. There’s no excuse for that.
End the TSA.
By the way, if you’re not following Agent Smith (@TSAGov) on Twitter, you’re missing out.