My TSA Opt-out Story

[Found this on my phone – I’d started writing it using the very good WordPress Android app, then failed to follow through – what are the chances?]

I’m in Legends of San Francisco, the sports bar near our departure gate at SFO. We’re flying to Las Vegas for Xmas – Cassie’s folks are there, and her brother and his family will be there as well so we’re all heading down there.

I’d forgotten about the new body scanning machines. They look a bit like the machine Sam Malone uses in Quantum Leap, crossed with a smaller version of the giant machine in Contact, but without the dry ice and catastrophic failure. I’ve read a lot about these things, and the horror stories about pregnant ladies, children, people in wheelchairs and so on. So here’s my less-than-dramatic experience.

After I put my stuff in the trays, I stood for a second, and then the TSA person waved me toward the scanner. I said I preferred to opt out. There was a flicker of annoyance on the TSA guy’s face, perhaps a very slight eye-roll, and I was asked to stand aside. I had to wait a second because it was busy (although not as busy as we’d expected) they had to bring someone over.

The guy asked me why I wanted to opt out. I said it was because of the issues surrounding storage of the images, and (stupidly) because of the dangers of the radiation. He said that there was no danger from the radiation, and that the images were stored in a computer “just behind that wall there”. Why the location of the stored images of my family jewels matters, I don’t know. I didn’t say anything to that, but it’s well know that despite the TSA claiming that the machines cannot store images, despite the unpleasant (and obvious) fact that they TOTALLY CAN.

I am annoyed with myself for mentioning the radiation. I guess I was a little nervous, so I wanted to say what other people seem to be saying, but I know pretty well the “radiation” is a lower dose than you would get just be being at 30,000 feet anyway.

The second TSA guy took me aside, I stood on the mat with my feet in the foot marks, and he did the enhanced patdown. It wasn’t so bad, it was mostly like the regular one: all around the arms, legs, waist, back and front. When it came to the groinal areas, he went as far as the upper thigh and no further. There was no cupping. It wasn’t like the bit from Andrew Dice Clay about an examination at the doctors, “Then he starts jugglin’ my cojones like he’s looking fer ripe tomaters! I said ‘back off man this ain’t no fuckin’ social call!'”.

That was that. Cassie opted out as well, and she says it was the same for her with her TSA lady. All pretty friendly, and utterly pointless. But just to reiterate: There was no cupping.