One look at the situation and I knew I could outsmart TSA.
The body scanner stood in the middle of the room like the rude intruder at a party who everyone wants to pretend they didn’t see or invite; and I knew like I knew the color of my soon-to-be-visible socks that there was no way I was going to set foot inside of it. Off to each side of the hulking machine stood the traditional, now harmless-looking metal detectors, so normal in their rectangular beeping states, almost like old friends. Three machines, three lines, simple math. I headed directly for the metal detector on the left as soon as the agent gave me back my boarding pass and driver’s license.
A few (shoes off, laptop out, two-ounce containers visible, jacket removed) moments later, I found myself shoving the end of my duffel bag and second tray inside the X-ray machine. I moved up to the metal detector and lifted a foot to step forward and through.
“To the right please, ma’am.”
To the where? I foot fumbled in a manner most uncharacteristic of my recent airport visitation frequency.
“Ma’am, step to the right please.”
How had I missed this? Some of the traffic from each of the two metal detector lines was being sent to the body scanner. Random I suppose, but why couldn’t they have randomly not selected me?
I looked up at the TSA agent and cast a quick glance back at the X-ray machine. I gestured weakly at my belongings, currently housed within the irradiated metal box. Surely it was reasonable that I wouldn’t wish to step away from my possessions, when anyone could walk off with them at the end of their small conveyor belt journey? Madam TSA wasn’t even paying attention, possibly because my feet were traitorously already in motion toward the ominous new machine.
My friends who know me well know that I am a privacy freak. I am the woman who has her Twitter account set to private and shreds her grocery receipts. I haven’t uploaded a Facebook photo album in three years. Really, I don’t even like taking phone calls from my friends on the bus. And here I was next in line for a device that was going to scan me down to my underwear. Maybe I should opt for the pat-down?
The woman being scanned at the time I walked over was signaled to step through. I was out of thinking time, so into the machine I went. I was told to please place my feet on the indicated floor markers, a position that spread my legs. Okay. I was told to raise my hands above my head and place them together. Okay? I was told to hold the position, and the machine moved. Okay?! I was told to please step through, and I let out a breath. It was quick, and it was over.
“Please wait for the results,” said the man in my way. (I had instinctively moved to step around him on my path out of the uncomfortable chamber.)
Weren’t we were done here?! Apparently not. I stood for an uncomfortable three seconds while some agent somewhere roved his or her eyes over the full length of my naked body, and I tried not to think about whether the man in my way was also thinking about the technician thinking about my body. Then he got some information on his handheld device in that mysterious way that TSA does and finally moved aside. I resisted the urge to run down the ramp screaming about my constitutional rights, and somehow also remembered to collect my miraculously unstolen belongings.
Waiting for the plane later, my travel buddies sympathized. A few were lucky and had been harmlessly shuffled through the metal detectors. One had opted for the pat-down when faced with the body scanner. “Very thorough,” was how she described the alternative procedure. She wasn’t so sure that she had gotten the better end of the deal, and neither was I when she detailed how high up the leg patting went. We expressed how we weren’t sure we really felt safer, discussed that it was probably the old men and women in the wheelchairs and the children with Disney backpacks that were the new in-demand bomb smugglers. Some disagreed; surely this wouldn’t all be happening unless it had the potential for some powerful preventative results. Regardless of our differing political opinions, there was definitely one sentiment shared between all present.
Thank God for trains.
Stefani Cox is a Californian who has spent large amounts of time in airports throughout her domestic and world travels. Every now and then, she likes to write about life.