Crossing the Line, In a Big Way

pat-down searches

On Monday, I flew from Oakland to begin my Thanksgiving vacation. It was a remarkably slow day for the start of Thanksgiving Week.

Having not flown since last year, I wasn’t current on a couple of the new regulations, despite my best efforts to research them on the web. The TSA website doesn’t make it easy to find quick answers.

I did two things to elicit extra attention from the boys in blue, and get targeted for extra screening. Number 1: I wore a tie. Call me old fashioned, but I’ve been around since those quaint days when people dressed for travel as if they were going to a big event. It used to BE a big event, and it used to be fun.

Number 2: I expressed surprise that I was not allowed to take my SEALED, new water bottle on the plane. Last time I flew, and had to dump my opened water bottle, I was told that was allowed. I showed visible frustration and confusion, when told this, because I quickly looked around for a can to empty the contents, so I wouldn’t have to pay $3+ for a 25 oz. bottle of water. Not finding one, and not wanting to stand in line again, I left it, and walked through the metal detector.

The young man in the blue shirt smiled at me courteously, and said, “Thank you sir, and now we need you to walk over here and go through the body scan.”

I replied, “I decline this; I’ll submit to a wand scan.”

Gee, that made me sound so dated. I read something less than two weeks ago that this was an option. But the only option is what they euphemistically call a “pat-down.” It was more like a rub-down, and not much on my body was left untouched by this strange man.

I was told to stand with my feet spread on a mat and extend my arms outward. As I did so, the TSA agent rubbed and massaged his way up every limb, beginning with my arms up to my armpits and shoulders. Then he began on my right ankle and rubbed and massaged his way up my thighs, touching my scrotum and prostate area with the side of his hand. I wanted to hit hm and might if it happens again I migh!”

Since I was 17, I have endured all manner of unwanted and intrusive advances from gay men, but our current political dynamics makes it OK for a government employee to touch me in a manner that is considered sexual assault anywhere in the U.S.

Before I was released, I was told, “Now you have to wait here while I go test my hands.” After running his hands under a mechanism that I presume tests for explosive materials, I was allowed to collect my belongings and make my flight.

He then went to my left leg, repeating the process and again touching my scrotum and prostate area with the side of his hand.

Then he felt around the circumference of my waistband, and touched my butt and outer groin areas with the back of his hands, as if that was supposed to give me comfort.

This is all so unnecessary. I fully endorse and honor the need for more enhanced security procedures than we had before 9-11. But there is a threshold for effectiveness, beyond which it runs into “Theatre of the Absurd.” That’s where we are.

The underwear bomber FAILED. Yet he takes great satisfaction in prison that his stunt impacts any person in the world who needs to fly.

The shoe-bomber FAILED. Ditto.

The liquid bomber FAILED. Ditto.

So why dignify those morons at all? Obviously, the American policy is reactive rather than proactive. This is surely prompting other losers to opt for long prison terms, where they can enjoy the gratification of fucking with the world, where they can’t fit in on the outside.

A recent letter to the editor in the San Fancisco Chronicle cited the Israeli custom of an aggressive 10-minute verbal interrogation. If a person presents undue nervousness, inconsistency in their answers or fails in some way, THEN they are subjected to the procedures that I endured on Monday.

I never bought into the theory that Bush Jr. orchestrated 9-11 so they could have a pretext for doing these Draconian measures. But there’s no doubt that Bush Jr. and John Ashcroft welcomed the tragedy of 9-11 as an opportunity to institute many neo-Fascist security measures to our country. They are not necessary. The system works without these things. People are more vigilant – thus the underwear, shoe and water bombers failed. US Marshals are present on many flights.

So why can’t people walk through a device that tests for potentially explosive materials, similar to metal detectors?

scott prostermanOr a magic wand that will do the same? The money spent on the superfluous and invasive “Full Body Scan” could have been applied to this technology, which will have much greater effectiveness for the task. If someone trips a metal detector, that is cause for a “Full Body Scan” or “Rub-Down.”

And this: Water is a basic human right. Dehydration naturally occurs when flying. Water bottles are confiscated as contraband by government officials, leaving passengers the only option of BUYING a bottle of water at the exorbitant airport markup. How about the Feds do us a favor: make it law that airports cannot profit one cent from the sale of bottled water. They owe us that much.

H. Scott Prosterman

About H. Scott Prosterman

H. Scott Prosterman is a writer, humoristm and editor living in Berkeley, California. He was born in the '50s, came of age in the '60s, thrived in the '70's, barely survived the '80's and regrouped in the '90's." He holds a B.A. w/Honors from Rhodes College; an M.A. from The University of Michigan.

Comments

  1. The actions of the TSA agent that you described are all courtesy of the new “fascist President” named Obama and his minion Napolitano. Check the dates when his administration declared these pat downs to be the norm.

  2. Joe Weinstein says:

    Scott makes a key point also found recently in analyst Barry Rubin’s blog: a truly effective approach to security would build on the serious must-work approach used in Israel, not the let’s-impress-the-ignorant-public attitude used to create jobs for TSA.

    One tip for Scott. Yet another of the many coping mechanisms that TSA doesn’t tell you: you CAN go with free water on the plane. Just bring your EMPTY to security, and AFTER clearing security fill it up from a drinking fountain (usually found near but not in restrooms).

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