I have yet to go through a full body scanner. Is it wrong that I’m disappointed?
Unbelievably, by mid-January, I hadn’t been on a plane since before the holidays thereby missing not only the “Don’t touch my junk hysteria” but two major snowstorms. Do I know how to plan a hiatus or what? So I was, I’ll admit, a little excited about getting back in to the swing of things. I was traveling on Tuesday morning January 18th and I even had an icy mix snowstorm to contend with so I left plenty of time to get to the airport and signed up for all my alerts from flight stats to Delta’s own. Once in the security line I looked at the screeners to see if they were “the ones” and I peek at them in the same way I used to sneak glances at the 18 and older section of Spencer’s, that perennial mall favorite where you could buy Andy Gibb posters, lava lamps and apparently as I later found out having turned 18, cherry flavored undergarments.
LaGuardia airport in NYC supposedly had them but not at the Delta or American terminal where my TSA experience was the normal metal detectors (BO-RING!). I was sure that Orlando’s MCO would have them but nope. And then … Eureka! I saw them while at the end of a security line in Columbus airport. Finally! I would experience what has caused such a fuss.
After putting all my things on the belt to go through the x-ray I waited and watched the man in front of me. When it was my turn I stepped up to the guard who then waved me passed through to the metal detector!
“Wait,” I said to the TSA officer looking at my boarding pass. “What did I do wrong? Why can’t I go through the full body scanner?” He of course was surprised by this protestation. “You wanna go through?” “Yes!” “Well, you can’t because you’ve already gone through this one.”
At this point I just feel like I can’t call myself a professional traveler without going through one. The full body scanner has become so controversial, so distressing of what it shows that it’s sort of like skinny-dipping for the road warrior set.
The other big controversy with the full body scanners is what happens when you refuse one: the new improved pat down! As we all know by now it’s not the traditional search, which was about as sexually suggestive as being measured for a suit but one in which real crevices, and mountains are explored. I’ve never had one and don’t want to so I guess that puts me in the “Opt-In” crowd.
Do I like the idea that a very graphic picture of me is being taken? Not really. But this is coming from someone who has to be in a bikini on camera and where on YouTube you’ll find a compilation of my “bikini work” which has over a million views. I’m no exhibitionist, just used to feeling slightly humiliated in public.
So when they say that the person or person’s scanning is in a remote spot with no way of matching a face with the scan, I choose to believe them for now, of course, until something proves that to be otherwise. For me what’s important is that my airport experience is as efficient and safe as possible.
I will say though that it’s hard to convince people how important it is to travel when they have to first suffer through what has become a List of Indignities. The media certainly plays these up so that watching the news you wonder if the airports themselves aren’t places of complete anarchy. I can tell you from personal experience that they are not. But I am only one traveler and I should in no way discount the truly frustrating hardships caused by volcanoes, blizzards and an airline industry that has cut back so fiercely in machines and personnel that they are woefully unprepared for the inevitable blips, big and small, that come their way.
So who or what, in your experience, do you think are the worst offenders in the indignities of air travel?
You may find it surprising but there are places I haven’t been, many places in fact –entire countries actually! I love to travel so much that I even dream of travel WHILE traveling. For instance last year at this time I was on my way to Vietnam (a dream of mine) and while on a layover in Hong Kong I walked the entire airport terminal checking out all the gates and what exotic destinations they were steel and glass portals to. I’m used to seeing places like Rome, Brazil and Prague but now I was staring in wonder at the names of Phnom Penh, Mumbai and Jakarta. “Jakarta,” I mused. Wooooooow. And I actually found myself a bit envious of the people lining up to get on the plane. Like they were a group of VIP’s invited into the hip club of the moment and I wasn’t.
That’s the thing about travel. When you start, the world doesn’t get smaller, it increases in size. And the list of places you want to see and the cultures you want to experience in dress, food and way of life only grows. So here’s what my list looks like now:
1. A river-cruise through Europe, preferably through France. Stopping at small unpronounceable Hamlets like Les Andeleys and Chalon sur Soane. Exploring by bike adorned with a large woven basket in which only decadent or highly caloric items would be allowed.
2. Africa. Yes I am deeply embarrassed to admit it but I’ve never been. My husband, Kevin, and I had plans to go to Cape Town for our honeymoon back in 2006 but when I was only given 5 days between shoots we changed the itinerary to … wait for it … Key West, Florida! Really it’s hard to differentiate the two, don’t ya think? South Africa has Safaris to view wildlife; Key West has the Fantasy Fest where wildlife comes to you. Africa has Lion Kings, Key West has Drag Queens … okay, I’ll stop.
3. Bike the Whites. This is a bike tour through the White Mountains in my home state of New Hampshire. I’ve always wanted to do a Bike tour through one of the countries of Europe but know due to time commitments and weakening knees I will never make it. So as I always recommend when it comes to bucket list travel, don’t make it all “climb Mount Everest” big. Think about something you’ve always wanted to do and see if it can’t be accomplished closer to you — even in your own state!
4. Lapland, Finland, to see the Aurora Borealis. I want snow, I want reindeer, I want to see what happens when charged particles riding on the speed of polar winds crash into electrons and protons!
5. Kurdistan, Iraq. The incomparable New York Times travel section describes this as a visitor friendly stable corner of Iraq. So that would be a great place to start in a tour of the so dubbed Axis of Evil countries. I’m sort of exposing myself here but I always thought my purpose in this travel world was to be that bridge that connects the known to the unknown. To shine a light into what we fear and see if we don’t both have misconceptions about one another that can be rectified. It’s a bit lofty, I know. Idealistic, sure, but I think I have it in me. My mom will never sign the permission slip though.
6. Boat trip through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River. I did this with my dad and sister. It was the 7-day camping trip on motorized pontoon boats and it was glorious! This time I would actually like to attempt the 14-day trip on the original Dories with only oar power. I’m a lot tougher than you think!
7. Zanzibaaaaaaar. Just for the warm, lulling, exotic sound of it.
8. Toronto, Canada. For no other reason than once I go there I can officially cross off my list my very first grand dream of travel hatched back in 1984 with my best friend. We both had perms, loved Wham and thought it would be wicked cool to travel the world going to all the destinations immortalized on a Hard Rock Café T-shirt. If a Hard Rock Café was there, my god, it had to be awesome. Elaine, in the words of you know who: Let’s Go Go, and I’m not plannin’ on going solo.
I’m sorry; I should probably have a 9 and 10 since lists always work in top 5s, top 10s and 20s. So just think of it as my top 5 with 3 extras thrown in.
Now for your part, cuz I can’t stand one-sided blogs where people Blah, Blah, Blah in some egotistical monologue about their self. I would love to know your traveling dreams big and small, crazy and totally sincere. Do you want to change the world or chug frozen drinks? Is it a place you’ve been dreaming of since you were a kid or some whim that won’t go away. It doesn’t matter that you can’t go there, sharing it, talking about it, allows you to BE there. So let’s Go Go!