The Indignities of Air Travel
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?