Heading back to Chicago, I’ve just passed through security at Logan Airport in Boston. And although I’m conscious of the need to intercept terrorists, what I just experienced was RIDICULOUS.
I’ve travelled a lot, and so am prepared: I take out my laptop and my toiletries (in the requisite one-liter plastic bag), take off my metal belt buckle (which unsnaps from my belt), remove my shoes and any change in my pocket, and put it all in the plastic containers. That used to be good enough.
Not this time. I also had to undergo this:
1. They sent me through the NEW FULL BODY SCAN SEE-YOU-NAKED X-RAY MACHINE. You have to face the wall of the machine, put your feet in the imprints on the floor, and raise your hands. And you have to stand there for about 25 seconds while they shoot a sublethal dose of X-rays though you.
2. They then saw that I had a (buckle-less) belt on. They made me remove the strip of leather around my waist and send it through the conveyer belt.
3. Then they spotted my wallet. Out with that, too, and through the conveyer belt. I have never before had to take out my wallet when passing through security.
4. After I had passed through the See-You-Naked machine, the uniformed TSA agent informed me, “Sir, I’m going to have to pat you down on the left forearm and buttocks.” Which they proceeded to do. Now I can MAYBE understand the left forearm, where my watch resides, but the buttocks? There’s nothing there, since I had already removed my wallet and been completely x-rayed. And, sure enough, I got goosed by the agent. I didn’t like it at all, and felt like saying something to him. I restrained myself only because I knew I’d get into trouble if I mouthed off.
5. Was that enough? Nope. They then swabbed my hands for explosives, and put the swabs through the sniffer machine.
Here is what was ludicrous about this episode.
- making me remove my belt, a leather strip with only a small metal snap
- making me remove my wallet
- patting down my tuchus, for chrissake—when the X-ray machine presumably had already told them that there was nothing there
- taking off my shoes, which were New Balance sneakers with no metal. Yes, I know the shoebomber used his shoes, but this shoe-removal (which they don’t do in much of Europe) is simply post facto Security Theater.
- and I do object to the hand swab, since there’s nothing I can detect that would make them think I was a terrorist (granted, I don’t know all the subtle cues the TSA uses to spot potential terrorists).
There’s nothing we can do about this, except perhaps ask for a humiliating full-body pat down in lieu of the Naked Body Scan. We are powerless before the impresarios of the Security Theater.
But thank goodness for the awesome Southwest Airlines, which provides comfy leather chairs with plugs—and for Logan Airport, which has free wi-fi. (It’s hidden on their site, but all you need to do is watch a short commercial). And I have a bagel with cream cheese. Life is tolerable again.
From Bruce Schneier’s TSA logo contest