Las Vegas, USA
There are many ways to lose your dignity in Las Vegas. Getting groped by a stranger is one of them. No… I did not indulge in a lap dance at a seedy strip club. I just went to the airport.
So far on our trip I had been lucky enough to avoid the enhanced pat down. As you may remember I have been rather vocal about my feelings on this and the Backscatter Machine aka pornoscanner. I refuse to go through that machine but so far I haven’t needed to opt out as I have always ended up in the metal detector queue. Jesper has not been so lucky, being treated to a very awkward pat down by a TSA officer who was clearly more embarrassed than he was.
It was my turn in Vegas. I winded up in the metal detector line but was selected for random explosives testing. And it turns out my shoes are explosive. It’s either that or I have the wrong views on evolution. The TSA official who was conducting the explosives test saw the book I was reading, Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin. It details how our body plans and genetics are similar to our very distant relatives, fish.
“What’s this about then?” the TSA man asked while swabbing my shoes.
“Oh, it’s about how we are similar to fish,” I replied softly somehow aware of what was brewing.
“What do you mean?” he asked ominously, looking inside my shoes and pulling out my orthotic inserts.
“Well… just about all the things we have in common with fish, similar bone structures and things…” I said trailing off.
“What about all the ways we are dissimilar?” he asked and then the alarm went off.
“Your shoes have set off the explosives alarm. I need to call my supervisor.”
Great. Stupid explosive shoes.
“Could that possibly be from going to a shooting range?” I asked meekly.
“Yes, yes it could,” the TSA officer drawled.
The supervisor came and peered at the screen, “Yes… well you’re going to need to give her an STD.”
Or at least that’s what it sounded like.
“We need a woman, a woman… no… no one available… well send us a woman ASAP,” the supervisor barked into his walkie talkie.
Just my luck… I need an STD and there’s a shortage of women.
A mild-mannered woman shuffled up to us and directed me to stand spread-eagled on the mat.
Well this is fun…
The original TSA official was in the background swabbing my items for explosive dust and telling me that some people believe that humans aren’t related to monkeys while the woman is trying to explain that she will only touch my sensitive parts with the back of her hands.
Why do I always end up in these ridiculous situations?
When I’m having my “sensitive parts” groped by a stranger I’m not really in the mood for a discourse about my views on evolution. Ever notice how the gyno doesn’t ask you about your political views when you’re in the stirrups. No… they talk about the weather or your plans for the weekend.
The patdown itself was not so bad though I felt rather embarrassed pulling up my shirt to expose two and half months of pigging out in America. I think worst of all was the creepy anti-evolution spokesperson glancing up from his swabbing every so often to watch another woman feeling me up. Ugh. I also think the TSA woman was thankfully a little embarrassed to do it properly because she barely touched the inside of my leg.
Eventually they gave me my things back and sent me on my way sans dignity. The whole thing (plus Jesper’s experience) has led me to two conclusions. 1) the TSA staff are as embarrassed as you are if not more and 2) they seem to have a shortage of staff available on hand (heh) to do the pat downs. Which means opting out is always inconvenient and awkward for the staff so it’s a great way to protest if you have concerns about invasive security measures like the Backscatter machine.
So from now on I’m opting out. Dignity be damned.