— The weighty questions of our times: Paper or plastic? Decaf or regular? And now: Pat-down or full body scan?
We’ve been covering the controversy over airport security screenings that was touched off when a traveler at the San Diego airport recorded his refusal to go through the full body scan or undergo the TSA's new private parts "pat-down." It’s renewed that modern-day debate over security versus privacy.
It's a Hobson's choice, where both options are equally unpleasant. I haven't yet faced it: I got the full body frisk without being given an option. And it was shockingly aggressive.
My crime? I blame my form-fitting underwire brassiere for tripping the system.
As an NBC producer, I have done a fair amount of flying. I swear by carry-on. I've winnowed down my necessities to 6 pounds of drip-dry black clothing.
As security measures have changed, I have adapted. I ditched my comfy 9-eyelet hiking boots — my sexy unlacing technique was positively sizzling, but caused much grumbling from the passengers behind me. Now I take off my slip-ons and run the gauntlet with 3-inch-thick wool socks to create a protective barrier between the freezing floor and me. My emergency assortment of hair-care products is down to the requisite 3 ounces of gel and mango-orange mousse conditioner.
I actually look forward to the secondary bag check. Not because I want anyone to rifle through my stuff, but because those screeners do a kick-ass job of repacking. Do they have to pass "Geometry of Packing" to graduate from TSA school?
While I've yet to see any passengers do the Full Monty, I once witnessed a shocking display at Heathrow: A tired and disheveled man in front of me was ordered to remove his belt before he went through the magnetometer. He complied and his pants fell down. The accidental exhibitionist obediently put his dangerous belt on the conveyor and slowly pulled up his pants. Mercifully, he was wearing baggy boxers, not briefs.
But it was my unexpected full body frisk that left me unnerved. What happened to that wicked wand? I was asked to "step to the side" and suddenly from behind ... let's just say that I haven't been felt up like that since my senior year at Mamaroneck High School. When I objected, my "frisker" immediately called over the supervisor. She told me this was the new procedure.
Maybe the problem was the brutish TSA agent. She was probably a former East German shot-putter on steroids. With those blue rubber gloves, her touch seemed to be just a few notches below a mixed-martial arts match. Perhaps I wouldn't have objected if ... maybe... in my dreams... George Clooney or Brad Pitt gave me a gentle pat-down caress.
I wasn't given the option of a movie star, or of the full body scan. And I'm not so sure if I'd go for the scan. Would they see that I buy off-market frayed and stretched-out undergarments? Would I feel compelled to convince them it's cottage cheese and not cellulite in my pants pockets?
I am personally well aware of the consequences of lapsed security. So, I keep my mouth shut. I don't cause a scene. I slip off my shoes. Take off my sweater. Pull my laptop from its case.
And, from now on: NO MORE UNDERWIRES.