Ever since the TSA started putting back-scatter devices into use at selected airports last fall, I’ve been waiting to have the chance to opt out and register a one-woman protest against the machines. (Jeff Goldberg doesn’t get to have all the fun.) However, most of my recent air travel has been with a tiny traveling companion, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised that at six different airports, TSA agents have directed us away from the back-scatter devices and through metal detectors, simply because I had a three-month-old baby in my arms.
(I also learned that the Irish-Catholic TSA agents in Boston will eagerly carry your luggage and reassemble your stroller when they learn your daughter’s name is Finoula. I warned her not to expect such special treatment everywhere.)
So I was awfully pleased when I arrived at a security checkpoint in Miami International Airport this morning and discovered that my line fed into a back-scatter device, even though metal detectors were in use for the other lines. When it was my turn, I politely said that I would like to opt out. “Seriously?” the first TSA worker asked me with a raised eyebrow. Yes, seriously.
He directed me through the nearby metal detector (the one that would have been good enough if I’d just chosen another line) and motioned for me to wait for a pat-down agent: “Female opt-out!” A female agent led me to a table where she set my bags and then skeptically asked if I knew what the pat down involved. Yes, indeedy (thanks, Jeff Goldberg!) “Do you want to do this somewhere private?” No, thank you. The agent calmly explained what she was going to do before she performed each part of the procedure, and very briskly but thoroughly went through the pat-down. The whole thing was over in a matter of minutes and was a completely professional experience.
Or it was, until a male TSA agent walked behind us and hollered: “Hey, I thought she was mine! I was gonna do her!”
And that, buddy, is exactly why I’m opting out instead of standing in the see-through picture machine. Thanks for validating my choice.