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TSA Pat Down Goodies

So today for Whack-A-Doodle Wednesday, I am going to talk about TSA. Isn’t that fun? As you may have read from my previous blogs, I was trapped back East after Christmas in the great airplane debacle of ’10. I finally got out of Virginia on New Years Day. New Years Eve was spent with no booze, no parties and no Alan Rickman. JetBlue couldn’t get me out until after January 5th so Southwest came to my rescue. Actually I have a new slogan for them! “Southwest – The Flying Greyhound Always Gets You Where You Need To Go.” It may not be in luxury. There may not be DirectTV or TerraBlue Chips or more leg room or even assigned seats but they will get you there. You know why? Here is my theory. Ready? Because they are owned by their employees, that’s why! They don’t have the greedy “Mr. Me Gimme Mine” attitude the other big airlines have. My plane didn’t fly because one flight attendant was timed out and since they laid off a bunch of staff, they didn’t have anyone to replace her. But the airline DID make record profit in this shitty economy for their shareholders and bonuses for their top Execs so what do they care?

My plane was scheduled to leave at 8:20 in the morning so we left the house at 6:30. I even slept in my clothes to save myself time. I got to the airport, checked my bag and headed to security without incident. Even at 7:15 in the morning, the airport was very light as far as holiday traffic. It surprised me since there were still people trying to leave after the snow storms in New York and Jersey. Perhaps these souls opted for a late night drunken orgy, instead of an early flight and were sleeping it off.

I have flown four times since the Rapiscan machines have been operational and have never been asked to walk through them. Why don’t I like them?

First, was there ever a more unfortunate name? Just saying.

Second, no hard evidence has been shown that proves these machines are safe. Sure they SAY they are safe. They SAY you get “more radiation from the Sun”. These are also the same people who touted the health benefits of cigarettes, the safety of asbestos, lead paint and all the various drugs that are peddled on TV and then pulled when too many people drop dead, grow two heads or start speaking in tongues.

Third, do I REALLY want someone looking at my bits when I don’t get paid? Umm, no. There is technology that can show just your bones ala “Total Recall” or show a stick figure and still show a square of C4 stuffed down your pants. The inventor of the “little stick man” technology contacted TSA. They haven’t responded.

Fourth, the whole thing is just frosting on a cake that was already eaten by wolves. Meaning? We are real good about responding to things after the fact but not too good at being proactive. Some nut job tries to set off an explosive charge in his shoes and sets them on fire? Solution – make everyone take off their shoes. Guess what? Humans are smart monkeys. They will keep coming up with stupid ways to kill each other that we haven’t thought of. Nothing is 100% safe. The sooner people understand this the better.

Who am I kidding? The people who think that taking our shoes off actually makes us safer also think it’s great when their kid Billy is the 42nd “winner” in Baseball. Yeah, you GO BILLY!! Everyone is a winner!

Anyway, I think it’s stupid and I have to draw the line somewhere. The government treating me like a criminal and peeping at my “cash and prizes” is the line. So I decide if I’m ever asked, I will “opt-out”. After hearing all these groping horror stories I even take to wearing no underwear when I fly. Hey, it’s my only act of rebellion I can currently think of. I’ve never been asked to use the scanner. Today, they are sending everyone through the scanner except for kids under 12. I put my things on the belt and when the TSA guy motions me over I say “I’m sorry. I opt-out.” This is what happened.

The TSA guy calls for a female to do a pat down. There is a female TSA agent on the other side of the metal detector. She calls for a female to do a pat down. No one shows up. Hmmmm, is she not a female? You know, sometimes you can never tell but she looks like a girl to me. I wait patiently and don’t say a word. Finally after 3 minutes (in the near deserted security area) she decided to do it. She leans over the barrier and asks the guy “Did you tell her what was going to happen or should I?”

“WHAT?!” Now I’m thinking this is going to be like prison. Great. I have a lot of smart phrases floating around in my head like “Oh, I’ve been to that frat party!” or “You mean like the last time I was in prison?” or “Just as long as you warm up your hands and buy me dinner, we’re cool.” I say nothing. Saying nothing is better.

So they lead me though the gate by the side of the metal detector. She takes me to the belt and asks me to point out my things. I point to the two bins, the PC bag and the carry on bag. She grabs some and a male TSA agent grabs the others and puts them on some chairs. I stand on the standard mat that they use to pat you down when you set off the metal detector and…

not much of anything. I got the same pat down I would normally get if I set off the metal detector. Down the legs, up the legs, the back of her hand over my ass, around the waist of my jeans, down my arms and to the sides, top, bottom and between my breasts. I’ve been groped more working the Renaissance Faire. No nipple touching. No cooter grabbing. I felt a little left out. It wasn’t objectionable at all. Did certain agents step out of line in the past with other passengers. Yes. We have the tapes. But there are assholes everywhere. My experience was fine. Will I continue to opt-out until they get rid of Rapiscan? Yes. My reasons still haven’t gone away but if you are polite, patient and sane, I would wager you “woog them out” less and they are less likely to treat you like an inmate.

Just so you know, you are also entitled to have the pat down in private if you choose and to have someone of your choice present.

So what was the most traumatizing thing I had to deal with on my way home? It was the HUGE guy in a wrestling singlet on the plane with me to Chicago (where we touched down and took on more people). Thankfully he was wearing pants but carrying his jacket. I don’t know what freaked me out worse. The spandex fashion nightmare or the fact that without the jacket his hairy pits were exposed to the world. I started thinking about the poor bastard you would have to sit next to him. Did he wear deodorant? Does he sweat excessively? When he is seated would his pits be in someone’s face? I was at the end of the B group (also known as the “pick your favorite middle seat” group). I just hoped it wouldn’t be me.

How The West Coast Storm Screwed The Country – Part Two

My plane is delayed for an hour and a half. That’s not bad. I figure since I now have PLENTY of time, I will do something civilized like sit down at the wine bar. I can plug my laptop in, have some Italian white wine and chill out. I can also people watch. My, there are a lot of characters. There is the hippie walking by who must be very secure in his sexuality. Why else would he wear a silky jacket with roses and panda heads on it? There is the fabulous gay couple sitting next to me, wearing matching winter scarves and deciding between the smoked salmon rolls or the diligently assorted cheeses. I look up and see the First Class lounge of American Airlines hovering over the concourse on the second floor. Silver-haired rich men read the Wall Street Journal, sip their cocktails and nibble on free bickies. How am I suppose to get a husband down here in steerage when all the good ones are so far above me. Literally. I’ll bet Alan Rickman is up there, sipping cocktails right now. I’m sure of it!

I go back to my latest writing project. I feel like a juggler in a demented writing circus. I now have six balls in the air. Final edits on “The Squirrel Stole My Thong And Other Reasons I’m Still Single”, still need to write another 40 pages or so on “Deirdre Does Disney” so I can start the first round of edits on that and NOW I am starting a whole series of Disney travel books, broken out into the various parks starting with Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Disney Studios and Magic Kingdom that will go directly to E for a low, low price! (Ginsu knives not included). Downtown Disney, Resorts, Complete Dining, Disneyland and DCA will follow. I had planned on spending all my time until January 3rd writing – writing like the wind. My wind is faltering. But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself.

I am setting up my first four Disney guide books in Scrivener and playing the waiting game. A cute gal sits down opposite me at another table. I swear she is giving me the eye. I could do worse. Who am I kidding, I HAVE done worse! However I no longer trust my judgement. I spend an hour and a half here, then mosey over — fine — slog over to the counter next door to check on my plane. They are still showing a departure of 8:15pm. It is 7pm now. I ask the blond, gay boy named Villie (I swear to God) where the plane is coming from and if they are in the air. He checks, cheerily, all the while chewing and popping gum like his perky life depended on it. It seems our plane isn’t even in the air. Ummmm…. what? It’s in Ft. Lauderdale. Okay. It takes 2 1/2 hours to fly from there to DC. The math isn’t working out. You don’t have to be a hooker to figure that doesn’t add up. Why a hooker? Because they are hella smart with math, that’s why!

My plane has now been pushed back again. It is scheduled to land at 10pm which would put us in the air at 10:30 or 10:45pm. Fine, I settle in to read a new book on Kindle. Then the riot breaks out. It seems there is another flight at my gate going to Boston. They were suppose to leave at 2pm and are now told the flight is cancelled. Their plane is here. At the gate. But the pilots have timed out and they were unable to find any other pilots for Jet Blue in the Washington area who could fly that night. A few people have been waiting to get out for days. My solution – let them take your bags and send them ahead, rent a car and DRIVE! Boston is not that far. Maybe six hours tops. It’s like driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The snow has stopped. Get your ass in a car and drive. I can’t do that. It would take me 3-4 days to drive, by myself, across the country.

The screaming is reaching a fever pitch. I open my gatorade, pull out a $2 wee bag of Popchips and watch the show. Hey, you have to get your entertainment somewhere! All these people are now standing in line at the desks to rebook, stomping around or in the case of three old Yentas, yammering the Supervisors ear off. You really don’t want to be on the receiving end of three pissed off old Jewish ladies. I thought one of them would hit the guy with her cane.

Now my gate is changed. Fortunately it’s just next door so I am in no hurry to move. There is one guy playing guitar softly and singing which is soothing and nice. There is also the bearded, Birkenstock wearing, Know-It-All UC Berkeley hippie working on his 12th year at that school (yes, it’s a 4 year school) on an engineering degree with a minor in philosophy. I have an overwhelming urge to punch him in the junk but go back to my book instead. 45 minutes later, the flight to Ft. Lauderdale next to me is cancelled due to the crew timing out. This isn’t looking good.

Well it’s 9pm and I decide to get my butt over to my gate and check on the plane. I ask the nice lady if our plane has even left Ft. Lauderdale. Remember, it was suppose to land at 10pm? Ummm, nope. It’s still on the ground in Florida. I ask if the crew is going to time out because if that is the case, tell us now while it’s still a decent hour. She assures me they are getting a fresh crew, they won’t time out and we will now be leaving at midnight. Ummm, that just gives you half an hour to get that bird in the air. She assures me it’s fine.


Tomorrow – the wrap up (thus far)

Merry F’in Christmas – How The Great West Coast Storm Screwed The Country (Part 1)

Well, I’ve been out of town since the 19th of December traveling to Los Angeles and then to Washington DC to visit with my family for Christmas. As a result of this abundance of holiday cheer my blog has been on hiatus, due more to the fact that my parents have no idea what a wifi router is, why it has a key or what that key is. As a result, no wifi for me upstairs on my laptop where I have all my writing tools in a row. I have now braved the basement to type on my parents standalone while my laptop sits in the case mocking me.

So, anyway I was suppose to be home today. Relaxing in the bosom of my family, drinking and comforting my now neurotic cat who hasn’t seen me in 10 days and wont see me for 4 more. Over two weeks is a life time to a cat. I’m sure she will ignore me, then stick to my side like glue and then possibly pee on me while I’m sleeping just to show how annoyed she is.

Well, I’m not home. I’m back in Virginia at my parents house and will be here until the New Year. How did this happen? I blame it on the hippies. A huge winter storm sweeped into California on the 19th (the day I started this traveling nightmare), pounded Southern California with rain for days and then moved on. Northern California wasn’t too badly hit. Mainly due to the fact that we are too smart to build our houses on toothpick stilts or build houses in secluded canyons that regularly catch fire without a quick way to get a fire truck to them, which in turn causes these houses to slide down the canyon in a river of mud.

I thought, big deal, so we walk around in the pouring rain at Disneyland. No biggie. The crowds will be less. But the storm moved on and moved across the country. You would think moving over land would dissipate the storm. Nope. It built and put a big hitch in everyones plans. It gets to the East Coast and newscasters are warning there could be a blizzard on Christmas Day in the District. Great. I figure I will never be able to get out because my plane will be mired in snow. Nope.

Christmas Day dawns with light flurries of snow that dump a grand total of 1/2″ on DC and Northern Virginia. Yay! I’m saved! There is no snow. I realize it sucks to be you if you are stuck in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts or any of the other Eastern states that had to deal with the huge dump truck load of snow. Parts of New Jersey were buried with 4 ft. of the stuff in a day. New York airports and Boston Logan were at a standstill. It was as bad as Heathrow although we have snow plows and snow melting machines to help clean up. London just has fortitude. I wondered why they didn’t pay some their unemployed to shovel the runways but that is a blog for another time.

I figured I was home free. No snow, clear skies. I arrived at the airport at around 4:45pm for a 6:45 flight. I check my bag. It is 2 pounds over the 50 pound weight limit. I offer to take things out rather than pay the freight. They let it go. A Christmas miracle! I skip (fine – slog) to the security line. Hey, when you are carrying a laptop bag full of tech toys and 3 Playboys from 1965 and a tote bag with 40 pounds of books – it’s heavy!

I get my ID checked. They either don’t notice or don’t care that my drivers license is expired. Yes, I have the temporary paper but I have no idea where it is at the moment. I am waved into another line by…. a maitre’d? A marching band conductor? It seems some TSA agents at Dulles are sporting thick, looping braid that attaches to their shoulder, goes under their arm and back to the shoulder again in a loop. WTF? They look like demented doormen. Is this a special badge of honor for grabbing the most junk in a month? I have no idea.

I take off my shoes, step up to the belt and start putting my things in bins. Again I am prepared to opt out of Rapiscan and am going commando. Hey, it’s my only means of protest! The guy in front of me starts for the metal detector with a backpack and a rolling bag. ummm Dude! What? Are you new? What are you doing? So he gets called back, puts his shit on the belt and then he doesn’t have his laptop in its own bin. Dude! Finally he goes through. I am waved to the metal detector so no groping for me. I feel a little sad. As I am waiting for my bags I notice the TSA agents looking at something in the Xray machine. You know when they stop the belt, reverse it, look again, point, look again? The prison matron Helga, I mean the TSA agent Helga glances at me. I immediately point to Mr. Clueless. Yeah, it’s his bag. She pulls him aside and proceeds to rifle through his bag like a demented squirrel. I get my things and go. However, curiosity gets the best of me. As I laced up my tennies, I watch to see what Mr. Clueless has in his bag. Ready?

A full sized bottle of Pepto Bismol. Dude! Are you new! Is that a 3 oz container, sealed into its own quart baggie, that was declared before hand? No. No, it’s not. The potentially lethal Pepto goes in the trash while Matron Helga roots around for more contraband liquid meds. I move on to my gate. Dulles has been renovated and it’s lovely. They now have high speed trains instead of the plodding “Star Wars – Moon of Endor” trams that use to play Frogger on the tarmac with the planes. I check the board. My flight is delayed. I was suppose to leave at 6:45pm, now I’m scheduled for 8:15pm. Not too bad. There is a wine bar. I can wait.

If I had only known……