Monday, April 4, 2011

you can opt out...

you can opt out...  from a full body scan at terminal 4 (US Scare) of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Then you go through the normal metal detector, you are patted down by TSA personnel, and then you are subjected to an Al El style interview.  Where are you traveling to? have you been there before?  Who do you know there?  The whole time, the interviewer is scanning you for signs of nervousness or uncertainty, inconsistancy, as they probe you, to gauge what kind of threat you might possibly pose in some bizzaro universe.  More of the dehumanization of air travel.

As I got in the line for the security screening, a family with 6 children, all under the age of 10, inched and sputtered its way towards the ID & gate pass screening personnel.  A frenzied, hurried business looking man in his early 50s frantically was trying to remove his belt, pull out his boarding pass, empty his pockets into his carry on, right behind this family and just ahead of me.  I usually do all this pr-work PRIOR to entering the security line, so as to avoid the balancing act of trying to walk and partially undress at the same time, but, to each their own.

The family of 6 mobbed one screener's podium, while frantic business man in corduroy jacket chopped at the bit to get screened at the adjacent podium as soon as he could.  He was obviously late.  There were surprisingly 5 podiums, being fed by 3 lines, and behind the 5 podiums, 6 lines of scanners  - full body scanners.  Empty your pockets, raise your hands above your head, stand with legs spread, and don't move for 10 seconds - those kinds of scanners. Corduroy man got called by podium 5, and shortly thereafter, so did I.  We both made a bee line to the last scanner line that appeared to have the shortest wait.   The massive family with 6 kids opted for the adjacent line 5.

Frantic man squeezed himself ahead of a very old person, who could best be described as the Slow Motion Droopy Dog Octogenarian.  Upon HURRIEDLY laying all of his carry on items onto the conveyor or x-raying, Frantic man balked at the FBS.  5 feet away was a normal metal detector scanner...  couldn't he use it instead?  The nitrile gloved TSA agent agreed he could, and held up the line while frantic man went through the normal detector.  Ancient Droopy Dog did his best, at 1.5mph, to very very slowly put his small roller suit case on the belt and remove his coat and shoes.  I did my very best to not chomp at the bit behind his lethargicness.

Droopy Dog opted for the FBS, I watched him go through the process, and opted for the same.  TSA was very courteous about what to do, and holding my driver's license in my hand over my head, I passed the FBS and was waived through, to stand beside Droopy Dog as he waited for his coat and bag to exit the x-ray scanner.  I'd placed my shoes & coat first, then laptops (company and personal netbook) and then my computer bag and roll on, in that order, so by the time Droopy Dog had donned his coat and shoes, I'd re-packed my electronics, liquids, donned shoes, coat, and had all my items off the conveyor, heading away from security, when I noticed Frantic Corduroy Man, being interrogated, in a side screening area.  "Where did you stay while you were in Phoenix?" I over heard the TSA interrogator.

Frantic Man was some sort of business man.  He appeared to be of US origin - not European clothing. He was married, with a wedding band apparent.  His laptop was an older model Dell.  He was graying, balding, Caucasian, mid 50s, and other than appearing late enough to want to nudge an unsupervised child out of the way, he was No Threat to ANYONE.  But his rushed manner, and his obvious lateness made him look "suspicious" I guess, to the semi-trained TSA interrogator.  I felt very sorry for Frantic Man.

You see, I've been as late as Frantic Man before, and I don't like it.  I'm a terrible poker player (just as Dr Desert Flower can tel you) who is often not adept in social situations at concealing his hand, his disdain, his impatience, his interest, his amusement, his disagreement, his exasperation, his fatigue, or his stress.  Stress, disdain and impatience would have been my "tell" and I am sure if I had opted for the no-x-rays, only high intensity electro-magnetic field metal scanner, I probably would have been subjected to the same interrogation, making me even more annoyed and late.  The perspective on lateness I learned while traveling to Asia for 3 years with work can be summarized by "I'd rather get there an hour early and buy you a drink at the bar while we wait, than rush in with just 5 minutes to spare".

So yes, you CAN opt out of the Full Body Scanner, but be prepared to get scrutinized, grilled, and interrogated, intensely by TSA if you do.  And get to the airport early, to allow for an extra 10 minutes of personal Q & A.

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