Friday, May 4, 2012


CODE 22 Male! or... The TSA's Inane & Arbitrary Bureaucracy

I arrived at the Albany airport nearly 3 hours ahead of my flight yesterday.  I'd gotten my work at the plant done early, lunch went faster than expected, and I thought I might get on an earlier flight.  Silly me, no earlier flights were available..  but Albany DOES have free wifi, so I thought I might get a little work done.  After getting my boarding pass for the glamorous coach embraer jet seat, I approached security to find only one screening line open, and they were sending nearly everyone though the PROVISION ATD full body scanner.  There was a functioning metal detector next to it, but apparently only women of child bearing age who the female TSA screener arbitrarily selected could go through the metal detector.  I always try to "pick the line" that has the metal detector, and not the full body high energy scan.  "It has no more energy than a cell phone" - yeah, right, I don't think you understand electromagnetic theory and energy density as well as I do, under-trained and low-paid TSA employee.   The amount of energy necessary to penetrate through clothes, and skin, and render a USEABLE image to a screener, is 10X to 100X that of what a "normal cell phone" puts out, and I don't typically expose my genitals and entire body to 2 second high energy bursts of my cell phone at FULL POWER.  

But physics aside, I decide that I will ask them to be metal detector scanned, or go through the manual pat down.  Carla-from-Cheers, the arbitrary TSA screener in Albany Thursday afternoon, tells me NO, I can't be metal detector scanned - after letting 2 women just go through it, in their socks, since their shoes were being x-rayed on the adjacent conveyor.  I tell her I don't want to be full body scanned.   She then launches into her pre-prepared speech, about how benign the full body scanner is, how it is such low low levels of radiation, "no more than a cell phone" (yeah, a cell phone on crack with a flux capacitor driving it'd power source, maybe) and that a physical pat down will involve close hand inspections of my buttocks and genitals.   Do I still want a manual screening?   Carla asks me.  "Yes, I do not want a high energy scan of my entire body, I'll take the humiliating and unnecessary manual pat down" I tell her, loud enough for the next 10 people in line to hear me. 

"CODE 22, MALE!" Carla barks into her walkie talkie, and tells me to "take a seat" at the pre-appointed 'naughty boy' chair they have, back of chair facing ID screening podium  I choose to stand.  5 or 6 passengers later, Louie CK ambles slowly up to the far side of the metal detector, and asks for my boarding pass.   I begin to walk through the metal detector - OMG NO!  NO!   I CANT go through the metal detector!!!  That would show I have no metal objects on me..  and reveal how futile and wasteful the manual pat down really is!  "Boarding pass please!" Louie barked at me, and forced me to use a glass & metal gate, to go AROUND the metal detector.  Yeah Louie, the guy at the podium obviously didn't do his job earlier...    I thought maybe I was in India again.

SO now, the Florist from The Town, his body guard Rusty, with blue rubber gloves on, is the poor 60 yr old TSA employee who has to pat me down - apparently Louie CK can only look at boarding passes and let trouble making passengers through the glass/metal bypass door.  that's all his puny little cerebral cortex could handle.

The Florist's body guard explains to me the technique he is going to use, and that if I want a private room screening, that is available.  "No, I'm not overly modest. Do it here please."  Florist body guard hesitates..  saying "I will run the back of my hand over and between your buttocks, and next to your genitals...  are you sure?"  "I have nothing to hide, let's get it over with, here."  He then begins my pat down.   Pretty much every inch of my bare skin and clothing were touched, felt, gently massaged, except for the center of my testicles, anus (but not for lack of trying), top of my head, and bottoms of my feet  "Do you have any sensitive areas?" Florist bodyguard Rusty asks me.  "Not anymore more sensitive than any other human" I replied.  He delivered a firm, but no overly harsh 'karate chop" to what would have been my bikini line, if I was wearing briefs - jostling the boys inside my boxers.   Thanks TSA!   Not since being felt up in China 10 years ago by an enthusiastic airport screening lady have I been this close with a complete stranger.  Florist body guard Rusty made sure I did not have a prehensile or vestigial tail - though I wonder what happens to the small percentage of the public who DO have vestigial tails?   He politely asked me to spread my legs more, as he continued to feel me up.  And then, he did something interesting...   he swabbed his gloves for chemical residue!   I've had my carry on and shoes swabbed before, since 2002, more than once...   but I've never seen someone's gloves swabbed.   I wonder what would have happened if the gloves had been contaminated prior to Florist Bodyguard Rusty inspecting me?  Would they have dragged me off for a "private screening"?  Makes me wonder.

So, the next time you are traveling through a US airport, and you want to not get a massive dose of radio waves penetrating your clothes and body, basically "'cooking" you for 2 seconds.. and you want to "opt out", now you are aware of what the experience might have in store for you too.  =)


  1. You should ask my bf about his lovely experience with the TSA --- and the random person (not a TSA employee) who was going through his bags with the TSA watching doing nothing.

    I have the joy of going through the special line every time. whoo hoo..

  2. i always opt out (unless they send me through the metal detector), and they always swab the gloves afterwards.

  3. I am curious, do you get the pre-rehearsed speech about how invasive it will be, and how you get the option of a private screening room? (or maybe that's just an Albany thing).

    Who was the random bag rummager? (I always put my wallet / passport deep inside my laptop bag, so a rummager would have to Dig Deeply to get it out)

  4. I think I would ask for double or triple dose of the high-energy burst screening. I could use some neutering anyway.

  5. LOL! That horse has already left the barn. =)

  6. Too funny (if violating civil liberty is ever a funny matter) but I found this post by googling TSa code 22. See, I'm a professional traveler, and opt out every single time, a few times a week. And I have *never* been assigned a code number before! Just like a real, live, law breaker!

    Yeah, I got the menacing speech about what happens when you opt out, and a incredulous "are you sure", too. That act is played elsewhere as well, but Albany does it with a magnitude of more gusto. As if they ever scare someone into going for the machine. But this Code 22 thin has me curious - is that an ALB thing ti keep other unsuspecting sheep from realizing the two magic words - OPT OUT? So they use official and scary sounding code numbers???

  7. Albany TSA is at one end of the 'attempted intimidation' spectrum. Salt Lake City international arrivals (Air France, Paris to SLC direct) is at the other end of spectrum, with the inspector being apologetic, not as rough of a pat down, and no karate chops - as well as no yelling "Code 22! Opt Out!"

    Hartsfield in Atlanta has typically a solid 8 lines for checkin, and Every Other Line is a metal detector, so I always migrate to the metal detector line in the massive herd of slowly shuffling travelers. Unfortunately after international Customs & Immigration, there's No metal detectors and it's all radio frequency human cooking.

    If the majority of travelers all opted out, the TSA would be forces to change their procedures to something less draconian. But sadly, most of the sheeple happily irradiate themselves. I'll continue to get to the airport an extra 30 minutes early, and opt out whenever possible (and not miss my flight).


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