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Nov 03

Lesson learned about Airport Security

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Going through airport security through the pre-check line is usually fast and efficient. I typically get through in 5-7 minutes from entering the line to leaving for the gate, although Atlanta and Washington Dulles take longer. For those unfamiliar with this great deal, pre-check passengers have gone through a rigorous background check. The result is that they go through a separate security line that is typically shorter. Shoes and belt stay on. You can even wear a light jacket or sweatshirt. Wallet stays in your pocket. Only phone, electronics, and anything metal still needs to go through the scanner. Laptops stay in the carry-on. The result promises to be a fast walkthrough.

Unless you get beeped walking through the metal detector. That signals one of two things. Typically it means you’re wearing or carrying something metallic, such as in some boots, belts, or jewelry. Or, you forgot to unload one of the prohibited items mentioned previously.

Occasionally the second reason for the beep occurs, which given my travel I’ve had to experience on several occasions: The randomly selected person in the pre-check line has to go through the scanner machine that everyone without pre-check goes through.

In my case during a very recent experience, it meant waiting. And waiting. Aaaaand waiting. The TSA officer at the metal detector had to radio five times for a colleague to come over to take me through the process. I can tell this irritated him, as it did me. Just to be clear, I’m fine with this random selection. It “feels” inconvenient, but in the big picture it’s still faster than going through the regular line, and if it helps with the overall safety of people passing through airports—I’ll live with a little inconvenience.

The problem was that there were several TSA officers in the area who were not scanning or engaged with passengers. They were walking around, perhaps patrolling. By the 4th time the radio request went out, I started to show my irritation.

Rule #1 regarding TSA Security: Follow their instructions.

Rule #2: Do not show impatience, irritation, or any other emotion that may be perceived as negative. Better to take yoga breaths and whisper to yourself “Ommm”.

When a TSA officer finally showed, he had me go through the scanner. Here is where I broke the 3rd rule by checking my watch and huffing into the scanner. That would be Rule #3: Always remember Rule #2.

Just a side note, when going through the regular scanner, it’s best not to wear a belt or light jacket. These will pop up on the scanner and you will be put through a frisk. This is a bit conflicting for someone in pre-check who does not have to take off belt or jacket. I’ve gone through such experiences, which tend to be quick and non-invasive, as the TSA officers seem to recognize this conflict—especially when you are “randomly selected” to go through the scanner.

Not so on this experience. The TSA Officer showed me on the screen how there was a shaded area around my waist and upper chest area. Rather than giving me the option to take off my belt and jacket for a rescan, he proceeded to pat my chest. He then ordered me to loosen my belt and, in front of everyone in the security area, stuck his hand inside my belted pants and did a pat down.

Now you could say that I got it because of breaking rule #2 and #3. In hindsight, I would have kept calm. That may have avoided the humiliating pat down that occurred. Since I’ve gone through many such “random selections” and this is the first time anyone did what this TSA Officer chose to do, one has to wonder at the motive.

 

When he was done. I said, “That’s the first time this has ever happened to me at a security checkpoint.”

The TSA Officer’s response: “Hope you enjoyed the experience.”

 

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For other helpful tips about airports, check out this article on Yahoo.

7 comments

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  1. Book Lover

    I’m allowed to go through the pre-check line, however, the TSA agents scan me every time because of my double knee and single hip replacements. It’s a nuisance that I’ve learned to handle because some TSA agents are polite. But the one who said to you, “Hope you enjoyed the experience,” made an uncalled for comment. I got a creepy feeling reading his comment.

  2. Kelly Bixby

    I bet it was a good decision to let the agent have the last word… ’till now. Your unpleasant experience turned into a useful lesson. Thanks for sharing your story and identifying basic rules we air travelers can relate to.

  3. Claire Murray

    Wow! What an experience! Good story.

  4. Kook-Wha Koh

    It is tedious process through the TSA.
    If you are 75 over, you do not need to take off your shoes.
    I enjoyed to read it.

    1. John McCarthy

      Thank you 🙂 You deserve the respect to wear shoes. With as much travel that you do, I have the greatest respect for your wisdom.

  5. Yibbity

    The TSA is the reason I stopped flying. I have been taken aside in a glassed in area and frisked. Since I was brought up flying in small planes…flying is not the problem.

    1. John McCarthy

      It is the cost of doing business for me 🙂

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