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I opted out during my last flight. After everything I had read, I decided I needed to experience it first hand. I was expecting a huge scene, with the TSA agent screaming, "OPT OUT! We've got an opt out here!", and then being manhandled, groped, and basically demeaned in front of other passengers.

After removing my shoes (the one part of airport security theatre I absolutely hate) and placing my belongings in those gray trays, I walked up to the TSA agent, who asked me multiple times if I had anything in my pockets-had I forgotten my wallet? Did I have my wrist watch on? Etc.

After the person in front of me had completed his scan, the TSA agent directed me to step forward. I asked if I could opt out. He responded with, "sure", and in his walkie-talkie, said, "I have a male-opt out." He then looked at me and said, "One second..."

He got a response back in his walkie talkie, and then directed me to walk through the scanner, pointing out that the scanner was not on.

On the other side, I was greeted by an older gentleman, who also pointed out the scanner was off. He asked if I would prefer being patted down in a private location. I declined. He then explained everything he would do: From the pat down, to using the back of his hand for the more "private" areas. I said, "okay...", honestly expecting the worst at this point.

He proceeded with the pat down at this point. He did my upper body first (arms, chest, back) and then went to my backside and said, "I'll now be using the back of my hand to pat your more private area" (my butt, basically...) I responded, "okay", and then with a brush, he ran his hand down the backside of my leg.

I'll be honest: My immediate thought was, "That's it? I've been grabbed worse in a club/bar..."

Of course, I still hadn't received the crotch check...

He then explained he would be patting down my leg. "Here goes...", I thought.

With the back of his hands, he patted down my upper thighs (no where near the crotch), and then wrapped his hands around my legs and went "up" until "contact" was made, but immediately moved down, patting the rest of my leg. He then moved on to the other.

Again, I've seen and experienced far worse contact made in a club/bar.

After that, he had to get his gloves scanned (similar to the band they use for laptops), and after everything came clear, he thanked me for cooperating. I thanked him in response, and went on my way.

While I realize it's entirely dependent on the TSA agent you're dealing with, as well as personal/emotional experience, my own experience wasn't nearly as bad as I had prepared myself for.

When I pointed this out to a friend of mine (via text), he responded, "Yeah, but you're not a hot chick..."

He probably has a point :)

A few observations: Two of the four or five passengers who opted-in to get scanned, had to be patted down after - a similar experience I had (I went through the scanner once before, a mistake on my part, and had to be patted down after...)

The TSA agent made a comment during the pat down that surprised me: He wasn't a fan of the scanners himself. He said (paraphrasing here), "I've been reading about the radiation from these machines. You think passengers have it bad? I have to stand in front of this thing all day!"

Edit: Shoot, this is a lot longer than I had anticipated. A tl;dr: I opted-out of the scanner out of my own curiosity. The airport I flew out of employed TSA agents who made the experience not nearly as bad as I had anticipated... Of course, YMMV.

> You think passengers have it bad? I have to stand in front of this thing all day!

I encourage anyone that opts out to plant this fear in the TSA agents head. "I'm a little concerned about the radiation myself but I can't imagine what it's like for you to stand near this machine all day. It must be worrying".

Getting the TSA agents on our side certainly can't hurt.

"I have to stand in front of this thing all day!"

You know, I never thought about that. Considering how x-ray technicians stand behind lead guards and aren't scanning people rapid-fire all day, I wonder what the dosage the TSA folks are getting.

TSA will not allow staff to wear film badge dosimeters, like those regularly worn by health care workers with potential radiation exposure,

Everyone is also assuming that the TSA is properly configuring and maintaining this equipment, and that it is not malfunctioning and giving overdoses.

They actively disallow it? That is rather, umm, shocking? If anyone ever called out the "if you've got nothing to cover up..." line, then I'd say it fits here.

TSA will not allow staff to wear film badge dosimeters

Do you have a link for that?

Has anyone worn a film badge dosimeter while getting scanned (or just put on in their pocket)? That would be a way to independently test the radiation dose.

If everything is configured properly, the dosimeters would read normal. If not, isn't it better to find out as soon as possible?

No. Imagine if a few workers were being overdosed. The TSA would get sued and they'd have to find some other way to annoy us.

No data, no lawsuit.

Using dosimeters works in many places where they use equipment that produce X-rays. On occasion, an incident happens. This may lead to a lawsuit, but still a lawsuit much smaller in scope than when workers are being overdosed over longer periods of time and them finding out in a few years.

X-Ray technicians also hide behind lead-lined walls, so when they're irradiating you they're doing so while protected. The TSA screeners are just standing next to the machines and are probably getting pretty much the same dose that their passengers are, which given that these machines are in the TSA's hands, probably means that they have absolutely no idea as to what dosage they're actually delivering.

Yeah, that's my concern.

Slightly off-topic, but this reminds me of the recent studies that revealed that nicotine in the air is actually spread nicely throughout a restaurant that has good air flow. Thus, even waiters and waitresses who opt to work in "nonsmoking" sections are still getting a decent dose of nicotine, moreso than in restaurants with bad air flow. What do people in the restaurant industry do to reduce the risks associated with nicotine inhalation for their employees? Tying back to this issue for the TSA employees, it seems like there would be some kind of regulation to help employees avoid prolonged exposure to rays/substances that have high risk consequences.

Restaurants deal with that by getting rid of the smoking section, which I think nearly every US state requires by law now anyway.

Indiana doesn't. (At least.) You have us confused with a state in the twenty-first, I think.

I did say nearly. There are a few holding strong... Missouri still didn't last time I was there, but it's been a few years.

Now, wouldn't it be interesting to show up at the airport with a couple of spare dosimeters and give them to the porn crew? It is doubtful that they are all instructed against them, or else they would have already considered radiation risks.

Well when TSA agents across the nation begin to undergo a wave of gruesome mutations, we will have our answer.

Nice to get a detailed user report. One question--what clubs do you go to, to get extreme gropings?

It's common in standing-room-only punk and rock shows. When the music starts, people push forward, so the crowd compresses shockingly tight. There is so much pressure that your arms are pinned to the person next to you, unless you raised them when the music started. Combine that with the oddball-variety of people who attend these shows, and you get conversations like the following:

   Ben: Brian, are you touching my ass?
   Brian: No.
   Ben: I was afraid of that.

I wondered the same thing. My first thought was "some gay clubs are like that", but I do not wish to make any unwelcome assumptions about anyone's sexuality :-)

If you're looking for extreme gropings, I'd say Ramrod's backroom in Boston is about as good as it gets. Just sayin.

Two things that strike me.

First, what is the back of the hand thing all about? Is it less sensitive? Is it somehow less demeaning? It doesn't make sense to me.

Second, if he "made contact" and then immediately retreated...what did he make contact with? Was it clearly your junk? Or could it have been anything? How is it at all effective to do the pat down if all they do is retreat when they feel a little resistance. That could be anything.

And one more thing for good measure...

It's not the pleasantness or not of the pat down that is central to this issue. It's the effectiveness of it, the invasiveness of it, etc. Sure, your guy was nice...that doesn't have any impact on the policy being good or bad at all (not to say that is what you implied).

They use the back of he hand on more private areas so that the fingers are facing outwards. The idea is to prevent any kind of grabbing: perceived, actual, accidental, intentional, whatever.

Edit: iPod typos

I always thought that it was because the palm of the hand was more sensitive than the back, but the finger theory is much more sensible.

I too have wondered- wouldn't you just hide something in your crotch then?

I suspect you may have received the old "mild" patdown and not the new "enhanced" one. I think the new one uses the front of the hand.

The guy in San Diego who refused the patdown a couple days ago now has the TSA claiming he was only going to get the old one:

"Aguilar says that Tyner was facing nothing more than the traditional pat-down that TSA has used for some time, and not a more aggressive body search in effect since late October."


If this is true then patdownees are not yet experiencing the real thing in some locations.

Thanks for posting this. Very insightful.

The thing I keep in mind is while I might not have a problem with this kind of pat-down I doubt many women are going to be ok with it.

The pat-down itself isn't even the real problem here or even the potential to abuse it (which is bad enough); almost certainly if you are an attractive women this is at the minimum going to be an embarrassing scene. I told my gf about this and she was shocked; she happens to be a very attractive asian women who normally draws a lot of unnecessary attention just out shopping/doing whatever.

So does she choose a private pat-down and who knows what kind of risks that brings? Or does she do it publicly so everyone can watch her getting groped? Sure as a guy I think no big deal, but for women this really is a big deal.

Anyway, what a mess and worst of all it fixes nothing.

As pleasant as your experience was, this shouldn't be taken in any way as justification for the procedure. I'm not saying that's what you're trying to do; it's just that I can see people reading this and saying to themselves "Well, what's the big deal? It's not that bad."

To provide another data point: I had essentially the same experience at Boston Logan airport a week ago. When I said I would prefer not to go through the scanner, the TSA agent said into her radio "I have a male opt-out." I was calm and respectful, so were the TSA agents, nobody was particularly happy about the process, but everyone was professional about it. It did take perhaps an extra 5 minutes, and I was a little concerned about my luggage being out of sight during that time.

This was after the most recent initial flurry of bad publicity, so perhaps word came down to skip the yelling.

I have to say it sounds like you received the not so invasive pat down procedure of old not the new and improved stick your hands down my pants and twist pat down procedures.

A friend told me he flew into San Antonio yesterday and not only had his junk touched but it was twisted to boot. He said he didn't even get offered dinner first and he was afraid he'd get arrested if he'd punched the guy in the nose but was really just too freaked out to do anything.

This is what the government wants; sheeple that will let them even mess with your private parts without response.

this almost reads like one of those gopher text-porn stories pre-web.

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