My First TSA “Opt Out” Grope Down

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I’ve been successful at dodging the TSA nudey machine bullet recently, but my luck ran up tonight. I was going through security in Miami Terminal D and I thought I had chosen the correct security lane- the one where everyone was going through the metal detector. This method has worked pretty well in the past, but not tonight. When it was my turn to go through, the TSA man threw me a curveball and told me to go through the nudey machine. Funny thing to note: all of the pilots/FAs/airport workers were instructed to NOT go through the machine. From my point of view, why should a frequent flyer want to go through if the Airline Pilots Association feels there may be a risk in extended exposure to the machine? There are weeks where I go through security more times than a pilot- I’m not sold that there are absolutely no side effects from frequent use. Knowing that I was somewhat uncomfortable with it, I decided to opt out.

Me: “I don’t want to go through the machine”
Without missing a beat, the man starts yelling:
TSA Man “WE GOT A MALE OPT OUT! I REPEAT- MALE OPT OUT! Sir please move aside” (As all of my belongings, including my wallet-they made me take everything out of my pockets- are now waiting at the end of the conveyor belt)
2 minutes pass
Me: “Sir- my wallet and belongings are down there, I don’t feel comfortable being apart from them- someone could just walk off with my wallet since no one is watching over them”
TSA Man: “Someone will be with you shortly”
3 more minutes pass
TSA Man: “Repeat- we have a male opt out”
2 more minutes pass and poly TSA Manager walks up and instructs me to follow him.
I go between the metal detector and Nudey Machine.. why wouldn’t they at least have me go through the metal detector??

I point out my belongings to TSA Manager and he takes 2 of the 4 bins. I ask if I should take the others and he mumbles something, which I interpret as “No”.

Another couple minutes pass and he tells me to stand with my hands out, feet spread apart shoulder length. I do so and realize he doesn’t even have his latex gloves on yet, so I stand with my hands out for a good 60 seconds while he takes his sweet time and slowly puts on the gloves. At this point, it is very clear that I have disrupted his daily routine and he wants to make an example of me.

Before he starts, get gives me a pre-canned speech, something like:
TSA Manager “I’m going to pat you down and use the back of my hands for your buttocks and sensitive areas. I’ll also check into your groin area until the point of resistance and around your waistline. I’ll then inspect around your legs. Do you have any medical conditions or external ailments?”

Me: “No”

Let the games begin!
He first began by inspecting my collar and then cupping my chest and patting down my stomach.  Good thing he was pretty chubby, or else I may have felt self conscious. When he got to my waist, he put his fingers in between my waistband (creepy) and worked his way around, which somewhat tickled (weird).

He then worked the back of his hands on my rear side and down the back. Coming around the front, he firmly checked my front side and firmly patted my groin area until the “point of resistance”, which is where your leg meets your waist.  I hope he was impressed. Seemingly satisfied with the pat down, he then swabbed his hands and my bags with a strip and then put it through a machine to test for explosives. The machine came back clear and he told me I was good to go.

Before I knew it, my little 20 minute trsyt with the TSA was over. While the process was incredibly inefficient (I mean, hello, its the TSA we are dealing with) and somewhat creepy, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. The TSA needs to respect people’s decisions to not go through the machine and they should have an efficient process to deal with those who opt out. I mean, why couldn’t they let me go through the metal detector like everyone else and then swipe me for explosives?

Overall, it was very clear to me that the TSA was on a mission to make an example of me and send a message that opting out isn’t okay. In my eyes, they are trying to set policies through the use of fear and intimidation- wait a minute, that kind of sounds like terrorism. Ironic, huh?

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