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After a great stay at the new JW Marriott in Austin, I planned to head to the airport for my (now routine) SSSSpecial massage, courtesy of the TSA. Except something fantastic happened. My American flight was delayed by a couple of hours, so I purchased a new ticket home on United instead. While my AA boarding pass had the usual “SSSS” printed on the front, my UA ticket actually gave me Precheck. Talk about an entirely different experience!

I had a pleasant trip through the checkpoint for a change, and made my way to the Admirals Club (since I still had an AA ticket). So far so good. Until I heard an announcement over the PA, requesting my presence at the lounge’s check-in desk.

There, three TSA officers were waiting for me. They politely asked to see my boarding pass, so I gave them my United pass (since that was the flight I was actually planning to take), which had Precheck listed (and no “SSSS”). They seemed confused, and asked me to come with them. Knowing what would come next I asked for a private room. I was even allowed to bring my coffee!

My new boarding pass (bottom) got me through without issue.
My new boarding pass (bottom) got me through without issue.

Ultimately, the two guys performing my morning “massage” couldn’t have been nicer. They were thorough, but expedient. They powered up my electronics and everything, but all in all the experience was enjoyable. Which brings me to… reviews of my SSSSpecial TSA experiences over the past week (ranked from best to worst – all scores are out of 10):

Austin (AUS)
Bedside Manner: 10
Massage Technique: 7.5 (I prefer deep tissue, but they were more Swedish.)
Expediency: 10
Folding Technique: 10 (Because they let me repack my own bag.)
Average Score: 9.375

Bonus Feedback: The private room was not glamorous. There was plywood and it was so small I couldn’t stand with my hands completely out. Come on — where are my tax dollars going?!

Provincetown (PVC)
Bedside Manner: 8 (Friendly.)
Massage Technique: 6 (Not memorable — which maybe should make it a 10?)
Expediency: 8 (Quick and no-nonsense Cape Cod.)
Folding Technique: 6 (No complaints, no praise.)
Average Score: 7

The lounge at the JW Marriott. What a difference an hour makes!
The lounge at the JW Marriott this morning. What a difference an hour makes!

New York (JFK)
Bedside Manner: 6 (Typical brusque New Yorkers.)
Massage Technique: 8 (Firm but not intrusive.)
Expediency: 6
Folding Technique: 4 (Sloppy and wrinkled – and it was my first day of vacation!)
Average Score: 6

BoSSSSton Logan (BOS)
Bedside Manner: 7 (Friendly, but clueless.)
Massage Technique: 2 (DEEP INVASIVE. I like deep tissue, but NOT deep groin.)
Expediency: 1 (Two people working for 30 minutes with a supervisor overseeing.)
Folding Technique: 2 (Each item was set out on the filthy X-ray belt as agents swabbed to cover almost every single square inch. Clothes were folded individually back in — which I appreciate — but the dirty belt affected this score.)
Average Score: 3

Bonus Feedback: Anxiety-inducing and maximally invasive. I will avoid Boston logan while I am living with the SSSScarlet letter. How you doin’, Amtrak?

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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