November 28, 2010

Airport security touched my junk!

With the latest fall-out over the new and, yes, highly intimate, body searches at US airports, I can tell you first-hand what to expect. Your junk will be touched.

I have just returned from three weeks travelling through the United States and transited through four airports: Los Angeles, San Diego, Washington DC and JFK New York. For those who think LAX is anal about security, that’s nothing on San Diego. They have x-ray machines there and if you refuse to be ‘rayed, you can nominate a full body pat down. At JFK I had no choice.

But first, let this be a lesson to you: Saying, “If you touch my junk I’m gonna have you arrested,” is a silly idea. It is like waving a blood-red rag in front of an angry bullock – or saying ‘bomb’ to a flight attendant. Who knew? Thirty-one year old passenger John Tyner probably wishes he did. He uttered these words to security at San Diego airport when being told how his pat-down was going to be conducted and he is now being threatened with a $10,000 fine. Suffice to say he didn’t make his flight.

I went through San Diego airport the other day and while I understand that security staff must get sick of yelling the same instructions over and over, they need to bear in mind, we’re not baddies. Just people trying to go somewhere for work or a holiday. All belts had to come off (in the past I’ve only seen men remove their belts), shoes (this is standard procedure all over the world), all jewellery had to be put in a container (what the…?!). Since I’d been married only a week I wasn’t removing my wedding rings. Fortunately I didn’t make a smart-arse comment about it or I might still be there.

Then instead of the wand scan by a security staffer of the same sex, I had to stand spread eagled, hands above my head in front of a blue screen while, presumably, someone on other side checked my body for extraneous material. Fortunately all my parts are real and I had no contraband smuggled into any orifices, so got through no problems.

I commented that this security was tighter than LA and asked why. A lot of stuff is smuggled across the border, was the explanation. Ok.

But at JFK I was singled out. Not because I look like the underwear bomber (and you can blame Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab for these new invasive pat-downs. Apparently his nappies would have been detected with a junk touch), but I was randomly selected.

An officious, stocky little security official relished the machine alert, grabbed his walkie-talkie from his hip and called “female pat down” several times. I was set aside to wait for my patter. She was a trainee. She explained that she was going to use the back of her hand and got me to stand with my feet on the painted ones on the floor, arms stretched out wide. She rubbed down my sides, back and over my butt – with a firm nudge under each cheek. Then around the front and over my tummy (I confess to sucking in to make myself skinnier), under and between my breasts then she turned to her supervisor and asked if she should lift my dress up. Lift my dress up??!! My eyes went very round. No, replied her boss. It’s a dress. Admittedly it was a tunic dress and I was wearing leggings, but I hadn’t imagined the passengers and staff of JFK would get a perv when I got dressed this morning. Instead I was asked to put one foot out while she ran the back of her hand up my inner thigh to the gusset of my knickers. I kid you not. She touched my junk. I was blushing, trying to smile like it was no problem, but dying on the spot as fifty ogling passengers passed by and my husband collected my bags from the conveyor and stifled his laughter.

TSA listen up! These are random computer-based selections of good people going on holiday. If we were under suspicion I would understand, but we’re not so stop treating us like suspects. Ask yourselves, who have the airplane bombers, shoe bombers, underwear bombers been since 9-11? Not your typical mum, nun, elderly person in a wheelchair – or new brides.

Oh and before everyone adds their rants (like the 107 commenters when I posted this on Yahoo!Xtra) I’m all for passengers being frisked to ensure everyone’s safety, my beef is with random screening rather than profiled screening…

About Megan Singleton

Megan

Megan Singleton is a travel writer, blogger and radio correspondent. She's been gallivanting around the world telling stories for the last 16 years and has her suitcase always half packed (or half un-packed!) Follow along on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for monthly newsletters if you want to keep up with the journey!

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