TSA Encounter

My trip back from Seattle recently was eventful thanks to TSA.

The TSA security gentleman who checked my passport and identification was very friendly. He looked at my passport, looked at me, looked again at my passport and said “I don’t know how they expect us to be able to tell if the picture I see on the passport is the face I’m looking at.” I asked him if he wanted me to let my hair down as that is how the passport picture was taken. “No,” he said. He was just venting. He looked tired. “The glare from the light is not good for checking passports,” he told me. Then he marked my boarding pass and let me through.

Normally I’m pretty good at finding the metal detectors at the airport so I don’t have to go through the backscatter machines. But the S security gate at SeaTac airport seems to only have backscatter machines. Thus my adventure began.

I should first say that as I get old’er (that’s the way I spell it so no need to correct me) I move slower. It’s not to purposely irritate people. I just don’t feel a need to rush anymore as I get anxious when I rush so why impose that anxiety on myself?

I strained hard looking for a metal detector. No luck. Today would be “pat-down” day for me. After removing my shoes and putting all my belongings in three containers, I waited to make sure they were going through the belt with no problems. I then leaned over and told the security agent that I wanted to  opt-out. I thought I had committed a crime. “We have an opt-out!” A tall older black gentleman came over to this agent and the agent again said “We have an opt-out.”

“Stand over there,” he told me as he pointed to a corner next to the belt. I obliged. He said “It might be 10-15 minutes as we don’t have many females working.” “No problem,” I told him.  Inside I felt like saying “You should be prepared for these situations.” But, I kept my mouth shut so as not to cause any problems.

After about 10 minutes, a female TSA security agent took me around the other side of the backscatter machine. My containers were now on the other side of the belt and I watched them carefully as my laptop sat alone in one of them.

The female security agent then pointed me to a place where I was to stand while she did the pat-down. “Excuse me,” I said. “I’d like a private pat-down.” I think I ruined her day.

“Did they offer for you to go through the backscatter machine?” she said.

“Uh, yes, that’s why I’m here because I don’t want to,” I replied.

“Did you know that the radiation you get from the machine is the equivalent of being on a plane for 2 minutes?” she asked.

I felt like asking her if she was an expert or if this was just the information they were trained to say but instead I said “I don’t want to go through the backscatter machine.”

Either she was having a bad day or I just ruined it as her face bunched up as if she were in writhing anguish.

“We don’t have another female, we’re short-handed.” Poor security agent. She was stressed and I must have added to it.

I said nothing as I couldn’t help her in her quandry. So — we waited. She didn’t call anybody. We just stood there waiting as her face continued to reflect her anxiety.  I don’t know what we were waiting for although my guess is that they were hoping I would change my mind. Tick tock, tick tock — 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes. A male TSA agent finally came up to her and she said “She wants a private screening and we don’t have anyone else. I’m supposed to be working the x-ray machine.”

I remained quiet. I don’t believe I’ve ever been this calm before and didn’t even think about missing my plane (even though I had gotten to the airport early enough to catch an earlier flight and had taken the opportunity to change to the earlier flight).

“Excuse me,” I said. “Are my things safe on the belt? I’m not supposed to take my eyes off of my things according to what I hear on the speakers.”

She sighed. She took me over to where my things were and asked me to point to the ones that were mine. I offered to help her carry them but with a disdainful look she said “You aren’t allowed to touch your things.”

Okay then. I got put in my place and won’t offer to help again.

Back in the corner with my belongings on a table, we waited. Hmmm … now I was wondering if they pay you something if you miss your plane because they don’t have proper staffing. Naw … I dismissed that thought almost immediately.

The male TSA agent came back now with a very short Asian person. A man? I thought the private screenings were supposed to be done with females. Not meaning to rock the boat, I followed them to the private screening room with my TSA agent carrying my containers. (Oh no! She almost dropped my laptop. I remained calm but thought to myself “they’ll pay for that if they break it.” Or will they?)

The outside of the private screening room looks like one of those large storage pods you can rent. This was not to be my lucky day. My TSA agent was now exasperated as she noticed that there were already people in the room. A meeting of some kind was being held so we had to wait — again.

Her face clearly showed her emotions as she sighed, frowned and looked for help. I almost felt sorry for her. I stayed off to the side while she discussed the situation with a male TSA agent. “This woman has been waiting awhile,” she said. I believe she was more worried about her time rather than mine but I could be wrong so I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

We continued to wait. A man came out of the room, then another and finally a third. The room was now clear. All three of us stepped inside. I then noticed that the “male” TSA agent was  female as the badge clearly showed her long hair and definite female attributes. How odd, I thought. Why would she cut her hair so short? Then, I’m not sure what happened. All of a sudden my TSA agent looked at the Asian TSA agent with an exasperated look and they both left the room. I don’t think I’m supposed to be left alone with my belongings but I’m not one to question their rules (okay, maybe a little).

Within a couple minutes they were back in the room. The Asian TSA agent started explaining that she would be the one who would be doing the pat-down. I stopped her immediately because she was talking too fast and too low and I am hard of hearing. So she repeated what she said.

She actually did a very good pat-down IF one could consider a pat-down good. It didn’t feel too “frisky,” if you know what I mean.

Once the pat-down was over, another odd thing happened. The first TSA agent took a jar from the table with something that looked like lotion and spread the “lotion” on the gloves of the Asian TSA agent. I wonder what that could have been?

I was then told I could put my shoes on, gather my things and be on my way.

Being pokey, in my old’er age, I gathered my things, stepped outside and thanked my TSA agent. She looked less stressed now.

Oh the joy of having to live in a country that is becoming more like a police state.





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