The TSA gooses me again!

Not only is my plane two hours late, so I have to cool my heels for four hours in the desolate International Terminal of O’Hare, but, though clean as a whistle, I was grabbed by TSA after the Full Body Scan and given the Goosing Treatment. That meant a preliminary explanation by the agent about how he was going to palpate my buttocks with the back of his hands, and then the full Buttock Groping and the up-and-down-the-leg treatment as well. This time it was even more embarrassing than my previous goosing incidents (I declined the search in a private room). And, of course, they found nothing: I had neither a wallet nor anything else in my pockets.

Oh, and they decided to swab my hands, too.

I have no metal implants or anything else suspicious. Why you do this to me, TSA?

ACF1ED9

I got both!

100 Comments

  1. Joseph Stans
    Posted February 6, 2016 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Why? They have nothing else to do.

    • Posted February 6, 2016 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      I’d prefer to stand idle than spend my time palpating people’s buttocks.

      • cornbread_r2
        Posted February 6, 2016 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps they’re being paid on a per buttock basis.

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 7, 2016 at 12:41 am | Permalink

          LOL!

          That really (ahem) cracked me up!

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted February 6, 2016 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

        This will be held against you next time you apply for a job with the TSA.
        Where do they advertise for groping personnel?

      • steve oberski
        Posted February 7, 2016 at 7:25 am | Permalink

        38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

        • Merilee
          Posted February 7, 2016 at 8:42 am | Permalink

          +1

  2. Michael Finfer, MD
    Posted February 6, 2016 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    For $85 you could get a known traveler number and not have to be subjected to that.

    See https://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted February 6, 2016 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      I second that opinion, it’s nice not to have to get undressed all the time, the lines are much shorter and move faster (since most of the people in them are seasoned travelers, and know the drill.)

      Sure it’s no consolation but your plane is on its way – the only delayed LHR flight out of terminal five is now over Canada heading your way – per FlightView, estimated to land at 5.40, only half an hour after it was supposed to leave. Isn’t flying fun! It just means you’ll be in London at a marginally less uncivilized hour.

  3. Merilee
    Posted February 6, 2016 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, you must just be “too sexy for” the TSA🎶🎶. LOL. I’ve had the up the leg treatment, but never my tush. Flying to Vancouver last month my carry-on was checked for “residue”, presumably bomb??? Didn’t have to take off my shoes, though.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 6, 2016 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      my carry-on was checked for “residue”, presumably bomb

      Hmmm, ambiguous. They took your bag aside to check it for residue, or they checked and found a residue? The former they do both “on suspicion” and “at random”. If you look on the agent-facing side of the metal detector, you’ll see a number of status lights, one of which is a “random check” indicator. If the machine flashes that, then you get the extra pat-down. A different light lights up if actual metal is detected, and on more sophisticated detectors may indicate the segment of the detector that undue magnetic susceptibility was detected in.
      (I was putting my shoes back on one day, and spent several minutes looking at the non-public-facing end of the machines while I re-laced a broken lace.)
      I would expect that the nude-o-gram machines have similar settings, and also the systems that log your boarding pass through the security checks. Sometimes the system flags random people for checks. It does make it harder to game the system, because it makes planting an agent in the security staff a less useful strategy. Even if your collaborator is on the right search line, and your “bomber” gets assigned to that search line, they may still be flagged for a random search involving several participating officers. Which means that you’ve got to suborn an entire crew of security staff, and get them onto the lines at the desired time. (Did you notice how people get assigned to search lines randomly? Same logic.) The complaints by TSA staff about random crew re-assignments are not incompatible with hypotheses of (i) incompetent management or (ii) preventing a crew being suborned.
      The systems used to “sniff” for “residues” were originally IR adsorption spectrometers, looking for NOx which is a common fume from nitrate-containing explosives. Of course, they wouldn’t work against the more powerful chlorate-based explosives. They also detect things like sweaty nitrocellulose-coated card (playing cards justified the torture of the Birmingham Six in the 1970s). I suspect that in the UK at least, they’ve been replaced by compact NMR machines, which would detect some non-nitrate explosives (triacetone-triperoxide, for example ; which kicked off the “no water or other liquids” rules), as well as flagging for things like cocaine and opiates.
      What? I’ve spent too many hours standing in line with my shoes in my hand? Of course I have.

      • Merilee
        Posted February 6, 2016 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

        I’m assuming my residue scan was random.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted February 6, 2016 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

          It normally is.
          I do know people who have been caught for explosives residues. Fortunately, they had spent the previous evening staying at a friend’s house who was travelling with them, which may have been where they picked up the “contamination”, and he carried his explosives licence with him. So that was only a mild straw-clenching.

    • Jamie
      Posted February 6, 2016 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      I asked once when I was checked for “residue” and was told they were looking for drugs, not explosives. Of course that’s not really their bailiwick, and I have no idea if I was told the truth, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all that once the ‘security’ infrastructure is in place that it would be commandeered for all sorts of policing purposes besides “fighting terrorism”.

      • John Scanlon FCD
        Posted February 7, 2016 at 6:58 am | Permalink

        Terrorists are rare, drug-users are common, so searching for things that are really none of their business stops them from feeling as useless as they should.

        Neal Stephenson’s REAMDE includes amusing observations on what happens to the brain of someone whose job is to react appropriately to rare events, based on biomedical studies that I’d come across in the context of sorting microfossils.

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 7, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

          “Neal Stephenson’s REAMDE includes amusing observations on what happens to the brain of someone whose job is to react appropriately to rare events, based on biomedical studies that I’d come across in the context of sorting microfossils.”

          Maybe it’s just me, but that comes across as one of the most intriguing sentences ever written… 😀

  4. Karen Bartelt
    Posted February 6, 2016 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I do have “implants” (knee replacements), and have gotten all manner of gropings, swabbings, etc, and almost got myself thrown out of DIA. If you are ever there, watch out for the stocky blonde TSA female with the short hair and self-righteous attitude. My fragmentary Spanish includes the phrase, “Mi rodillas hecho metal”. I have been thinking about the “known traveler” program, but for now, am happy to just get irradiated.

  5. Tom
    Posted February 6, 2016 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    I don’t like the groping either, but I prefer it over being irradiated. I must say I find the TSA people more professional than the half-literate crowd at Amsterdam Schiphol, who like to argue and try to teach you physics when you decline being scanned. At least the TSA people just do their job. About the radiation: am I a fool for refusing to get into the body scanner? Is it really as harmless as they say? Are there even reliable data?

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 6, 2016 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      The radiation of the scanner doesn’t fuss me. It’s radio-waves, and far too low a power to cause detectable heating.
      The insult of being considered a criminal by my own government annoys me far more (and I was on a “watch list” back in my teens, for being a political dissident).

      • Tom
        Posted February 6, 2016 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

        If it was radio waves I wouldn’t care. It’s X-rays: “The backscatter systems work by generating small amounts of X-rays that reflect off the skin of an individual placed in the scanner.” (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1687850714000168)

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted February 6, 2016 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

          Ah, sorry, I was thinking of the terahertz scanners. We banned the X-ray systems a while back. I didn’t know the TSA still used them.
          Well, that study says they’re equivalent to a few minutes of normal living. Which inspires as much confidence as the image-assessment being done in a “private room” – so you can’t see the TSA goon with his camera and a wad of tissue.
          OTOH, living in the “granite city”, I’m more sanguine about radiation than some people. Though I grew up in a non-granite city with a worse radon problem.
          The privacy violation is still the big problem for me.

          • rickflick
            Posted February 6, 2016 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

            The last time I was invited to a private room it was during a quick visit to a strip club in Chicago. I must look innocent.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted February 6, 2016 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

              It’s not an option that I’ve ever seen on offer (but I haven’t touched American airspace since 2010).

    • gluonspring
      Posted February 7, 2016 at 1:22 am | Permalink

      Data is not reliable.

      However, I think the key thing to remember is that you’re getting into an aircraft that is going to travel high enough to dose you with additional cosmic rays equivalent to, if memory serves, several thousand times as much radiation as the back scanning x-ray machine. If we believe what they claim for the machines, that is. Even if the numbers are quite a bit off what they claim for the machine, though, by flying you’ve already decided that you’re not too terrified of radiation. And just being alive on the ground, you’re subjected to probably a hundred times as much radiation as a long flight.

      Of course, radiation is fundamentally a lottery. Any ticket could “win”.

      • Mattapult
        Posted February 7, 2016 at 8:31 am | Permalink

        The difference is that the radiation from the body scanners concentrates in the surface of the skin, less than a millimeter if I remember correctly.

        • gluonspring
          Posted February 7, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink

          Yes, it does, but even concentrated it is only going to be something like 20x the average dose, so still hundreds of times less than you’ll get while you look out the plane window.

    • Another Tom
      Posted February 7, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      It depends on the scanner; some use x-rays and some use microwave. X-rays are ionizing radiation while microwaves are not. So depending on how much you travel and the kind of scanner the airport has, you could be increasing your risk of cancer.

      Funnily enough most of the x-ray scanners were purchased during the last Bush administration from a company run by a friend of the head of the Department of Homeland Security. Despite being proven as basically useless, hundreds of millions were spent on these things.

  6. Michael
    Posted February 6, 2016 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    I,m not sure that the TSA Pre-check works consistently if you have a implant.

    I’ve had my bionic ankle for over three years, and have had the pre-check status for a couple of years. Sometimes they pretty much wave me through, but last month at the Minneapolis-St Paul airport I got the full-body scan and some extra wand waving.

    Returning from a smaller and less-busy airport in Florida, I got the additional pat-down and explosives residue check. I told the TSA agent he was very thorough. He took it as a compliment.

  7. rickflick
    Posted February 6, 2016 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    I think it would be amusing to hide some strange shapes down there to give them a thrill. Well…if you have an extra few hours to kill.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 6, 2016 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      Mr Men cookie cutters? Or something from the Fleshlight catalogue?

      • rickflick
        Posted February 6, 2016 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

        I guess I had something like that in mind. 😉

    • Merilee
      Posted February 6, 2016 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      A huge salami wrapped in foil ala This is Spinal Tap?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted February 6, 2016 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

        The dogs in the airports sniffing for smuggled food would chase you!

        • Merilee
          Posted February 6, 2016 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

          – not to mention nipping at your crotch😖
          Only works in movies…

          • rickflick
            Posted February 6, 2016 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

            Ok, let’s not get carried away here. I was actually thinking more along the lines of a squeek toy. 😉

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted February 6, 2016 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

        [that gif of Orson Welles clapping]

      • Posted February 6, 2016 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

        Spinal Tap reference is an automatic +1, but I believe it was a cucumber.

        • merilee
          Posted February 6, 2016 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

          But whatever it was it was wrapped in tinfoil to set off the metal detector;-)

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted February 7, 2016 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

        In case anyone missed it … should I?… Naaaah…

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted February 6, 2016 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

      How about a whoopee cushion?

      • rickflick
        Posted February 6, 2016 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

        Embarrassing!

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted February 6, 2016 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

      Or now that I think about it, how about eating a can of generic chili a while before leaving for the airport. If they want to get to know the intimate you…

      • rickflick
        Posted February 6, 2016 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

        This also would work.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted February 6, 2016 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

          The TSA folks have probably seen it all.

          • Diane G.
            Posted February 7, 2016 at 12:54 am | Permalink

            And smelled it.

            • Filippo
              Posted February 7, 2016 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

              I definitely remember the aroma of PanAm 747 seats.

              • Diane G.
                Posted February 7, 2016 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

                Probably why they went out of business…

              • Filippo
                Posted February 7, 2016 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

                Well, as regards his personal hygiene,the customer can do no wrong, eh?

              • Diane G.
                Posted February 7, 2016 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

                Gross! 😉

  8. Barbara Radcliffe
    Posted February 6, 2016 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    A few years ago I was wearing a small pillow of crumbed rubber inside my bra as advised by my physiotherapist to reduce lymphoedema following an axillary lymph node clearance. The scanner detected a suspicious lump, so I was felt up. Surprise, surprise there was nothing of concern! I also turned down the offer of a private room since I thought that the TSA person would be more embarrassed than l would.
    I’ve heard of the shoe bomber, but a boob bomber???

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 6, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      I wear a small bag of cherry pits for my lymphadema. I will keep that in mind if I travel. My radiated boob hurts so I don’t want to be groped there!

      • Merilee
        Posted February 6, 2016 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

        They might think your cherry pits are drugs.

      • rickflick
        Posted February 6, 2016 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

        I’m sorry. What? Cherry pits? I can only channel Mr. Spock – fascinating.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted February 6, 2016 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

          Yes. Some people use peas as well. You buy them and they are expensive. The peas/pits break up the fibrous tissue.

          • Posted February 6, 2016 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

            That doesn’t sound pleasant.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted February 6, 2016 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

              The pit sack is OK and it has the added bonus of jingling like jingle bells if you are sloppy in how you wedge it in.

              • Posted February 6, 2016 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

                Well, that is a great bonus.

              • Diane G.
                Posted February 7, 2016 at 12:56 am | Permalink

                Hey, here comes the lady with the jingle-bell boobs!

              • Merilee
                Posted February 7, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink

                A feature, not a bug😬

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 7, 2016 at 10:20 am | Permalink

                Well, technically it’s only one boob that has the jingle bells.

    • merilee
      Posted February 6, 2016 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

      Remember the Nigerian underwear bomber; why not a bra bomber?

      • Jonathan Wallace
        Posted February 7, 2016 at 5:02 am | Permalink

        TNTit?

        • Merilee
          Posted February 7, 2016 at 8:50 am | Permalink

          Heehee

  9. dougeast
    Posted February 6, 2016 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps their good lord tells them which of us are atheists….

    • rickflick
      Posted February 6, 2016 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

      If she was really good she wouldn’t.

    • gluonspring
      Posted February 7, 2016 at 1:24 am | Permalink

      Then he should breeze on through unmolested. After all, when has an atheist ever blown up a plane?

      • rickflick
        Posted February 7, 2016 at 7:09 am | Permalink

        “After all, when has an atheist ever blown up a plane?”

        That has the ring of an effective campaign slogan. I’ll keep that in mind for when I’m ever challenged based on the supposed immorality of atheists issue.

        • Posted February 7, 2016 at 7:35 am | Permalink

          That is good. But I’d bet $100 you get met with Stalin, Mao, etc.

          • rickflick
            Posted February 7, 2016 at 7:56 am | Permalink

            You’re probably right, but once you find yourself on second base, you’ve got the chance to explain the difference between totalitarianism and atheism.

          • gluonspring
            Posted February 7, 2016 at 11:10 am | Permalink

            Sure, but they didn’t blow up passenger planes either. That’s almost exclusively, maybe exclusively, a religious hobby. So unless the TSA is screening for future brutal dictators, you should be good to fly.

  10. Posted February 6, 2016 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    I have to feel sorry for TSA staff. It’s a job, they have to do what they are told or risk losing the job. I work as a CSR (gov’t board that licenses health professionals), I have to do things no one likes me to do too. I have to do so or lose my job and I get abused for it, by idiot licensees who are lazy (can’t possibly be responsible to read regulations or the forms they sign that allow them to work), just not bright (simply can’t handle working a computer or reading), or are just sure that anyone who does CS is there to be abused because how dare anyone tell them they are wrong.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 6, 2016 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      I worked with health inspectors and they used to get death threats regularly. Had to involve the police many times. Sad.

  11. jaxkayaker
    Posted February 6, 2016 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Security theater. The TSA regularly fails to detect fake guns, etc. in tests of their ability to find such objects.

  12. Alexander Hellemans
    Posted February 6, 2016 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    In Europe watch out for your belt. You have to take it off, as well as your shoes, and other things such as your wallet and and keys and in my case a to them a mysterious hewlett packard palmtop. You have to put these items in a box, and lo and behold, when you get your box back, your (new) belt is missing. You only notice this when boarding the plane and you have to keep pushing up your pants.

  13. davidintoronto
    Posted February 6, 2016 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Hey! Derek Smalls (of Spinal Tap) is in that picture.

  14. Martin
    Posted February 6, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    http://gomerblog.com/2016/02/tsa-discovers-testicular-cancer/

  15. Michael
    Posted February 6, 2016 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    The same thing happened to me for the first time last August when I flew to Vegas. It was only my second time being on a plane (and the first time in years) and it really freaked me out. I don’t blame them for searching me though, as I look a bit shadier than you, Dr. Coyne, what with my long hippie hair and facial hair. Ha!

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 7, 2016 at 1:07 am | Permalink

      Wish I could remember which post it was in which Jerry posted shots of himself as a grad student!

  16. George
    Posted February 6, 2016 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    I say again. Get the Global Entry and you will get TSA pre. It is faster, less hassle and so far no groping. Only the Germans do that!

  17. Randy Schenck
    Posted February 6, 2016 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    The Professor must look guilty of something. At least you should get the senior terrorist discount.

  18. jeffery
    Posted February 6, 2016 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    I was in the St. Louis airport a few years ago with my girlfriend, catching a flight to California. We got to the metal detector and I told her, “Make sure you don’t have any change in your pockets”. She forgot one pocket and attracted all kinds of attention when she tripped the alarm going through. I walked through an adjacent one while they were hand-wanding her and had no problem. It was only a few minutes later, as I was putting stuff back in my pockets, that I realized I’d left my big string of keys hanging off my belt loop (I’d taken off my belt)! I’ve since been convinced that they don’t even turn some of them on all of the time; they’re just for “intimidation-value”.

  19. kelskye
    Posted February 6, 2016 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    But the question is, do you think terrorists like to be groped? Maybe the fear of being touched stops terrorists.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 6, 2016 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

      Hee hee.

  20. David Duncan
    Posted February 6, 2016 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    For years I’ve wondered what sort of person likes TSA jobs. Do they enjoy this theatre, or does it just pay the mortgage?

    (I was wondering if the problem with name and e-mail address having to be retyped every time is going to be fixed.)

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 7, 2016 at 1:09 am | Permalink

      As a matter of fact, PCCE just recently contacted WP again about that issue. 🙂

      • Merilee
        Posted February 7, 2016 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        🎉🎈

  21. Posted February 7, 2016 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    Be happy you do not have a pacemaker (yet…). That wins you the full pat-down every time, tho I do have the feeling they are a little kinder with us than with the general public. It still sucks. Thank you, Ben Laden, W and Dick.

  22. Diane G.
    Posted February 7, 2016 at 1:11 am | Permalink

    Sometimes overseas airport security staff aren’t the brightest bulbs in the world, either:

    http://nowiknow.com/unchecked-baggage/

  23. Rhonda
    Posted February 7, 2016 at 1:22 am | Permalink

    I got frisked at a small airport on Canada’s east coast last year and rather enjoyed it! I told the lady it was very nice and we both had a chuckle.

  24. Rose Somer
    Posted February 7, 2016 at 1:46 am | Permalink

    International trips are becoming more unpleasant, and appears these checks are generated randomly in addition to generation for actual substances/metal. For all of us gives a new meaning to “stay safe” on flights.

  25. Rod
    Posted February 7, 2016 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    Travelled from Ottawa to Calgary around Christmas and at YOW it was very quick and straightforward. Returning through YYC it was much more intrusive, belt off, winter boots off, what is this?… razor in my carry-on. Dressed identically both times.

    I think the inconsistency may be part of their strategy, in that you cannot predict what level of scrutiny you will experience beforehand.

    Our “preferred traveller” card is called a Nexus card, and it does shorten the lines. It is also useful driving across the border, which Canadians do frequently (less so now with a crappy exchange rate).

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 7, 2016 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      I find the name of the Nexus card amusing because I always think of Bladerunner. I feel like if I use the Nexus card, I’ll be like one of those bad ass Nexus 6 replicants crossing the border thinking about attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.

  26. jrhs
    Posted February 7, 2016 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Mole-station?!

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 7, 2016 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, that’s where they keep the moles that are trained to tunnel into the…well, never mind…

  27. Posted February 7, 2016 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    lol – I think it was just me. I’m glad everyone else suffers. But we shouldn’t have to suffer. Next time, hide a squirrel down your pants.

  28. Posted February 7, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Yikes, my comment is full of typos. I meant…I thought it was just me, and I’m glad I don’t suffer alone.

  29. Posted February 8, 2016 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    At the Sacramento airport they ALWAYS choose my daughter and I for the “special treatment”

    We never go tot hat airport anymore, it’s my hometown but we would rather drive than go through that airport again.


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