First, lest you think this is a “I hate TSA agents” rant – it is not. Every TSA employee I encountered today was not only polite and professional, but genuinely cordial and friendly to the traveling public. No TSA twits in my encounters today.
So, IAD to PHX today to go west and and prove some point about “Hey, I’m watching you!” to the care center looking after my grandmother’s health & well being.
I was hopping through security like a seasoned pro – no belt, no bra, no metal hair clips (braided my hair!) and glasses in bag. I listened and double checked my pockets as the agent repeatedly told all to empty their pockets of ALL junk, including kleenexes. (Head cold = pockets full of snotty kleenexes!) I was totally ready for the metal detector as I waited to make sure my carryon bag & 2 bins went through the x-ray machine.*
Except there was no metal detector. I got waved over to the backscanner machine. Which actually didn’t bother me in the least other than it would be cutting into my brie & chablis time at the Red Carpet Club, but as long as it wouldn’t impact my making my flight, I really couldn’t give a damn. (A better person would have raged against the machine. I was more curious as to what the machine was in the first place.)
So, I go get backscattered (the thumbs on head thing is a touch odd) come out, tell the TSA lady (only 1/3 jokingly) that I feel tingly. (I really did!) She very kindly assures me it’s my imagination, I concur but allow how it’s all a bit weird. We have a giggle and wait for the lady behind the curtain to deem me OK. And wait…
I have no clue how long this backscatter review takes, but it seems to be uncomfortably long when you’re the one waiting for the results and I found myself in the midst of an awkward pause that would do Craig Ferguson proud. Just as I asked if everything was OK, a squawk came over her radio and I swear, I saw her roll her eyes. Which made me steel myself for the full pat-down. But then she said, “Can you turn around so I can look at the back of your head and your hair?”
“OK, sure.” Inside voice going, “Um, huh, what, well, OK? WTF is in MY HAIR that I don’t know about??!?” So, she smushed up the scrunchie on my ponytail/braid and said – and I shit you not – “She is seeing things that just aren’t there” as she also told me all was OK and fine and to have a nice flight.
Which tells me – scrunchies can apparently screw up backscanners. I know every system for anything thing will have some measure of false positives. But if a truly benign scrunchie causes issues? That may indicate an acceptance of false positives that is a wee bit on the high side.
And here I thought going with the braid/scrunchie vs. twist w/metal hair clip was a better idea for going through security lines. I suppose on the way home I’d be best served by just going full Cousin It with the hair everywhere.
But, they let me through and I am in PHX tonight and the TSA lady was super nice, reassuring, professional, polite and cordial – which is very nice when you’re just trying to get on a plane to see your grandmother and you’ve tried really hard NOT to be the idiot that wears a 2 pound watch through the metal detector. Not even the slightest bit of weariness, bitchiness or any other -ness that might result in an exceptionally cranky person – especially one that has to deal with the traveling public on a daily basis.
So, well done to the TSA agents at Dulles International Airport for NOT making me feel like a criminal or terrorist. You made it clear that my hair tie looked odd on the scan and you had to check that, but even then, sane heads prevailed and you decided a simple spot check of said hair tie would suffice. No full body pat down even remotely warranted.
* I really don’t carry a bag & 2 bins worth of crap. Laptop, 1 bin, shoes & purse, another bin. Backpack that held 95% of that crap, on it’s own. And every damn time I have one bag/bin left to go through when the conveyor belt STOPS. And I won’t just leave my stuff until I see it actually moving to the machine.