If you read my columns regularly, you know that I consider the TSA to be a carcinogenic petting zoo. I nearly always opt out. I object to the scanners on principle of their unconstitutionality. And I am concerned about the possibility of a scanner malfunction (thousands of service calls have been made to the backscatter X-ray machines)—which medical experts warn can result in extremely high radiation exposure.
I arrived early to the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport and already had my boarding pass. I’m thinking, “I’m golden. I have some extra time to grab breakfast and then relax before my flight.” No such luck.
After placing my luggage on the conveyer belt, I informed the TSA agent (a female) that I would be opting out. She said: “OK, well, you’re going to have to wait a while. Step over there and wait.”
I waited approximately 10 minutes and she never called for an agent. I reminded her that I needed to opt out. Her supervisor came over to her and said: “We are short on female staffers. I need you to do the pat-down and I’ll have another agent take your place up here.” She responded: “No. I don’t want to. I want to stay up here. Can’t you get another female agent to do it?”
He did not reprimand her for refusing to do her job. (This is not the private sector.) Instead, he made me wait until a different female staffer became available, further delaying me.
After my pat-down, the agent’s gloves set off the alarm. So, she did a second, more invasive pat-down in a back room. Her gloves still set off the alarm, so she said they needed to take apart my luggage and individually re-send everything through the X-ray machine.
Two TSA agents and four supervisors (it takes a village) unfolded all my clothes and even tore through my undergarments. They slowly sent small piles of my things through the X-ray machine, using about 15 bins, even though I only had a carry-on suitcase, a purse and a laptop. This process took about 45 minutes and I kept looking up at the clock, thinking: “I’m going to miss my flight!” I asked a TSA agent: “So what happens if I miss my flight?” He said, “You’ll have to work that out with your airline.”
I asked a TSA supervisor to call my airline and let them know I was on my way and see if they could hold the plane a few minutes for me. He said, “They are a separate company and we don’t know their phone number and cannot call them.” I said: “So you’re in the same building and you don’t know their number? And you can’t find their number on Google?” His eyes bulged, like a child caught lying.
I literally had only five minutes to catch my flight when the TSA agents finished scanning my luggage. I threw everything into my suitcase, wrinkling my suit. Then I tossed my laptop and cell phone cables into my purse and started running full speed for my gate.
Clothes were peaking out of my half-zipped suitcase and cables were flying out of my purse. Everyone was staring at me. I don’t blame them; I’m sure I looked like a riot.
The only reason I made my flight was because I spotted a courtesy transport (they look like golf carts) and begged the driver for a lift to my gate. He saved my day.
I now know that “opting out” is only an “option” if you arrive insanely early to the airport or you enjoy tossing cash into the gutter.
If you are a businessperson rushing to make a meeting; a bride and groom heading to a destination ceremony; a parent with unruly young children or a caretaker traveling with an Alzheimer’s patient, you cannot endure the hassle and delay of opting out.
And the TSA apparently does not take responsibility for re-booking flights missed due to its security delays. So, opting out could mean paying $500-plus out-of-pocket to rebook if the TSA delays you.
My story is just one among many. I’m sharing my experience in hopes that doing so encourages more Americans to publicly voice their own incidents. The squeaky wheel gets the grease; we all need to express our outrage at the unconstitutional and unhealthy treatment we endure from the TSA.
via Eliminate the TSA.