From the frontlines on Opt-Out Day: “Today was different from anything that I have ever experienced in my years of flying”

Edmond Valencia had an 8 a.m. flight out of Albuquerque today, and since this is one of the busiest days for air travel, he arrived with time to spare.

It’s a good thing.

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There were protesters at Albuquerque Sunport holding signs that said, “The Terrorists are Winning,” and “Go Ahead and Sexually Assault Another 2 Year Old.”

They were being interviewed by print and TV media. The man stated that he is a Marine veteran of three Iraq tours. He felt that the liberties he fought for were being eroded by the actions of the TSA.

Then it was Valencia’s turn to go through the security line. He flies about once a week, so he’s used to the screening procedures. Or so he thought.

Today was different from anything that I have ever experienced in my years of flying.

The inital ID check was fine, but I moved to the screeners. There were about 6 people for 8 lines when I arrived. I chose the regular scanner and unloaded my usual encumbrance sans my belt, which I never take off and have never had a problem (a testament to the cheap belts I buy).

I placed all of my stuff on the conveyor and this horrific 4 ft tall 60 year old woman from the TSA starts screaming at me to take off my belt. I abide and continue to the standard screener. Nope. She stops me and points to the backscatter machine.

I was kind of taken aback by her actions. That’s when I stopped and opted out.

I did not, nor do I now agree with the National Opt-Out Day, but I refused to be talked down in that manner or tone.

I could hear the collective harumph from the TSA staff when I opted out. It’s going to be a long day for them and I started the fire, it seemed.

I was taken aside and a male TSA screener, who was terribly polite and professional, explained the entire process. He stated that he was changing his gloves (a last minute PR strategy?), and verbally went through the entire process before he laid a hand on me.

It wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t invasive, but I have never been a victim of sexual assault so I can’t be certain of what others may think or feel. It probably took about 3 more minutes than if I had gone through the normal line.

Takeaway: The TSA staff are a bunch of low paid psuedo-blue collar workers. There will be TSA staff that do not know how to handle themselves. Like a box of chocolates, you never know what you will get.

He’s right. It’s going to be a long day.

Update (11/25): Carol White adds:

It must be the same gal I had in ABQ a couple of weeks ago – but with a different outcome.

I had all my stuff in the bin, shoes off, etc., when I realized that the necklace I had on could very well set off the machine. So I hesitated just a second while reaching to undo the clasp, when this woman about 60 literally screamed at me to “leave it on!” – I said “but it will set off the machine”, she screamed again “leave it on!” and motioned for me to stand on a pad next to her – I finished pushing my stuff into the conveyor belt and stepped over where she pointed.

In a couple of seconds she glared at me and motioned me forward. I saw no other machines, nothing, so I got my stuff and left the screening area – I was never screened by any machine or human! Maybe I was just flustered and didn’t see the body scanner, but no one even attempted to stop me. Can you believe that?

(Photo: red j ar/Flickr Creative Commons)