Monday, May 7, 2012

For whatever reason, I had an extra special weekend of love from the TSA. They not only performed the usual screening when I was in Denver, but I got the extra special GATE screening that delayed my flight for a good 45 minutes. Then, I got the pleasure of having a burly woman with man-hands pat me down in Sacramento because she saw me give myself a shot of insulin. I don't know about you, but I feel safer already! In honor of the good works undertaken by the TSA, I thought I would issue the following sentiment for the commoners out there who might whine about a few pithy infringements on civil liberties and good common sense at the expense of our national security. To wit....

Dear TSA-Averse Airplane Travelers:

Admittedly, being patted down on your travels by an uniformed officer - perhaps whilst partially undressed, shoeless, beltless and devoid of personal dignity - in front of several long lines of total strangers might produce a sense of discomfort. Remember, though, that it is an experience far more unpleasant for the poor, dejected TSA officials doing the full-body grope.

Sure, you lament that they confiscate your holiday cupcakes because the frosting is close enough to a "gel like substance" to pose a threat. And yes, that bike box containing a velo worth more than your car - the one you meticulously packed the night before - will need to be cracked open, thoroughly inspected, and then thrown carelessly back into the case by an agent with the spatial reasoning of the average two year old, rendering him unable to close said box and leaving your fork sticking out the back as you, in your wing seat aboard the plane, watch in horror while the baggage handler tosses it in with the rest of the cargo like a sack of flour. And grandma in her wheelchair will have to find the strength to stand so the TSA can make sure there's nothing in those Depends but, well, Grandma. But you, the person doing the complaining,  have one of those cushy jobs, like being a neurosurgeon, or piloting a fighter plane, or fighting fires.  In order to keep their jobs, the agents of the TSA have been forced to cop a feel of your saddlebags, muffin tops, bat wings, and back fat as they graze their fingers through your rolls of pudge. Not just once, either, but hundreds of times a day.

The TSA is not trying to rub anyone the wrong way. It's their job to grab your junk. They are our last line of defense. If the FBI, CIA, Interpol and the entire US military fail us, who is going to be there on the front lines to ensure that your Dr Pepper is really just a Dr Pepper, and not an incendiary device that will take down a whole plane of passengers? That's right. The guys in the blue shirts with a high school education. Armed with their bins and your shoes, they are the last hope in detecting a terrorist plot.

So, when they take you into a little room...all alone...and snap on those blue gloves and tell you how they are going to touch you, you shouldn't feel the least bit uncomfortable. It is far more painful for them than you.


Just yesterday I was in line for the porno-screeners at the Security Check in The Sacramento International Airport. I had literally gotten off my bike a few hours earlier, wolfed down a bagel and a three ounce package of Justin's Nut Butter (because, you know, it could be really super deadly to fly with a four ounce package), and had mere minutes to board my plane. I did a quick blood sugar check and - uh oh - I was high. Too high to enjoy my day-after-Cinco-de-Mayo in flight cerveza and complimentary pretzels. Armed with some rapid-acting insulin, though, I gave myself a couple of units and was ready to enter the phone booth for a quick invasion of my privacy.

What do you know? TSA was "Johnny on the Spot." They saw that insulin pen in the pocket of my sweat-stained jersey and thought, "Here she is...all clad in unflattering spandex...wearing a medical alert bracelet and shooting something in line.... This needs some further investigation." Of course, they can't just take my word that I am a diabetic. They need to confirm that I'm not plotting to bring down a plane using Apidra.

So, they kindly took me to a little holding pen where I was seated next to an elderly woman in a wheelchair. She looked pretty suspicious, too. Kind of like Barbara Bush. I would have given her a thorough once-over myself were I not so confident in the TSA's ability to manage the job at hand. When I asked why I was being detained, I was told that they were looking for a female TSA agent to come help me. Thank goodness! It's hard work carrying all this luggage to the gate... oh, wait.

So, the woman arrives (though you'd have hardly known the difference between she and her male, we're really splitting hairs here). They escort me to a private room, and then get all romantical. She tells me what she is going to do with the back of her hand and the front of her hand... She was pretty thorough, too. I mean, I'd only had a physical a few weeks earlier, and the woman put my doctor to shame. My husband and I are going to have some things we need to work through in marital counseling, too.

But before you start feeling pangs of sympathy for me, imagine the role of the TSA agent. Imagine her using those rubber gloves to grapple my sweat-stained bike shorts, inhaling the scent of my post-ride BO. Really, who had it worse?

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