So, for the first time, as I’m taking someone along on a trip I’ve done at least 8 times, walking through Newark I reach security where I’m supposed to go through the Body Scanner machine. I’m not the biggest fan of the concept, but I choose not to make a fuss. I walk through, and after, as I’m waiting the guy tells me that the image was blurry and they need to search me. No problem I reply, and we walk to a private room. As we enter this private room, one of the two gentlemen tells me that the area that was blurry was my crotch.
At this point, I’m just shaking my head and saying to myself, of course it was. So, I assume the position and my search began. Then, as he’s searching my back, smartass that I am, I told him that my back was really hurting and would he be able to just press a little harder while he was searching my back?
I’m pretty sure the poor guy jumped- he started saying “Whoa man, that’s just so inappropriate” and slightly chuckling. I apologized, laughing, telling him that I was a med student and I had picked up this bad habit around patients. So, he continues to search me. Funnily enough, as he was “lightly grazing my groin region with the back of his hand”, he seemed more uncomfortable than I was with the whole thing. Later, I realized that this was a bit of a switch. Usually, I’m the one who’s slightly uncomfortable around standardized patients as they tell me to take a femoral pulse or something- while they’re perfectly comfortable. The role reversal I experienced that day was interesting to say the least.
Now, to be fair, I got through that experience with minimal effects. However, I did find myself thinking that the whole process was unnecessary. Body scanners have been found to be minimally effective at what they do (Refer to: http://travel.usatoday.com/flights/2010-12-27-bodyscan27_ST_N.htm and http://www.eturbonews.com/29190/air-passenger-group-body-scanners-would-not-detect-underwear-bom). Further, they led to the need for me to be searched in private (in a somewhat invasive and demeaning way), my ID photocopied, my luggage to be opened and searched (without my knowledge) for no apparent reason other than a blurry crotch?- none of which happened at any of the less technologically advanced airports where I walked through a metal detector. And don’t get me started on the attitude of the TSA agents in comparison to both Heathrow and Indira Gandhi Intl. agents- they were by comparison rude, brusque and dismissive.
So, long story short, I’m going to be writing a bit of a novella to TSA, and the House and Senate urging them to reconsider using this technology. Thoughts?