November 22, 2010 6:11 p.m.

A regular reader (TPM Reader J) shares her experience …

I don’t know that you can really get this if you haven’t been through it.

First of all, what they were doing BEFORE Nov 1 was a pat-down.

What they are doing in some places now (not everywhere) is a very different thing, more of an invasive groping.

And of course, it’s all so spotty and everyone I know has accidentally taken something through – a knife, excess liquid, etc.

Here’s my experience last Friday at Reagan National in DC:

I was LOOKING for the backscatter machine, because I have a metal hip, and knew I would flunk the regular metal detector. Guess what, Gates 23-34 at this airport have no backscatter machine. Oh, it’s very urgent, and travelers must go through this and be seen naked, but we don’t have enough money to provide a machine at arguably the most vulnerable airport in the country? WTF?

So I flunk the x-ray. I’m fairly apoplectic, because I am going to be flying out of this airport a lot, and I’m pretty annoyed, I am made to strip off a very light-weight jacket, so that I am standing there in a skimpy shell, not how I prefer to appear in public. The TSA agent proceeds to run her hands through my chin length hair and pat the top of my head (WTF?). then she rubs her hands all over my torso, before informing me that now she is going to insert her hands between my breasts.

Next she says, “Lift your shirt.” Huh??? Turns out she wants to knead my elastic waistband thoroughly — not sure what explosives I might be hiding in an elastic waistband, but, boy, she is doing a thorough job of kneading my midriff. I offer to pull down my pants for her, and start to do so, because I am getting really pissed off by now. She keeps offering to take me to a private location, but I am thinking, first, I do not want to be anywhere in private with her, and second, it is her groping I object to, and not anything that any other passenger might be seeing — in fact, I want people to see what is going on.

Her next order is to spread my legs as far as I can. Yep, that’s what she said. She then gropes my legs, and kneads my butt so firmly that I have to move my feet to keep my balance.

I am a pretty patient person, but if I have to go through this every single time I fly through this airport, I am going to — I don’t know what — I simply can’t imagine it. I guess I am going to have to take drugs or drink a lot, because unless they get a backscatter, this is what I am apparently going through several times a month.

My crime? I have a hip replacement.

Obviously, as a journalist, you understand all kinds of things without going through them. But I would have told you I could handle this; I got patted down EVERY SINGLE TIME I flew over the past two years, until the advent of the backscatter machines, and I learned to keep calm and deal with it. What I experienced at Reagan National on Friday was humiliating and infuriating beyond anything I thought would happen, and I am still steamed days later. But I guess I just have to shut up and get used to this kind of treatment, because I, and many other people like me with artificial joints, have no choice.

If you use this, just sign me — J

The TPM Journalism Fund: A New Way To Support TPM
We're launching the TPM Journalism Fund as an additional way for readers and members to support TPM. Every dollar contributed goes toward:
  • -Hiring More Journalists
  • -Providing free memberships to those who cannot afford them
  • -Supporting independent, non-corporate journalism
Are you experiencing financial hardship?
Apply for a free community-supported membership
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: