I was flying out of a major US city and thus the two lines both went through a rapiscan full body imager (you know, the ones that apparently might give the employees cancer). I normally opt for the pat down. First, I am in favor of anything that is personally uncomfortable for the employees of TSA. I like to make them work harder, I like to look them uncomfortably in the eye while they are forced to deal with me, and I want them to be personally involved in their work. This is best done via a pat down. Additionally, it gums up the works in a fairly subtle manner -- thus inconveniencing all the other passengers and making the American people dislike TSA even more for delaying them. Finally, there is some PR value to making myself -- a clean cut business traveler -- a subject of an invasive and public search. It obviously isn't as dramatic as when TSA assaults a rape surivor, feels up a nun in a wheelchair, or separates bawling toddlers from their mothers, but still, it can't hurt for people to see the absurdity and indignity of these searches.
Regrettably, I was short on time today as I arrived late to the airport. When traveling for pleasure, I'll take my time and risk missing a flight. But when I travel for business, that's my employer's time and plane ticket and I'm wary of wasting it or appearing to waste it.
So, I said, "I'd prefer to go through the metal detector, please" when it was my turn to see how it would go down. They told me I'd have to wait for a pat down. I asked how long that would be. Given that there were lots of extra employees lounging around and a short line, this should have been an easy question. The smirking reply? "We can't say for certain, sir; it may be some time until someone is available." I pressed a bit for details, asking if "some time" meant more like a few minutes or more like half an hour. The TSA flunky got a manager-type that explained that due to all the factors it might take "at least twenty or forty minutes" until a male screener was available to begin the search (and of course, it might take "significantly longer" depending on things went).
WTF? There are at least three male screeners just hanging out -- including this supervisor -- and it might take a half hour to find some rubber gloves? I pressed the issue politely once more, explaining I had a flight to catch, and the supervisor refused to clarify a start time.
Fearing missing my flight I grudgingly got into the rapiscan machine, snarkily remarking, "Well, I guess I'll be inconvenienced this way today." The supervisor-type guy had the gall to come back, "Sir, I'm not forcing you to go through the machine. You have a choice." I came back, "Copy, so I can wait at least half an hour or more for one of your screeners to get off their break so they can touch my genital area and inside my pants, or I can go through the machine? I guess I'll have to opt for the machine today."
Then they wanted me to assume the position. You know, the feet shoulder width apart, hands above your head type deal. I know at least two good dudes -- a marine who fought in Fallujah and a great self-defense instructor -- who both were strong advocates of never, ever letting anyone put you into the "surrender" (aka "please don't violate me") position for both tactical and moral reasons. Personally I feel it is offensive and even degrading to be put into that position. I suspect that the chosen position TSA requests for their searches and scans has as much to do with establishing a psychological position to establish dominance if they want to question you as it does for making the scans work better.
So I did the "USPSA Surrender Position," i.e., feet in weaver positions, body bladed, and fingertips about shoulder height. This obviously didn't fly for the TSA guys so I complied with their request to get my hands higher by raising them about an inch. Then another inch. At that point I guess they got sick of me holding up the line, so they whirred the machine, gave me my radiation dose, took my nekked picture to add to the file on difficult travelers, and motioned me out.
Apparently they saw something funny so they had to feel up one of my legs. I maintained uncomfortable eye contact with the dude until he finished, and then he remarked, "That really didn't help anything, you know." I briefly asked, "Oh, did I inconvenience you?" He nodded, started to say something, and I cut him off and said, "Then it did. Good bye."
Then I left, having pushed my luck with the goons enough.
The funny thing about all this?
I found my toiletries kit in my carryon after getting through the checkpoint when I was repacking my laptop. Apparently it had fallen into my laptop case somehow as I was packing out of my hotel room at oh-dark-thirty this morning. I normally throw my toiletries kit into my checked luggage as it has a shaving razor, several gels/liquids, and a bladed utility knife, but I couldn't find it this morning so assumed I'd already tossed it into the checked bag even though it somehow ended up in the carry on.
So here we have a "belligerent passenger" who highlighted himself by being difficult, opted for the rapiscan machine then endured a partial pat down, put frowned-upon items into a case that was basically empty (after the laptop was removed) which should make them easy to see -- and they still missed the prohibited items.
Enjoy your security theater.