Good points James.
However, as my husband learned on two flights recently, there is a large group of Americans who do not have a choice. Even if they go through the scanner, they will still get the pat-down, and maybe even have their hands scanned for weapon making residue.
Who are these dangerous people, you may ask. They are none other than senior citizens with joint replacements. Yes folks, the TSA has apparently decided that we have a new terrorist group in this country: Golden Age Jihadists.
I am not making this up. Recently, we had to fly to and from Wichita, KS. My husband is a 65 year old, silver haired, very white American looking university professor who had a hip replacement last year. In spite of the fact that he has a card from his doctor to show TSA, university ID, and looks about as much like a terrorist as Norman Rockwell, when he went through the scanner at National airport, TSA pulled him over for a pat-down. Apparently, this was because they saw an artificial hip where an artificial hip would be — just like the card they handed him said it would. Unfortunately, they did not have a “trained technician” close by to perform the pat-down. (Yes, the gropers are specially trained to grope with technical skill.) By the time they found someone qualified to properly grope him, my husband nearly missed his flight.
On the return trip, the same thing happened. As soon as the hip showed up on the scan, TSA decided to do a pat down. This time, though, for good measure, they scanned his hands for weapons making residue.
At the boarding gate, we spoke to a woman who looked as dangerous as Grandma Moses and she told us this happens to her every time she flies, because of knee replacements. She also told us that the TSA people will insist that she go through scanners that are dangerous for her because she has a pacemaker, even when she shows them her card about it.
When we got home, our daughter, who is a Starbuck’s barrista, told us an even more ridiculous story she’d heard from the visiting brother of a regular customer. This young man served in Iraq and lost an arm, so he has a metal prosthetic arm. He also has military ID. The first time he flew with the arm, he went through the scanner and TSA said they needed to do a pat-down. The TSA agent doing the pat down felt his arm and asked if he worked out a lot. (So much for grope training.) Then they made him take the arm off and told him to “hold out his hands” which he did, by holding out the artificial arm in his other hand.
Another time, TSA made him take off his arm and took it away into a back room to examine it. This wounded vet was even advised by his doctor to leave his arm at home when he flew. Apparently, he’s a very easy-going guy, and his solution to all this has been to put the arm in his checked luggage when he flies. Though he has learned to pack the arm on top because TSA always goes through his bag and they make less mess when the arm is on top.
Clearly, putting their hips and knees in checked luggage is not an option for the Golden Agers, so they are just going to have to resign themselves to being treated as suspects. Indeed, the Washington Post had a letter this week from a woman telling how TSA actually looked into the Depends worn by her elderly mother, who was in a wheelchair and being moved to live closer to her children. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/28/AR2010112803859.html
Yes we need security, but we also need some common sense and efficient use of resources. If the people at TSA actually believe that any passenger with a joint replacement or artificial limb is likely to be a terrorist, they are not being realistic and they are wasting a lot of their time and our money.