The Patdown

I took public transit all the way back to Germany - it actually worked! Metro-North train down to Grand Central Station, out on 42nd Street and up across from Starbucks was the NY airport shuttle service. The busses looked very old, but $16 was better than $45 + tolls for a taxi. I only waited 10 minutes before a rickety bus drew up with a very cheerful driver. He loaded our suitcases in the back, and we got on. Despite the looks of the bus, every seat had an electrical outlet (!) and there was free Wi-Fi on the bus.

Okay, they saved on shock absorbers, and our driver drove at breakneck speed, but we were at JFK in just over 30 minutes. It was early and there was no line, so I got my suitcase checked in in no time and headed off to security.

I removed all my stuff - coat, vest, things in pocket, money belt, laptop, etc. and headed for the metal detector. Except they had just determined that I was one of the lucky ones to go into the full body scanner (called "naked scanner" in German). I didn't realize this until they asked me to clasp my hands above my head. I asked if this was a full body scanner. The lady said "yes". I stated that I did not want to be irradiated. "It won't do you nothing," she said, "it's harmless."

Well, the problem is, there is NO research about whether or not this actually is harmless or not. Prominent scientists in the US have warned against using this technology, stating that the calculations of the irradiation are not calculated correctly. Whatever, I don't want pictures of the outline of my body floating around, as has happened in the US. So I insisted on an alternative.

With a mildly threatening "Well, Ma'am, you're going to have to have a pat-down" I was told to step aside. My things were now through the scanning system, and I did not feel very comfortable with my money belt on top of the pile of stuff, out of my reach.

I asked if I could go through the normal metal detector. No, I had to have a full putdown. "Of EVERYTHING," they noted. They really didn't want to have to do this. I preferred this to irradiation, however, although they kept telling me that the machine is "harmless". Finally one of the women who had been standing around pulled out some gloves and had me come with her.

I had to point out my stuff and someone else carted that off to the side. Did I want a private putdown? No, let's have the indignity in public. She launched into a long tirade, learned by heart and spoken in rapid-fire NYC accent. In particular, she wanted to know if I had "sensitive parts" that would react strongly to pressure. I said "We'll see, won't we?"

She put some stuff on her gloves (and it's all over my shirt, left a stain) and started in. She started on my head, looking under the hair. Then she traced down my back - not a very good massage, really - and grabbed into the waistband of my pants. She bitched at me for having a piece of paper (!) in my pocket, that had to be take out and she felt the pants again.

She then went down the front, and around my breasts - that was really quite violating, I felt. She then felt down my inner thighs and inside the front of my pants. She checked my socks (I hope they smelled) and told me to take my "items" and get going. So I slowly got dressed again and as I was doing so, I realized one bizarre thing: She didn't find the USB-stick necklace I was wearing. It was *between* my breasts, not underneath. I wonder if that would have made me a terrorist, if she had found it?

I think the US is freaking bizarre out of their minds with all of this security theater. It just costs money - isn't a simple metal detector good enough?

No comments: