Do You have the New Government-Approved Do?

I never really thought we’d get to the point where government agents tell me that my hairstyle is cause for concern. Apparently, my hair is too thick, too long, and, on Friday, was too damp. (I was only joking back in September when I said that my hair being damp might be a security risk to TSA, I didn’t know they took that post seriously.) Along with the groping, I was surrounded, and submitted to a bit of government-issued snark on the problems my hair poses for their machines.

Starting from the top, I didn’t mean to get in the line for the new screeners. I accidentally started down the frequent traveler lane early on in security at Nashville, but I backtracked when I realized that line was probably the single machine my brother warned me about in the airport. When I glanced up at my line while juggling my bag, purse, and sunglasses, I saw the magnetometer in front of me. Everyone in line was pulling off their shoes, and getting ready for the standard routine. Literally, only when I looked up to walk through did I notice that it was a nudie-picture machine. (Turns out they replaced them all while my brother was out on the road.) I’m not sure why I didn’t just tell them to grope me, but I didn’t. I guess a part of me wondered if this technology was really that great. Since we still had to remove our shoes, it’s definitely not speeding things up.

I was asked to step forward, and then when I tried to go over to my bag, I was held back and surrounded. Yes, literally surrounded. By 5 TSA agents. In fact, they made sure to inform that I was surrounded and was not to take another step. Um, okay. Then, they stopped the entire line of people behind me. Again, not any faster than the damn magnetometer sitting unused right next to us. In fact, at this rate, it’s officially slower than the magnetometer & questionably competent staff at Philly. They cannot search me until they get their orders from the people checking out my girly bits in some shady room somewhere. Unfortunately, those getting their rocks off at all the naked pictures can’t actually figure out why I set off the machines. They just informed the old woman in front of me to check my chest.

Now, I did luck out when it comes to my TSA groping. The woman used the older-style patdowns which are less grabby than the “we hate you for believing you have any rights” new patdowns. However, she was thoroughly confused when she found nothing buy underwires. So, she called back. They told her to try my back. She had me move my hair out of the way, and then felt down my back to find absolutely nothing. Now I’m surrounded by 5 dumbfounded TSA agents. I mean, come on, this technology is foolproof, right? They wouldn’t have me surrounded and groped if there wasn’t something highly suspicious hidden under my clothes, right? By the way, at this point, everyone is staring at me. So much for the TSA claims that they respect people’s privacy. Bullshit, the security line behind me was only getting longer with more people staring.

Finally, one of the men behind me said my hair was probably the source of the hit. So I got a mini-scalp massage from the short old lady. I was not going to bend down to make it easy on her at this point. Again, one of the guys behind me then decided to comment on something I didn’t catch completely beyond “her long hair caused the problem.” Wow. Really? My hair is to blame? My hair which, other than being a little thicker than most other people’s hair, is the entire source of the problem for your inability to read your own damn machines that are supposedly the savior to airport security? My hair will singlehandedly bring TSA’s system to a grinding halt? How about the incompetence behind the screen? Or the stupidity behind these freakin’ machines?

Reflecting on my time spent trapped between 5 TSA agents while several dozen people looked on wondering about the soon-to-be-designated Hair Terrorist, I realized that when traveling through an airport like Nashville, I have exactly 3 options. All involve groping simply because I have thick hair that can sometimes stay a little damp if I’ve showered anytime in the last 12-18 hours. Contrary to what TSA spokespeople claim, the simple fact that I have reasonable personal grooming habits and choose not to cut my hair to a length they designate acceptable, I cannot opt out of being groped.

  1. I can opt out initially and be thoroughly groped, prodded, and grabbed.
  2. I can walk through as instructed and be groped on the top half only. I may also be subject to further detainment and snark from government agents critical of my decisions to bathe and style my hair. Oh, and some guy gets a free look at the girls.
  3. I can walk through with my hair up, ignoring instructions to remove all items from my person, and then hope that when I’m detained, they limit the gropes to just my head. Snark and public humiliation will likely still come as a side dish to my nude picture.

Given this complete lack of viable options to not be unfairly targeted because God and genetics graced me with a lot of hair, the simple choice is not to fly. I’m going to let Continental/United know of my decision since I’ve spent many miles in their airplanes. They know their pilots are unhappy, their flight attendants are unhappy, and now it’s time to make sure they know their customers are unhappy. While the airlines are not to blame, they certainly hold more sway over Congress than I do as an individual.

That said, I will also be writing to my Congressman-elect and my new Senator-elect to let them know that TSA is making false promises about this security, and I’ll also highlight the blog post discussed here that shows these new policies aren’t actually designed to keep us safer. The current behavior of TSA agents deserves an investigation, and the entire system needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. And since the incentives for safe travel with minimally invasive security are the “best” for airlines directly, I will advocate a return to private enterprise to run security.

11 thoughts on “Do You have the New Government-Approved Do?”

  1. To return to privately run airport security you would have to abolish the TSA. I wonder which members of congress are willing to adopt that idea? I see that the federal delegation to DC (from Pennsylvania) is 21 people. Is there one of them that is willing to introduce legislation? Senator-elect Pat Toomey?

    If Forbes can suggest it then I would think it is possible Toomey could propose it.

  2. So the strip-machine only works with pale, thin-haired Scandahoovian types? Wait till they run into some swarthy and hirsute Mid Easterners…

  3. Always opt out. If you’re going to be groped anyways (and since this is the dream job for perverts, they are going to flock to it and do anything to get hired, just like how high school bullies always end up as cops, you will) then there is no point in risking the radiation.

    Oh, it’s such a small amount. If you trust the manufacturers specs, and if you believe that they used the proper measurement, and if you also believe that some guy who’s job is groping people and digging through their underwear is smart enough to not crank that “radiation output” knob way up because “it makes the pictures brighter”. Or cares in the first place even if he does understand what he’s doing.

  4. Oh, and yeah, “the person seeing the pictures is in another part of the airport and can’t see you.” But he is on the radio with the one doing the groping.

    And they rotate the duty out.

    But they would never come to a “you flag the hot ones for me, and I’ll flag the hot ones for you” agreement. You know, because these people wanted a job where they wear the same blue shirt every day, but moved up from Best Buy. They’re pro-fesh-uh-nils.

  5. Apparently, clip-in extensions (the kind most non-African Americans use) are a HUGE problem too. After being subjected to a ridiculously intrusive pat down, they actually made me remove mine, leaving me clutching a handful of hair as I was ushered out of security. Awesome. Sorry you’ve had to go through this too!

  6. That’s absurd! There is no excuse for them to ask you to remove your hair extensions. That’s simply an agent trying to harass you. And you definitely shouldn’t have been patted down if the hair extensions came up as an undetectable area on the scan.

  7. Bitter,
    Glad to hear you’re OK, sad to hear that you had to be subject to such scrutiny for absolutely no valid reason or cause whatsoever. It’s your story, coupled with some other blog posts I’ve read of TSA encounters, that me or my family will not be traveling by plane ANYWHERE unless absolutely necessary. I will not potentially subject myself, my wife or my kids, to the unacceptable choice of either a nude photograph or sexual assault by a bunch of scum in uniforms.

    I very much hope that the ACLU puts a dog in this fight.

  8. Had to fly on very short notice this morning. Thankfully there are no DMMs at love field yet. Of course, I’ve already opted out twice, and probably will at LAX on the way back.

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