One of the interesting things about running a blog like this is that you sometimes get letters that start with things like “Hi, I appreciate what you’re doing. Here’s my story of government molestation.” It’s actually pretty unsettling, yet darkly humorous, and I would suggest that everyone try it, if it didn’t involve having to work at a bottom-of-the-barrel government security agency for 7 years before starting a blog that will definitely cause your name to be on some sort of a government shit list at some point, if not already.
Robynne writes in:
Hi. I’d like to share my story of my TSA-approved molestation in Honolulu. The agent I encountered was incredibly rude from the start, and she kicked me out of security at practically no provocation. Further details are on my personal journal. It’s overly long, but I wanted to write as much down as I could before I forgot anything. Again, you can quote me if you like.
Do you think I’m right in my assessment that they were deliberately lying and not telling me things? I suspect that part of the training is to confuse people and make them feel threatened.
I have absolutely no idea if the TSA employees were deliberately lying and not telling you things. I do know that you opted out, and that an opt-out often elicits an adversarial feeling on the checkpoint.
You see, the majority of people comply with their government’s initial request to step inside a body scanner, leaving the unoccupied, non body scanner-operating screeners on the floor free to not have to worry about you. Then you come along, the 1 out of every 50 or so passengers who decides to opt out, thereby interrupting a TSA screener’s conversation about their weekend or about an attractive female passenger or about their dreams of one day becoming a real honest-to-goodness police officer. Depending on the screener, and on what kind of day he or she is having, an opt-out can definitely bear the brunt of a retaliatory attitude. You may have suffered that, at the beginning of your ordeal.
As you can imagine, I represented a little bit of a unique situation as a TSA screener. I loved the hell out of the opt-outs, being that I agreed with them to the tune of, say, a year’s worth of future blog posts.
But even then, I would occasionally get a passenger who was so vehemently anti-TSA, or, perhaps to put it another way, came to the checkpoint in such an all-out, frothing-at-the-mouth fury about the TSA, that no matter what I said to him or her (“No, listen. I’m on your side, really. I agree. Seriously. Just listen…”) he or she would still be like “Psh fuck off you idiot TSA goon I don’t want to hear it.” So I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are times (many) when TSA screeners are the main problem, and there are occasionally times when the passenger is just determined to direct a hate ray at any and everything on a TSA checkpoint, even if there’s a TSA employee giving a little wink and saying “viva la resistance.”
At any rate, in your case, Robynee, the fact that your experience escalated to you being expelled from the airport is indeed outrageous. Back around 2005 and before, I heard of a lot more stories involving the whole “Do you want to fly today? I don’t like your attitude, you’re not flying today” routine playing out, which decreased as time went on, at least at my category X airport: TSA headquarters began to realize, as the years rolled by, that they had, in fact, hired thousand upon thousands of people with criminal backgrounds that had been improperly adjudicated in the hiring rush of 2002, that some of those people were out on their checkpoints in manager’s suits running the organization even further into the ground than it already was, and slowly began to try to clean some house on that end.
I did see a few arrest/flight denials after 2007 or so, but they usually involved a passenger who had said some combination of the classic, magic, sarcastically-delivered words: “Look at me. Do you really think I’m a threat? Fine, I’ll admit it: I have a bomb. There, you happy?” At which point the supervisors/managers grabbed their Blackberries and rubbed their hands together diabolically, as they could now call in the police and order a fly-deny on a technicality.
There were also fairly frequent cases of passengers threatening a screener’s life, or lashing out physically in some form at the screener, which would also bump the situation up to the police, and bring about expulsion from the airport. But in your case, per your account, none of that happened, which would make it all very unjust and just all around some serious unfair bullshit that had been perpetrated upon you.
Excuse me passengers, but while we’re on the topic of Honolulu International Airport–
–there’s something I have to do on behalf of my former co-workers. This is TSA-screener business. Don’t mind us.
Hey Honolulu International screeners: on behalf of the thousands of TSA employees across the nation in crappy cold cities who have futilely put in transfers to your airport: