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What It's Like to Go Through a Full-Body Scan: A Firsthand Account

October 19, 2010 at 11:22 AM | by | ()

A picture we sneaked of the full-body scanners at BUF

So yesterday we told you about the march to the scaffold approach to a full-body scan. Today, onto what it’s like to have one.

We ran into our first full-body scan the other week at Buffalo International Airport and although those pictures made us a bit squeamish (especially as we’d been hitting the Buffalo wings while we were there), we thought it was something we needed to try. This is what happened.

There was no fanfare from the TSA types telling us we were going through a full-body scanner. In fact, either few of the other passengers had cottoned on, or they were delightfully unbothered about some guy/girl in another room seeing them in the all-together. Everyone was just following instructions and going through the scans.

Talking of the scans: what happened was that, as normal, we unloaded our belongings onto the conveyor belt, and then instead of going through the usual metal detector, we went through the Backscatter machine – which basically looks like two big blue boxes that you stand between.

The TSA apparatchiks guided us through the process – you stand between the boxes, put your feet on the places marked out for them, cross your hands over your head, like you’re making the A in YMCA and stand there for about five seconds.

Another sneaky picture

Then you come out, and while the next person is scanned, you’re held by the TSA bods until the person looking at your naked body scan has determined you’re good to go. This felt like it took a long time, but it was probably about 30 seconds.

Then you pick up your stuff and you leave. Or, in our case, you get talking to a TSA man about the scans and get so creeped out by the whole thing that you have to go eat a plate of Buffalo wings to stop feeling violated.

It’s not like we found out anything we didn’t know, but as he pointed out where the person checking the scans was – and it was just in a room behind the security area – it all started feeling a bit icky, and too close for comfort. Yeah yeah, he also said that faces were obscured on the scans, but we couldn’t help thinking, really? How does the machine know how to obscure the face of someone who’s five foot, and the next who’s 6’3 and the like? It just seems like an awful lot of hassle for something that we’d never actually know whether it was being done or not.

And thinking the person checking the scans is at an undisclosed location in the airport is one thing. Knowing they’re 20 feet away is kinda another. Of course that’s where they’re going to be, but we didn’t like knowing that.

So all in all, even though everyone had been nothing but patient and respectful about the whole process, and we’re sure they didn’t really laugh at our wing-filled belly, we felt a bit grossed out by the whole shebang, and determined that the next time we came across a scanner, we’d refuse the scan. Being felt up, aka having a full body patdown, couldn’t be worse, could it?

We’ll let you know tomorrow.

[Photos: Jaunted]

Archived Comments:

Always OPT-OUT

Skip the radiation and privacy invasion!
You have the unconditional RIGHT to opt-out.
Google "DONT SCAN ME" or go to:
for important radiological safety and privacy information and actual images from this technology, not the lame images that TSA is propagating.