After a couple of minutes, the regrets started. We were cutting it a little fine for our flight, our purse and laptop were sitting at the end of the conveyor belt with other stuff piling up on top of it, and we were stuck in the TSA’s naughty corner on a time out.
It was then that we noticed that there were only full-body scanners in a couple of the lanes – if we’d chosen the neighboring lane, we’d have gone through normal security. So we asked the TSA man if there was any chance of going through that one instead. He said no, but that we wouldn’t have to wait too long. He also told us that we were only the third person to have turned down the scan all day (it was 5pm). Whether that’s true, or whether three is the standard answer, we’re not sure, but staff at Buffalo had also told us three people had refused it when we turned up there at 11am and took it.
Anyways, our fussing about the flight made the TSA man take pity on us – he called over his colleague, and the patdown began. And – wow. We’ve had a few, and this was the most civilized we’ve ever had, by a mile.
First she made us stand so that we could see our stuff, since being away from our laptop was making us antsy. Then she offered to do it in a private room, which we said we didn’t need.
And then she strapped on her gloves and outlined absolutely every little thing that she was going to do before she did it. And at every point – whether she was touching our arm, back, leg, crotch, whatever - she asked if we consented. Some choice quotes (yes, verbatim):
Now I'm going to use the back of my hand on your buttock, are you OK with that?
Now I'm going to move my hand in a swooping motion below your breast, are you still OK with that?
It was completely painless and astonishingly civilized. And although we’d been were worried that refusing the scan would either mark us out as a threat or put us in the troublemaker category, being earmarked for strip searches and the rest, it was all fine. In fact, we even mentioned our fears to the woman and she laughed and said of course we wouldn’t have been strip searched.
All in all, it took about five minutes more than going through the machine, but we’d take that any day over a scan again – and we even made the guy feel guilty for groaning at us when we said we’d felt gross after we’d been scanned the day before. From now on, we’ll be requesting a patdown wherever we go.