Off the Clock with The Checkout Girl: Your body is a TSA wonderland

While not a day will go by between now and January 1st that someone at my store won’t cry their eyes out (Hint: it’s me, about 25% of the time), there’s still one job I’d want even less than grocery peddler right now: TSA Agent.

Thanksgiving is this week, which means retail workers everywhere have likely attempted to perform a graceful triple Salchow but ended up face down on the cold, unforgiving ice known as the holidays. And, while not a day will go by between now and January 1st that someone at my store won’t cry their eyes out (Hint: it’s me, about 25% of the time), there’s still one job I’d want even less than grocery peddler right now: TSA Agent.

At the end of October, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the division of the Department of Homeland Security geared toward protecting the nation’s transportation systems, announced that they would be implementing some new screening procedures. One of these procedures is the full-body scan, using waves or rays (it depends on the airport) to do a sort of visual strip search of a passenger. The examples I’ve seen look like a less-detailed negative of a naked person. Like the X-ray specs advertised in the back of comic books, but real. And without the “YOWZA!” caption. But some people are nervous because there are no studies on the long term health effects of the scans.

Alternatively, travelers have the right to opt out of the full-body scanning, in favor of a rather thorough pat-down screening. Over the clothes, but the full feel-up. I don’t know what the bases are these days (I think a home run is anal now), but this pat-down has you somewhere around second base, I’d wager. Naturally, this second option has been met with the same enthusiasm Charlie Sheen shows a hooker who forgets the blow.

On a blog called Our Little Chatterboxes, a woman named Erin, who writes primarily about raising her children, is claiming she was sexually assaulted by a TSA Agent by enduring a new, enhanced pat-down but not being told before each step what would be happening next. Her language is alarmist, at first, then escalates to nearly hysterical. In fact, in only about 1300 words, she uses the term “sexual assault” 13 times, “sexual molestation” once, and has created an email address of You know, in case “you are interested in me sharing my story on your radio or news program”. There have been nearly 500 comments on the post (making me suspect she has been contacted by people who are interested in that very thing) since it was published on Sunday. It appears that about half are supportive, many calling for the TSA Agent who performed the search to be arrested and added to the sex offender registry and one stating clearly that she was raped and needs to file a police report, while the other half are calling her out on her ridiculous use of unnecessarily strong language to describe her experience and telling other commenters that charging someone who was clearly just doing her job, albeit clumsily, with a crime and insisting she be labeled for life is ludicrous.

As someone who has been sexually assaulted, I find Erin’s claim insulting and irresponsible. I’ve read her account, and while she certainly describes a stressful, uncomfortable, and even degrading encounter, unless she’s leaving something out, it doesn’t qualify as sexual assault. No amount of frenzied writing can change that. And I certainly don’t think that someone should go to jail for it.

Look, tighter airport security is a sign of the times in which we live. Should you find it inconvenient to be screened for weapons, explosives, or dangerous contraband, perhaps another form of transportation would suit you better than flying. The statistics on the TSA website state that in the first week of November:

  • 6 artfully concealed prohibited items were found at checkpoints
  • 11 firearms were found at checkpoints
  • 6 passengers were arrested after investigations of suspicious behavior or fraudulent travel documents

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather go through the full-body scan AND pat-down than put my family on a plane with someone who is artfully concealing and/or carrying a firearm, or displaying suspicious behavior. Besides, sometimes a girl just needs a good pat-down. Now, who do I see about that home run?

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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

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