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?

  • error

    Report an error

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.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. Don’t just “opt out” of naked scanners only to be sexually molested/assaulted, instead. Boycott Flying COMPLETELY, until sanity returns! Please join us:

  2. I mean, she obviously felt violated, which is a problem. I wonder how she would have felt if the TSA employee had been super specific and upfront about what was going to happen next. As in “Now I am going to do this because of this.”

    It’s just unfortunate that people have to choose between having people look at their naked(ish) body on screen or having someone get all up in their business.

  3. My problem with the TSA is the lack of necessity and the slippery slope on which it places us.

    The TSA can throw around all the statistics they want but unless they compare them directly against the old ways of doing things, their stats mean exactly nothing. The scientific method requires more than one point of data for statistics to have any meaning whatsoever.

    Who’s to say that a metal detector, a standard non-invasive pat-down, and monitoring of “suspicious behavior” wouldn’t be just as effective? At what point did it become necessary for strangers to see you naked and/or feel up your private areas? And why are we okay with this?

    And then there’s the issue with actual safety. If I were a terrorist, you know what I’d do? I’d bomb the airport itself since the new screenings now force more people to get bunched up in close proximity.

    Pre-scan no one is safe. Or, rather, everyone is just as unsafe as they are EVERY OTHER DAY IN EVERY OTHER SITUATION. Malls, football stadiums, operas, movie theaters, hospitals, hotels, concert venues, train stations, etc., etc., etc. are still entirely vulnerable as they have always been. Why is it everyone has freaked out over air travel?

    And what do we do then if some other congested public area is attacked? Start a new thing called the PSA (public security administration) that naked-scans and invasive-pats everyone before they enter ANY public area?

    The TSA doesn’t do much to make anyone legitimately safer. It is security theater. The government knows they can’t do shit about anyone trying to blow people up, but putting on this show is supposed to calm people’s unnecessary fears. You’re much, MUCH more likely to be hurt/killed by a police officer than a terrorist. The TSA is totally reactionary and does not make me enthusiastic about the future of this country.

    Seriously, what happens when someone bombs one of the places I mentioned above? How many rights and and how much privacy are we willing to give up for our false sense of security?

    In short, fuck the TSA.

  4. This article offers an interesting perspective:

    (Thanks to Ryan Smartt for linking that article on the Twitters.)

  5. Panya on said:

    Ditto Brando.

  6. And not only that, but check this out.

    Lobbying FTL.

  7. Ryan Smartt on said:

    Hey, you’re welcome Val!

  8. Honestly, I have a problem with power-tripping bullies being given the power to treat everyone like a criminal. “Innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t seem to be at work with TSA agents. The criminalization of being disabled and having leg braces, the criminalization of being an abuse victim who may feel extremely uncomfortable with being groped and hey, may not want radiation…, the criminalization of asking questions….security is one thing, but it’s only a semblance of security if it’s all random to begin with. If I can come back the next day and not get randomly picked and get through fine, then…what’s the point?

    I don’t want to be treated like a criminal — it seems a simple request.

  9. In general I don’t have a problem with security but the process needs to be looked at when the terrorist examples that get thrown about, are international flights coming to the US & not domestic ones. (The shoe bomber was coming from Paris, The X-mas/underwear bomber was coming from Amsterdam)

    Pilots and flight attendants are pushing back hard and soon will likely not have to do either screening with multiple ids.

    Many top government leaders of both parties also bypass these security tests but the real kick is that these same elected officials have influence of the TSA. (John Boehner was one of the most recent seen. Both Barack and Hillary have said they don’t have to go through them either)

    (So don’t hope for things to change if elected officials don’t have to go through it too)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with an asterisk (*).

Or report an error instead