The Pat Down

This week, I got my first pat down by the TSA at Philadelphia International Airport.  I walked through the metal detectors and was ready to grab my belongings from the scanned bins when a female TSA agent asked me if I would mind a pat down.

Yes, her exact words were “Would you mind?”  Being a perpetual people pleaser especially when it comes to authority figures – something I picked up from 16 years of catholic school – I responded,

“Sure, knock yourself out!”   And she did.

She patted up my front and then moved to my back. She was very polite and yes, she touched areas of my body that normally wouldn’t be touched in public – well, not since my days of riding the subway, but just as with the subway, I walked away unscathed.

I used to dread the thought of being singled out for a pat down. Never has anyone asked me to participate in this activity. Usually, I walk through security and I get a nice smile and a “Have a nice Flight.”  So, the pat down request was a little unnerving. I have seen photos of women violently sobbing during a pat down. I have read angry letters from passengers who felt violated and emotionally scarred (most likely their attorneys’ words), so I didn’t know what to feel about this occurrence.  This is my assessment now that I am no longer a Pat Down Virgin:

Big – freaking – deal.  I am sorry if this offends those who feel their civil liberties are harmed by this added bit of attention from airport security. This TSA agent was polite and even made a few cute jokes to put me at ease. Sure, I usually expect a glass of cabernet before anyone cops a feel, but she had a job to do, and she did leave me with my dignity – at least more dignity than some of the people who gave me the cabernet. Anyway, I survived without the need for long-term therapy.

I understand that I am a pretty easy going person, so my flippant attitude might not be everyone’s attitude. In fact, as I was waiting by the baggage claim in Pittsburgh for my suitcase to fly down the carousel (which by the way it did not as it miraculously arrived in Pittsburgh ahead of me and was waiting for me in the lost baggage office), I overheard a mother and daughter complaining about the mother receiving a pat down.  The woman was about 55ish, and too young to be this cranky, but she deserved an academy award for this performance. I know I shouldn’t have gotten involved, but it wasn’t my city, and I figured what are the odds I would run into her, so I said,

“That made you feel used? A one-night stand and a fake cell number makes you feel used. This was a ruffling of dignity if that.”

“I don’t like anyone in my personal space. I don’t like anyone breathing near me let alone touching me,” she retorted.

“Then why do you fly? The entire concept of the airplane is one of close quarters and people breathing on each other.”

They did not appreciate me then or when they sat behind me on my return flight. See, this is why I should have kept my mouth shut.  Anyway, my point is this: Give the TSA people a little slack. We might not want to be patted down, but I am pretty damn sure after flying with some of these people, that it’s no fun for them to pat us down either.


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10 thoughts on “The Pat Down”

  1. i have to say, i was a lil offended when i did not get picked for the pat down on the way to Jamaica, but one of my blonde friends was….those darn blondes always have the luck! 😉

  2. I enjoy the attention of a good womanly pat-down as much as the next guy but I’ve yet to go through one single airport where the patter is not a man. I knew I should have been a woman. Note to self: Become a woman.

  3. I was given a pat-down a few weeks ago in (of all places) the small airport in my home town in Washington State. I had gone through security with no problem on the flight out there from New York, but I was piked at random on the way back.

    As you say, Donna, it was no big deal. The female agent who patted me down was polite, efficient, tactful and professional. The whole thing only took a few minutes and I was on my way. I was mildly uncomfortable, but, as you say, there was no trauma. I just picked up my stuff from the conveyor belt and took a seat to wait for my plane.

    The days when people could just go to an airport, show a ticket, check luggage and get on a plane are over. I am happy to go through some mild embarrassment if it means that we can all fly from one place to another without being afraid of someone trying to bomb or hijack us.

    1. Well, I was not “piked” at random. I was “picked” at random. Proofreading is your friend.

      1. I didn’t even notice the typo. I knew what you were saying and just put in the “c” myself. LOL I don’t mind the pats at all and in fact, something was up with that flight because the TSA came to the gate and searched the crew and all carry on luggage again and I had to show three agents my license – each initialed it and then I was allowed to board. I checked my luggage so I didn’t have to have anything searched at the gate.

  4. I have little steel thingies implanted in my breast so my oncologist and radiologist will always know where the cancer used to be. I was afraid my cancer markers would set off alarms at the airport, but doctors assured me they wouldn’t. Then I was pulled aside for a pat down too, so I’m thinking, hmm, maybe those little steel thingies really do set off alarms. But you know what? I would rather experience a million pat downs and be safe on my flights than get onboard with somebody whose steel thingy happened to be a weapon of some kind that would have brought the plane down had he or she not been patted down. I’ve been raped and molested too. A pat down in no way compares. Pat downs are not traumatizing, unless maybe the traumatized person is also emotionally unstable. I’m glad you said something (so there! ;).

  5. I have a steel bar in my back. I get the pat down every single time. Trust me, it gets old fast. And the last time I flew, a TSA agent stole a $1500. check out of the bottom of my carry-on luggage.

    1. A friend of mine goes through the same thing with a metal rod but it doesn’t bother her too much. She understands the issue. The $1500 would bother me, but I can’t believe that is the norm for these people. There are thieves everywhere. A different experience for everyone I guess.

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