Tag Archives: airport security

Don’t Touch My Junk: The SNL Ad

Wow. Everyone is getting into the act about the grab-ass that is taking place at our nation’s airports. Prez O says he feels our pain — even as the homeland defenders continue to feel-up travelers.

Oh well. I opined that “Don’t Touch My Junk” could well become the modern equivalent of “Don’t Tread on Me.” (And a major hat-tip here to Charles Krauthammer, who spotlighted this notion in the Washington Post.)

Clearly people are mad about this invasion of privacy. Here’s from a NYT editorial, “The Uproar Over Pat-Downs“:

The Fourth Amendment would certainly protect Americans from unnecessary, overly intimate security checks. And nothing in the Constitution permits power-happy or just downright creepy people from abusing their uniforms and the real need for security. The government could start by making their screening guidelines clear. And they should respond to the concerns of people like the woman who told The Times that she is patted down every time because of an insulin pump.

We’ll see. Even when the public — and voters — are mad, it takes a while for the Inside the Beltway crowd to get it. For instance, John Boehner took a commercial flight from Reagan National to Ohio. But guess what? He didn’t have to go through the security queue, full-body scan or aggressive pat-down. Wonder if I’ll be extended the same courtesy on my trip to DC in early December?

Just dreamin’.

So, since this isn’t going to change anytime soon, SNL has come up with the right approach for the image-challenged TSA. Here’s the back-story and a link to the SNL ad — via Mediaite.

The TSA is having a bit of an image problem, what with reports of rampant, illicit junk-touching—a problem on which even President Obama was asked to comment. So, with the busy holiday season approaching, the chartiable folks at SNL tried to help out by making a steamy new ad for the TSA, one that rebrands intrusive pat-downs as intimate companionship.

Go ahead. Watch the SNL ad.

Hey, this pat-down thing might not be so bad after all.



This Will Fly: “Don’t Touch My Junk”

OK. I opined the other day that something didn’t feel right about the new adventure in airline security that has us virtually standing buck naked in the queue or having someone probe in areas where the sun don’t shine.

Folks, I am all for homeland security and for keeping asshats off airplanes, but these new procedures won’t fly.

And I guess I’m not alone in having some reservations about this. Consider this excerpt from an article in the NYT by Susan Stellin, “Pat-Downs at Airports Prompt Complaints“:

“I didn’t really expect her to touch my vagina through my pants,” said Kaya McLaren, an elementary schoolteacher from Cle Elum, Wash., who was patted down at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport last Saturday because the body scanner detected a tissue and a hair band in her pocket.

The agency has so far responded to the complaints by calling for cooperation and patience from passengers, citing polls showing broad support for the full-body scanning machines.

Still, it remains to be seen whether travelers approve of the pat-downs, especially as millions more people experience them for the first time during the holiday travel season.

Dare I say it? Woot. This will be a fiasco of national proportions over the Thanksgiving holiday. It was tough and frustrating enough to get through security before the start of these “new normal” conditions. Sheesh.

And this isn’t just the rant of a pajama-clad citizen journalist. Charles Krauthammer has an excellent article in the Washington Post, “Don’t touch my junk.” It’s well worth the full read. Here’s part:

Ah, the airport, where modern folk heroes are made. The airport, where that inspired flight attendant did what everyone who’s ever been in the spam-in-a-can crush of a flying aluminum tube – where we collectively pretend that a clutch of peanuts is a meal and a seat cushion is a “flotation device” – has always dreamed of doing: pull the lever, blow the door, explode the chute, grab a beer, slide to the tarmac and walk through the gates to the sanity that lies beyond. Not since Rick and Louis disappeared into the Casablanca fog headed for the Free French garrison in Brazzaville has a stroll on the tarmac thrilled so many.

And the point:

And now three months later, the newest airport hero arrives. His genius was not innovation in getting out, but deconstructing the entire process of getting in. John Tyner, cleverly armed with an iPhone to give YouTube immortality to the encounter, took exception to the TSA guard about to give him the benefit of Homeland Security’s newest brainstorm – the upgraded, full-palm, up the groin, all-body pat-down. In a stroke, the young man ascended to myth, or at least the next edition of Bartlett’s, warning the agent not to “touch my junk.”

Not quite the 18th-century elegance of “Don’t Tread on Me,” but the age of Twitter has a different cadence from the age of the musket. What the modern battle cry lacks in archaic charm, it makes up for in full-body syllabic punch.

Don’t touch my junk is the anthem of the modern man, the Tea Party patriot, the late-life libertarian, the midterm election voter. Don’t touch my junk, Obamacare – get out of my doctor’s examining room, I’m wearing a paper-thin gown slit down the back. Don’t touch my junk, Google – Street View is cool, but get off my street. Don’t touch my junk, you airport security goon – my package belongs to no one but me, and do you really think I’m a Nigerian nut job preparing for my 72-virgin orgy by blowing my johnson to kingdom come?

Don’t tread on me.

Don’t touch my junk.

Hmm. Some politician is going to like the sound of that as we head into 2012.

Sarah, you reading this?

The Naked City: Government in Our Pants?

Well, there were eight million stories in The Naked City. Hey, for those of you under age 60 check it out. But something tells me there are going to be more than eight million stories as airline customers begin this holiday season to inch their way in the security queue through the full-body scanning machines and aggressive pat downs that are now part of the flying experience.

And I guess at my age I should relish every opportunity for someone to rub my thighs and explore other even more private areas. But I don’t know. Something just doesn’t feel right about this newest adventure in homeland security.

I’ll also admit that I really have no complaints — despite the hassle involved — to reasonable security measures aimed at keeping asshats and other miscreants off airplanes. The last thing I want to be doing is sitting next to someone with a pipe bomb wedged up his ass. Good grief.

So I read with interest the opinion article in the Akron Beacon Journal by Steve Chapman with the Chicago Tribute, “Government in our pants.” Here’s an excerpt:

When it comes to protecting against terrorism, this is how things usually go: A danger presents itself. The federal government responds with new rules that erode privacy, treat innocent people as suspicious and blur the distinction between life in a free society and life in a correctional facility. And we all tamely accept the new intrusions, like sheep being shorn.

Maybe not this time.

The war on terrorism is going to get personal. Very personal. Americans have long resented the hassles that go with air travel ever since 9/11 — long security lines, limits on liquids, forced removal of footwear and so on. But if the Transportation Security Administration has its way, we will look back to 2009 as the good old days.

The agency is rolling out new full-body scanners, which eventually will replace metal detectors at all checkpoints. These machines replicate the experience of taking off your clothes, but without the fun. They enable agents to get a view of your body that leaves nothing to the imagination.

A lot of people, of course, couldn’t care less if a stranger wants to gaze upon everything God gave them. But some retain a modesty that makes them reluctant to parade naked in front of people they don’t know, even virtually. Henceforth, Jennifer Aniston is going to think twice before flying commercial.

Besides the indignity of having one’s body exposed to an airport screener, there is a danger the images will find a wider audience. The U.S. Marshals Service recently admitted saving some 35,000 images from a machine at a federal courthouse in Florida. TSA says that will never happen. Human experience says, oh, yes, it will.

For the camera-shy, TSA will offer an alternative: ”enhanced” pat-downs. And you’ll get a chance to have an interesting conversation with your children about being touched by strangers. This is not the gentle frisking you may have experienced at the airport in the past. It requires agents to probe aggressively in intimate zones — breasts, buttocks, crotches. If you enjoyed your last mammography or prostate exam, you’ll love the enhanced pat-down.

Oh boy. I can’t wait. I’m on a flight to and from Reagan National in early December. When I was last in DC a few weeks ago, they were just getting started with the full-body scanning. It took about 90 minutes for a 100 or so of us to make our way through security on a weekday afternoon.

Good luck to all during the Thanksgiving holiday rush.

And a year ago my friend Walter on a flight from Florida had a jar of organic peanut butter confiscated by the security patrol at the gate.

Something tells me that we are going to look back on those outrages as the good old days.


Dogs, Cats and Airport Security

Well, I’m back from a two-day trip to DC. And I’m still tethered to the treadmill. This is going to be a long winter. During the past two weeks, I’ve run in place for more than 20 miles — without actually moving much more than an inch. Hey, just like the queue at the Cleveland airport Monday morning.

In fairness, Cleveland Hopkins had been closed for most of Sunday because of a power outage. And I expect that many who were stuck on the ground Sunday jumped at the first chance to get out of NE Ohio Monday morning. The result: long lines in the early a.m. snaking through the security areas and, for me at least, a dash to the gate to make my flight. Wonder if I can add that distance to my running log? I digress.

Anyway, this isn’t a rant about security. No thinking person — even me — can object to reasonable measures to ensure a safe flight. But the reality is that any hiccup in the system anywhere along the way adds to the stress of what has become for me — and I expect many — an exceedingly unpleasant experience. C’mon. Do you enjoy flying these days?

And this is a challenge — let’s call it customer relations broadly speaking — that the airline industry and government officials are going to have to address. It’s a business issue linked to our fragile economy and economic recovery. Here’s from an article in USA Today, “For some, hassles dim the appeal of air travel“:

Just when travelers had gotten used to carrying miniature bottles of shampoo and walking through checkpoints without their shoes on, air security is being ramped up after a 23-year-old Nigerian man allegedly tried to set off explosives on a Detroit-bound jetliner on Christmas Day.

Some passengers are advised to arrive at the airport as much as three hours before their flights. Americans coming home from overseas may undergo a full-body frisk before they board. It’s up to the captains on international flights to decide whether passengers can go to the bathroom the last hour of their trip. And federal officials are planning to deploy hundreds of scanning machines that can peer through fliers’ clothes at airports across the United States.

The beefed-up security — plus already aggravating airline policies such as double- and triple-digit fees not included in ticket prices — raises the question: Is flying worth the hassle?

Is flying worth the hassle? We’ll see. But if the answer turns out to be no, it will ripple through the economy.

Oh, and about the dogs and cats.

In Cleveland, a woman in front of me proceeded through security carrying a small dog. In DC at Reagan National, a man behind me was holding a cat. That struck me as being somewhat odd — as I was removing my shoes, trying to keep my coat and bag moving forward, praying that I wasn’t taking more than three ounces of shampoo, and figuring out what to do with my computer and so on.

Let’s hope the experience was less stressful for the dog and cat.

Go figure.

Holiday Travel: Leave That Fruitcake Home?

OK. I’ll admit it. I enjoy the holidays. It’s an extended time to visit with friends and family. I eat and drink virtually guilt free. I still manage to maintain my rigid daily schedule: get up early, scan the Internet and e-mail, down some coffee, and then hit the concrete or elliptical trainer. And this year I’m done traveling — spending an enjoyable day with my folks and family in Pittsburgh over the weekend.

Dare I say it? Woot.

Now I’m planning to hunker down through the start of the New Year — sitting by the fire and reading as many dead-tree newspapers, magazines and books as I can get my hands on. Not everyone is so fortunate, including my son and daughter who will be encountering the maze of airport security this week while returning to their respective homes.

Given the increased security at airports, is it still OK to bring that fruitcake aboard? Well, maybe. But, maybe not.  I came through security at Reagan National in DC a week ago carrying two gifts: cranberry bread and some cookies. Those two items were poked, shaken, tossed in the air like batons, and X-rayed. Yum. Based on that examination, it’s hard to figure how someone could walk on a plane heading to the USA with, apparently, a bomb strapped to his leg. I digress.

Anyway, the Transportation Security Administration is — and I guess understandably so — somewhat vague now about what you can expect at airport security. So for those who are traveling, here are some tips from smartertravel.com.

Also, here’s an informative story broadcast on CNN.

And since I’m not going anywhere and this is another short holiday workweek even for those of us who are quasi-retired, I might as well take the rest of the day off. You’ll find me sitting, reading, dozing and munching on fruitcake. Got to love the holidays.

White-Knuckles and High-Fives

This has been a tough week for someone who is quasi-retired and spending his early a.m post-run hours as a pajama-clad citizen journalist. Yesterday I wrote one of the greatest blog posts since Al Gore invented the Internet. But for the second time in two weeks, when I hit the WordPress publish button, the digital words vanished into the black hole of cyberspace. Just like Nancy Pelosi’s commitment to the health care public option.

Oh well. As Jimmy Carter opined — life isn’t fair. And sometimes it’s more of a struggle than it should be.

Take my return trip from D.C. to Cleveland Wednesday night as both an example and as a cautionary tale about how situations beyond most anyone’s control can alter behavior. It was white-knuckle time at both the airport and on the airplane.

When I head to D.C. these days, I go via plane from Cleveland or Akron-Canton to Reagan National and back. And generally no major issues. I’ve learned to go through security barefoot like one of the Hare Krishnas who used to greet travelers with flowers and inspiration during the 70s. And I’ll admit it. At my age the occasional strip search is, well, kind of exhilarating. It’s like being invited to join a live performance of Hair.

Yet when I made my way to Reagan National late Wednesday afternoon I wasn’t prepared to wait in the security queue for almost an hour. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Would I make the flight? Would I have time for a couple of Yuenglings at the National Airport Grill?

And what might the problem be? Well, apparently the security folks were being extra cautious following the revelation that some Transportation Safety Officials managed to let the agency’s security screening procedures get posted on a blog. Here’s from a BBC News report:

The document revealed which passengers should always be given extra screening unless specifically exempted, including people with passports from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Somalia and other countries.

It said prosthetic devices, medical dressings, wheelchairs, scooters and surgical footwear may be exempt from screening for explosives at certain times.

It also said that at busy travel periods, screening procedures could at times be reduced to 25% of normal levels and that properly accredited flight crew were not subject to restrictions on carrying liquids and gels on to aircraft.

Certain US politicians and members of the military were exempt from additional screening, it said.

Whoa. I can’t take a loaf of cranberry bread through security but the congressional pooh-bahs and gasbags can go unchecked? I digress.

OK. I made it to both the National Airport Grill and the airplane on time. Then the real fun started.

The flight should have been renamed the White-Knuckle Express. We came into Cleveland facing 40 to 5o mph wind — and no bronco rider in the rodeo had a tougher mount. Woot.

And think of the landing much like the description of the new roller coaster at Kennywood Park near Pittsburgh.

Kennywood’s new launch coaster will feature many exciting and unique features including three inversions and a 0-50mph launch in three seconds! After the high-speed launch, riders will experience a vertical ascent to 95ft before a brief cliffhanger pause at the top and a 90-degree drop into a maximum G-force pullout. The riders then enjoy extended airtime as the train races into an inverted top hat element, passes into a barrel roll and goes vertical again through a twist up leading to another pause.

Riders experience a second vertical free fall followed by another maximum G-force pullout on the way into a highly banked fan curve. After a traditional corkscrew, a curve to a zero gravity hill, and a series of wave turns, riders finally return to the station.

Ah, barf bag anyone? But we made it. And in all the years I’ve been on airplanes, this was the first time that the passengers cheered and applauded wildly on landing — and saluted one another with a high-five or two. It was like the good old days. When the Steelers manhandled the Browns.

Like I said. Tough week.

Holiday Travel and Airport Security: Fruitcake Anyone?

Well, I’m back in NE Ohio after spending an enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend in Dataw, S.C. And no complaints: two peaceful and nearly pain-free runs around the three-mile gated community of an island, temps in the mid-60s with ample sunshine, and no incidents coming or going via U.S. Air.

Saying that, we were fortunate. I didn’t try to board the airplane with a loaf of cranberry bread stuffed in my computer bag as originally planned. My wife, Mary, placed it gingerly in our suitcase — we paid $20 for the privilege of having our bag, clothes and assorted food items accompany us on the journey — and hoped for the best. And my hat’s off to the Department of Homeland Security, the cranberry bread (and everything else for that matter) made it safe and sound. Woot.

I’ll admit it. I’m accustomed now to walking through the airport in my bare feet. And hey, at my age, the strip search at security is kind of invigorating. But it seems kind of silly that you can’t carry a loaf of bread — or a fruitcake — on an airplane.  Maybe X-rays and other scanning methods won’t penetrate a fruitcake. Is a fruitcake more indestructible — and impenetrable — than Superman’s cape? Beats me. Has Congress ever investigated that?

And this isn’t just one of those academic musings that I am becoming more inclined to engage in these days. My friend Walter had to relinquish a jar of organic peanut butter at either the Orlando or Austin airport a few months ago. Go figure.

So for those of you who are traveling today — or during the remainder of the holiday season — here are the guidelines from the Transportation Security Administration concerning food and gifts:

From the TSA: Not sure about what you can and can’t bring through the checkpoint? Here’s a list of liquid, aerosol and gel items that you should put in your checked bag, ship ahead, or leave at home.

  • Cranberry sauce
  • Cologne
  • Creamy dips and spreads
    (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.)
  • Gift baskets with food items
    (salsa, jams and salad dressings)
  • Gravy
  • Jams
  • Jellies
  • Lotions
  • Maple syrup
  • Oils and vinegars
  • Perfume
  • Salad dressing
  • Salsa
  • Sauces
  • Snowglobes
  • Soups
  • Wine, liquor and beer


Note: You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening. (My comment: Any clue as to what that “additional screening” could be? Sigh.)
Remember! – do not wrap gifts you’re taking on the plane. Security officers may have to unwrap gifts if they need to take a closer look. Please ship wrapped gifts ahead of time or wait until your destination to wrap them.
* Items purchased after the security checkpoint have been pre-screened and can be taken on the plane.
Note to Walter: If you’re thinking about returning to the Buckeye State with a bottle of the 12-year-old Scotch whiskey, might as well down it before the security strip search. If the peanut butter didn’t make the journey, no hope with that. Just sayin’.