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I got a pat down...again.

June 21, 2018

I got frisked today.

 

This time I was on my way with my beautiful wife to the wonderful Big Island of Hawaii for our 10th anniversary vacation. We were without the kids!

 

It started with a pat down...and not the anniversary kind, the TSA kind. For some reason I get frisked at the airport about every other time I fly. I guess I have a certain look. I’ve never been pulled into a room and interrogated, however, I do get my bags scrutinized and a good healthy frisk from time to time. 

 

Today the TSA Agent explained to me what was going to happen. 

 

TSA Agent: 

 

The machine detected something, and I am going to have to give you a pat down.  Do you have any sensitive areas?

 

 

I remember the first time I got frisked. I was driving back from Mexico after doing some missions work on the Baja Peninsula with two of my friends. Both my friends forgot their I.D. so we got pulled over and searched. They looked all over the truck as well gave us all a good frisking. This was neither of my friend's first time being frisked and when they found out it was mine, they teased me the entire time. Saying things like “Come on Scott, relax you’ll like it more.” Stuff like that. I felt slightly violated but the border guards were just doing their job trying to keep our nation safe. 

 

TSA Agent: 

 

Sir, do you have anything in your pockets?

 

Me: 

 

No. 

 

TSA Agent:

 

Do you mind if I check your pockets?

 

Me:

 

No.

 

The TSA Agent checks my pockets and finds something in the pocket of my hoodie. 

 

TSA Agent:

 

What is in this pocket?

 

Me: 

 

Nothing. 

 

TSA Agent:

 

Will you please check it for me?

 

I check the pocket of my hoodie and find an old baggage tag that I tore off before checking our bag. 

 

Me:

 

Oh. 

 

TSA Agent:

 

Ya, this thing will pick up a Tic Tac at 1,000 feet. It’s that sensitive. 

 

Me: 

 

Oh. 

 

My favorite time being frisked was right after the horrific Boston Marathon bombing. I was flying out of Seattle to Dallas. I was wearing a gray hoodie and a black hat. I also had a black backpack and a cheap carry on. 

 

As I was in line at the check-in, multiple TSA agents struck up conversations with me. I had thought maybe this was a newer, friendlier TSA and it was a really nice addition to times before. I’m serious, every TSA agent smiled at me and said hello. Then I take off my shoes and belt and go through the metal detector. There was no beep, but I was taken to the side for a random check, which I have learned is code for, "We need a closer look at you." 

 

These “random” checks have happened to me a number of times, and each time I'm not surprised. My bags are pulled over to the side where I am questioned at length.

 

Where are you going?

How long will you stay there?

What do you do for work?

 

There were also other pleasantries exchanged, about everything under the sun. Like I said, I just thought they were the new super friendly TSA trying to get rid of a woeful image. 

 

It was this time when I realized every TSA agent I met that day asked me these same questions and they were not just being nice. This last agent was very short with me and very serious. I would never joke around in this situation, I took the questioning seriously and gave short, serious answers. But this time, they were so good I’d started to wonder if I had done something wrong.  

 

They then proceeded to open my bags and search them item by item. They even checked the pockets of my packed pants. I usually travel with a couple books and this time was no different. I was finishing up a book on church history as well as a book or two on explicitly theological topics. At this point the conversation lightened up and they understood that I was not lying to them. They let me go. 

 

After that I remember walking to my airplane taking that experience in. It was weird. I felt played. I remember calling Mo and letting her know what happened and we talked about how weird it was, even though it wasn’t unusual that I was searched. This time though it had just been a bit extra. 

 

Later that day I was at my friend’s house just outside of Dallas and we were watching the news. They had video footage of the suspected Boston bomber. He was about 6’. I am 6’1”. He wore a gray hoodie. So did I. He had a black hat. So did I. That is when it hit me, I looked like one of the suspected bombers. Good job TSA and note to self, wear something a little more cheerful next time I fly. 

 

En route to Hawaii, the scene continued.

 

TSA Agent: 

 

I’m going to have to pat the rest of your midsection down. Do you have any sensitive parts? 

 

(I was not really sure how to take that question.)

 

Me:

 

No 

 

TSA Agent: 

 

I’m going to use the backside of my hand to pat down your most sensitive areas. Do you have any extra sensitive areas?

 

Man, I thought, this guy really likes the words ‘sensitive area’.

 

Me: 

 

No. 

 

TSA Agent: 

 

I’m going to pat you down now. Will you pull up your sweater just a bit?

 

Me: 

 

Sure. 

 

Then TSA Agent searches my belt line. 

 

TSA Agent:

 

Would you please use just the tips of your fingers to hold up your pants? These gloves are sticky, and they like to pull pants down. 

 

Me: 

 

Okay. 

 

I hold my pants but as he pats me down, my fingers slip off my pants. I was trying to hold them with only the tips of my fingers, and his gloves were sticky and he pulled them right out of my fingers.  

 

TSA Agent:

 

Please hold them up. I told you these gloves like to pull on the fabric of pants. 

 

Me: 

 

Sorry about that.

 

Then I took a better grip and he continued his search. I glanced at Mo and she was looking over at me and laughing. She knows that this is just my luck. She took timely pictures of my getting my frisking. 

 

 

 

I realize that the TSA Agent was just doing his job and I guess I should be thankful about all the questions of ‘sensitive areas’. In the context of his job this is a good question that one man should ask another. Given a different context it would have been highly inappropriate. 

 

The pat down ended and I was found clean. I was free to go. 

 

TSA Agent: 

 

That’s it. Thank you sir, you can go get your bags. 

 

Me: 

 

Thanks. 

 

TSA Agent: 

 

You betcha. Have a great flight. 

 

Me:

 

Thank you.

 

Mo and I did have a good flight and enjoyed our stay in Hawaii. 

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