2011 turned out to be a big travel year for me.  I hadn’t flown much in the previous few years, so I was unprepared for the ways in which air travel would prove to be newly exhausting.  For more than a year, however, I had been planning my response to the TSA officer who asked me to step into a full body scanner. In fact, I’d given a fair amount of thought—and air time around our dinner table—to this new technology.

And I had drawn my line in the linoleum.

Having been subjected to a wide range of scans in my life, I had decided that I would politely, but firmly, refuse to be scanned again—unless asked by a physician who would be reviewing the results with me in his or her office.

Yet there I stood in Newark International Airport—my stocking feet planted firmly on the yellow-painted footprints—as the uniformed man who had gestured for me to step to the right now asked me to raise my arms above my head.  How did this happen?

In the moment I was asked to comply with regulations, I’d made a split-second decision to be compliant.  It really wasn’t a choice, after all, with the only alternatives being a pat-down or an extended stay in NJ. I also ruefully admit that I didn’t want to be the “crank” that made a federal case about a 5 second X-ray. In my mind I pictured a rebel; in my reflection in the Plexiglas I saw a glimpse of my self.

I felt exposed and lightheaded as conflicting messages fired along synapses from lobe to lobe. The TSA officer’s voice interrupted my brain’s reverie:

“Thank you, ma’am.  Step this way.” His eyes revealed that he saw nothing unusual.

The full body scan had not revealed my inner thoughts.  At least there is still a choice whether to make those public.


Comments (8)

Welcome to the new world of travel. At Hartford Airport everyone gets scanned!

Well, Connecticut is a scary place. 😉

Nicely written! I had a lovely dream about body scanners when they were introduced…and I request the pat-down every time. Some of the human interactions have been hilarious!

Laura, I think maybe I will follow your lead next time. I guess I won’t know until the very moment, though, what the impact of this experience will be on the next one. I did have several lovely human interactions at the gate and on the jetway in ATL. More on that in another post… Happy Hanukkah!

We can only hope it somehow makes us safer. So true, we still have freedom of speech!

Yes, and freedom of thought. I felt a little bit like we were inching toward the dystopian society of The Minority Report or Brave New World, though.

I can so relate! And BTW- I live 15 min. from Newark airport if you ever want to make a different choice!

Pearl, Would have loved to see you this visit! I was staying with my dad before/after a Clal meeting, so I was mostly in the City. Next time, perhaps…Happy Hanukkah!

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