Gini Dietrich

TSA X-Rays, Enhanced Pat-Downs, and Traveling

By: Gini Dietrich | November 24, 2010 | 

In the United States, today is the busiest air travel day of the entire year. So I figured it was a good time to talk about what’s going on with TSA, the new x-ray machines, and the “enhanced”  pat-downs.

I am not a TSA fan. I travel a ton and their rules vary from airport to airport. Last year, I was in the Detroit airport and forgot I had a full-sized tube of toothpaste in my suitcase, which got through, but they wanted to take the Bare Escentuals “Buxon” lipgloss that was in my purse.

This past January, I was going through security at O’Hare and they made me take my tights off and go back through. Now, men, you won’t understand how invasive that is, but women, you’ll get it. They made me take my tights off, in public, and go back through.

And now I’ve learned (because I forgot one morning) that you don’t really have to take your toiletries out of your suitcase, but you can cause a lot of trouble when you’re asked to “open” your iPad and, when you try explaining it doesn’t “open,” you cause a huge delay.

In some airports I can get through with my ski boots and others they consider them an additional carry-on. I once had to put them on and put my Uggs in my purse, just so I could get on the flipping plane without checking my ski boots (no, there isn’t a photo of that, as much as Mr. D really wanted to take one).

I do the whole, “I’m executive platinum and this is ridiculous. My lipgloss gets through the largest airports in the world, but I can’t get it through this rinky dink airport?” Yeah. That doesn’t work, yet I still throw a hissy fit like that at least once a month. They don’t care “who I am.”

The rules aren’t the same and, as a frequent traveler, it makes me nuts. I don’t mind following the rules if they’re consistent.

All that being said, the new x-ray machines are not a big deal.

Let me repeat. The new x-ray machines are not a big deal.

They actually make your time in the security line a lot shorter and guess what? They can’t see your face so they don’t know whose bodies they are seeing! I don’t care what your neighbor or your friend tells you…it’s not true.

The photo you see above is what you look like going through the new machines. They can’t see your cellulite or your beer gut! They can just see whether or not you have a gun sewn into your hip.

Don’t be afraid the new machines are going to “show your junk” (we’ll leave that to Brett Favre) or that going through them is not safe. Either is just not true. But, if you prefer the “enhanced” pat-down, by all means, don’t let me stop you!

Travel safely and Happy Thanksgiving!

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • HowieSPM

    I think people are upset at the money spent for technology that isn’t going to help in my opinion. I say this because pre-9/11 our system worked. It worked on 9/11. No guns were used or bombs. They had box cutters. It was the doubt in peoples minds on the plane that just maybe something got through. If people knew only box cutters none of the stuff would of happened they would of had their asses kicked by the people on the planes.

    I started a heavy travel job just 2 weeks after the shoe bomber guy. My new company in NY was laughing that shoes had to come off. For 5 years I had a system that for the most part worked for me individually but that never mattered because the people in front or the TSA folks all did their job to slow things down. Like don’t get in line behind tourtists was a good rule of thumb. Luckily most of my travel was to the same 6 airports with th random side trip throw in each month.

    I will never forget the retired couple in 2006 who flipped on the TSA procedures. I was like HELLO its been 3 years take your shoes off!! This ain’t new stuff and your retired which means you should be experienced in all things!

    One thing I have always wanted to do and now maybe is just the perfect time to do it. Is the foil cucumber in my pants like the Spinal Tap scene. I mean how does that get written up in the Police Report? Cucumbers are not illegal and if they go through they XRay machine the spoil!

  • The first rule of flying – do not wear steel toed workboots! I can’t emphasize that one enough. What a nightmare!

    The rest of this is pretty silly, IMHO. I’d laugh it off if I weren’t one of these contstitutional rights enthusiasts. But I am, and I take it all pretty seriously. Just glad I don’t fly anywhere (as I can’t afford it!).

  • a_greenwood

    It’s all security theater–I resent that aspect of it. Treating 100% of passengers like terrorists is in the long run self defeating. I wish the TSA would develop a model based on intelligence and skilled screeners, like Israel does. Not sure about the scanner radiation, either. Harry Shearer reminded me that years ago shoe stores had “shoe fitting fluoroscopes,” you could stick your feet in anytime.. They stopped doing that when they realized how dangerous and idiotic it was to be exposed to x-rays on a casual basis. What will they find out about these scanners in ten years?

  • ginidietrich

    @a_greenwood OMG! I so agree there should be a model based on intelligence and skilled screeners. For instance, if I fly 100,000 miles a year, why do I have to go through the same security as someone who flies once a year? I mean, if a terrorist is patient enough to fly 100,000 miles in a year so they can blow up a plane, I guess good for them. I also don’t think a terrorist is going to blow up a plane again. They’ll hit something else that we’re not considering.

  • ginidietrich

    @wabbitoid LOL! Even though you have to take off your shoes? I didn’t realize that’d be such a big deal. It’s a HUGE pain to fly these days. I’m in favor for anything that speeds up the process.

  • ginidietrich

    @HowieSPM Yep – the “weapons” used on 9/11 were the planes. Can’t screen your way out of that! Please, please, please do the foil cucumber. But wait until we have reason to go through security togther. THIS I have to see!

  • Gini, consistency is definitely lacking.

    And did you know that for the most part, lighters are allowed on the plane, as long as they are in plastic bags?!? So fire yes, large cologne bottles no. Go figure.

  • EricPudalov

    Hilarious post, Gini! Luckily, I’m staying in Atlanta this Thanksgiving, and it’s my folks who are doing the traveling. Hopefully, neither of them will have to go through an “enhanced” pat-down. Dad once forgot he was carrying a very large hunting knife in his carry-on, which was confiscated and never returned (and this was pre-9/11).

  • EricPudalov

    @GiniDietrich @a_greenwood Hmm…you make a scary point, Gini. It’s quite possible that terrorists would go after a target we’ve never considered. This is especially disturbing, considering that the other day I was reading an article on 9/11 conspiracy theories. I guess whatever the event (JFK assassination, landing on the moon), there will always be those people out there.

  • EricPudalov

    @GiniDietrich @wabbitoid When I fly out of Atlanta, I ALWAYS have to take off my shoes, steel-toed or not. Must depend on the airport. It just helps to know this…I do it way before I even get in line. I also make sure to take the metal plate out of my skull (talk about an inconvenience).

  • trontastic

    I’m a fan of TSA only because I have relatives that work for them. Other than that, yeah it can be a pain in the butt-scan. They are a true government agency and run like one.

    That being said, did you REALLY link to Brett Favre’s junk? I was too afraid to click on the link.

  • ginidietrich

    @trontastic OH I DID! No, just the story. I wanted to link to the photos, but I was scared to go look at them. I really don’t want to see it.

  • ginidietrich

    @EricPudalov Some TSA guy now has your dad’s hunting knife! I’m not traveling for the holiday, either, but I’m back on a plane on Monday. Likely with my hissy fit “I’m executive platinum” speech that never works yet I still try it.

  • ginidietrich

    @JohnnyRusso Well, that makes sense. I mean, my perfume could definitely blow up a plane if mixed with my lighter.

  • LauraScholz

    Oh, girl I hear you. As the ex of an airline employee, I’ve spent entirely too much time in airports dealing with completely random and senseless enforcement of “rules.” I got hand sanitizer through in my pocket, but they wanted to confiscate about $200 worth of Chanel lip gloss. Hell no.

    And I routinely leave liquids in my bags to see if anyone will catch them. No.

    We’re treated like cattle instead of human beings, and there is no distinction between someone like you or Tim that travel regularly and those people who still don’t know you have to take your shoes off. It makes it more maddening and inconvenient for the rest of us. And the worst of it is that none of this makes flying or planes or airports any safter. We’re wasting time and money and energy on tights and shampoo instead of the real issue–identifying terrorists and plots before they’re executed.

    That, and well, if people are willing to use planes as weapons–I doubt removing your belt of confiscating your water bottle is going to thwart them.

  • ginidietrich

    @LauraScholz AMEN, sister! Amen.

  • LauraScholz

    @GiniDietrich I want to correct my typos!! But otherwise, love this comment system!

  • ginidietrich

    @LauraScholz I think livefyre keeps hearing people want to correct their typos. So maybe it’s in the works!

  • Gini,
    Thanks for you’re insight. There may be some cancer concerns about the scanners but thanks for lending a calm voice to the 1st Amendment issues. As for the lack of consistency with the rules, it may be a function of the hiring pool.
    I’m not traveling so this is easy for me, but to all using airlines this weekend, Remember why you’re getting on a plane. Humor and perspective are much more effective than blood pressure meds. Oh and Happy Thansgiving.

  • aflandry

    @HowieSPM Totally agree with you. By definition a plot which would succeed would not be anticipated. By definition.

    Of course it doesn’t mean we should not take reasonable measures to prevent it. The problem will always be the blurry line between reasonable and unreasonable. To me, the anwser is a more pragmatic risk management approach rather than an irrationnal search for perfect security at all costs.

    We tend to overestimate risks when we don’t understand or can’t control them.

    For example, I have a client who wanted totally garanteed IT security after he saw some news report and I said to him, how many people can break into a computer? Not many. How many people can break the window next to your server and steal the server? A lot of people. Let’s start by putting the server somewhere else before we install IDS systems and deploy crazy Firewalls…

    BTW, maybe an interesting variation on the cucumber foil thing would be to go in your underwear with a rain coat over and when it’s your turn you go “Woohoo!”, drop the rain coat and start running in circle shouting “Elvis is not dead! Elvis is not dead!” with a tin foil hat on your head. Or maybe that’s a bit too much? #PlanToEndUpInTheNeverHeardFromAgainCategory

  • @GiniDietrich @LauraScholz Editing comments is something we’re going back and forth about. The reason we don’t allow it now is because it can change the context of the comment and conversation. I definitely understand the desire to correct typos, I make a good number of mistakes I’d like to fix. We’re taking all the feedback into consideration so that feature isn’t off the table.

  • LauraScholz

    @JennaLanger @GiniDietrich Hey Jenna–thanks for your response! Just have fat fingers, and I’m a perfectionist! But totally understand why you wouldn’t want people erasing entire comments. Great job–love what you’re doing, and Gini raves about you!

  • HowieSPM

    Nothing is ever too much! LOL That was great.I want to do it!

    I have a nice story for you about the guarantee. My old life was selling custom designed hardware for specialty manufacturers who made things like Rockets and Satelites and NASA probes. The hardware would be tested 1 million times just to ensure it worked once. The cost of a $200 part would be $30,000 because of this. And that still doesn’t guarantee 100%. Lockheed Martin installed a sensor of ours backwards. A probe that captured the Solar Wind was coming back for re-entry in Utah. They had 3 helicopters and a hundred people excited its 3 year mission was done. The sensor was to tell the prode it was time to open the parachute so the helicopters could grab it. But the sensor was backwards. 200mph straight into the ground. Luckily the Solar Wind survived. Lockheed Martin tested my sensor. It still worked. But they put in in wrong.

  • aflandry

    @HowieSPM Wow! In this case it’s more than Murphy’s law, it’s Murphy’s wife law : my husband was an optimist.

  • When I flew this year for the first time in 15 years, I was familiar with the routine (pre-enhanced pat-downs) and I do have clients who work for TSA so one coached me through all the liquid issues… which I now would need a refresher on but wasn’t a huge deal at the time. I admire you all who fly so much, I just determined that it is not fun to walk down the narrow aisle and all the other little stresses like where to put my laptop and how many people will they ask to switch flights after we are ready to fly. I will just stay home and work with people worldwide from my computer. The ear and eye inflection brought on by flying was enough for me…

  • Gini don’t gasp – the length alone should tell you that it’s me – Ingrid ;)!

    I love this piece Gini! Love the “open your iPad” and the “requent flying lip-gloss”!!! Luv it to the point that I got so excited to share a super duper extra large and looooong comment lol – and it even made me miss traveling within the US where the sweet sound of “excuse me maaaaam” you’re gonna’ need to take those cowboy boots off…take those dangerous looking rubber flip flops off (get me a bag or socks cause I ain’t walkin’ barefoot on this floor!)…check that belt in…go through the X-ray machine again…and the list goes on.

    I’ve been lucky enough to get “randomly searched (yeah, right)” 2 times. And boy was it fun. Now I have a good sense of humor and I think I know when to crack a joke or not pending on the person that has to take it.

    Here’s the thing – My name is Ingrid (Scandinavian origins- the name, not me!), I was born in France (that’s Europe again) and I travel with my US passport (yes – American). So how random to you think my search really was at Logan airport? Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot to mention – I was headed to the Middle East lol. I have to tell you that the search went well – the guy opening my many pieces of luggage was oddly enough enough from a third world country and spoke 283 words of English. Turns out he didn’t have those special white gloves you need to touch MY clothes – so I said “take your filthy pawzz of my pretty clozzee lol” (with my best Rizzo accent)- AND IT WORKED! It really is a real is a rule – white gloves or no going through stuff! WOW! (Note to readers – NEVER try this anywhere but North America lol)

    The second time – I was getting patted down after going through the X-ray machine. It seems that yellow metal people wear round their wrists and necks is a sign of alarm :). The pat down felt so much like a back rub that when she stopped I asked her if she wouldn’t mind doing it again but a little higher towards the neck and shoulders. SHE LAUGHED and the GUY NEXT TO HER JOKINGLY VOLUNTEERED lol! I don’t know how I get away with this crap! Sometimes, I think the key is to just be polite, very calm and cool, innocent looking and the FUNNY kind of sarcastic.

    Other tid bits – I usually just hand them my 2 dollar lighter on the way in…give them my tiny bottle of Poland Springs, hand them my miniature Purell and show off all my teeth while doing all of it ;).

    So many more stories to share here but I really need to use a good amount of your entire SITE so I’ll spare you the novel.

    Thanks for this brilliantly funny piece! Brought back some good memories haha.


  • Ooops sorry for the few typos here and there :). Me really do speak London very best lol!

  • ginidietrich

    @Griddy You KILL me! LOL! I love how you always apologize for writing long comments. You don’t need to apologize. I know I speak for a lot of us when I say we love it! And I need to fly with you. I throw temper tantrums and you flash your pearly whites. Clearly one of us is doing it correctly.

  • ginidietrich

    @JulieWalraven I hate traveling. Hate it. People who say they love to travel clearly only do it for personal reasons. It’s not fun, it’s not easy, and having status gets you nowhere.

  • ginidietrich

    @barryrsilver I’ve actually talked to a couple of friends who are oncologists and they say the “cancer concerns” are baloney. It’s all spin, Barry. And you know what we think about that!

  • @ginidietrich LOL right back at ya :).

    Yeah, I don’t know how pearly and white they are – but after 5 pm tomorrow they will be again haha.

    Flying with you sounds like a blast but Gini but I’m afraid that once we pass all the customs, X-rays and other joyous “random” searches – I may bore you on the plane – I’m one of those punks that watches movies and sleeps 🙁 hihi.

    No worries though, if we ever do, I’ll make sure to snooze well the night before so that I can keep you entertained as we recite the names of brilliant US presidents, airport experiences, lip-gloss favs and more :). Oh, and shot gun on the window or aisle seats – but Hell no to being in the middle!

  • lol Please find a way to record one of your “hissy fits.” I’d re-tweet that like 5 times in a day because I get just as frustrated with TSA. When I was 7, they took away my plastic Power Ranger toy sword (which had a BENDABLE PLASTIC BLADE. BENDABLE. IT WON’T SHANK ANYONE) in the Minneapolis airport. I WAS SEVEN WITH AN OBVIOUSLY HARMLESS, SOFT PLASTIC TOY. And they took it. I’m still angry about that. It was a very hard toy to come by at the time, so I’ve always believed that the guy probably just wanted it for his kid. Punk.

    Anyways, I enjoyed reading this since I’ve sort of “blown off” the topic whenever I’ve come across an article about it. Personally, there’s not much you can do to me in a pat down that will upset me. If it’s all in the name of safety, I’ll get down to my boxers if I have to and/or they can take whatever x-rays they need to. So I don’t buy into all of the drama. But, I do understand how some people would feel offended by the pat down and the x-ray machines…they do show a lot more than I thought they would.

  • @Griddy@ginidietrich
    If flying couch with a companion, the trick is to book the window and aisle seat leaving the middle seat empty. It has worked 3 out of 5 times for me. 1 of the 2 times it didn’t work is because I opted to switch to the emergency row — an old Japanese couple did not speak English.

  • @mirbiz Genius, my friend. That is pure genius. You better believe I’m trying that on my next flight with my wife.

  • ginidietrich

    @JMattHicks LMAO!! I feel like I should send you a Power Ranger toy sword! I’m with you – I don’t buy into all the drama. And the people who are scaring those who don’t travel often by saying the new machines cause cancer and the pat downs are invasive are just being *ssholes.

  • ginidietrich

    @Griddy Don’t worry! I always work on flights and I call shotgun on the aisle seat because I pee at least once an hour. But we’ll try @Livefyre User strategy so no one is sitting in the middle except our crap!

  • ginidietrich

    @Griddy Why didn’t it tag mrbiz?! Booo!

  • @ginidietrich Diet sodas have been proven to cause cancer in lab rats and I don’t see them whining about those as they chug down 32 ounces of them a day. People will cry and moan about anything just to be crying and moaning.

  • I agree that the x-ray machines are not a big deal. Not only do they not show your face, but also the person viewing the screen is in an enclosed room and cannot see you.

    Consistency is important and can’t be too much to ask for; hopefully soon they will adapt universal rules so that we can know what to expect, regardless of which airport we are at.

    My friend works for the TSA and brought up and interesting point: people won’t stop talking about TSA pat-downs and the new x-ray machines, despite a plethora of more important issues that surround us daily (North Korea, for example).

    Is privacy important? Of course. But I’d rather have the privacy boundries pushed than allow another underwear bomber to pass through security.

  • ginidietrich

    @JMattHicks I remember when microwaves came out (hush now about my age!) and everyone talked about them causing cancer. Yet they’re in nearly every home in America (except mine, but that’s just because I have nowhere to put it).