A radiation expert that I was chatting up in the van on the way to Dallas airport yesterday clued me in.
Apparently, some TSA agents are now flat out lying to airline passengers about the machines they operate.
I never got the memo.
I have to admit that I haven’t been keeping up with the roll-out of body scanner machines across the United States over the past year. I knew some of the larger hubs had them but had not read or heard anywhere in my local community that Tampa International now has them too.
So, on my way through security last Thursday I wasn’t anticipating anything different at the security check.
As I dutifully removed my shoes, I first sensed something was very wrong when I saw the big security box that people were walking through after stepping inside and placing their feet on the appropriate spots and putting their hands in the air.
I figured that must be a body scanner so I told the TSA agent when it was my turn that I wanted a pat-down instead.
“We don’t do pat-downs here”, he said.
“This machine here doesn’t have any radiation – if it did, I wouldn’t be standing so close“, he assured me.
Skeptical and taken aback but the TSA agent’s answer, I went ahead and proceeded through the big box to be checked.
Big mistake. Big HUGE mistake.
So, after the conference on the way home, the radiation expert I was talking to in the shuttle told me that the big box that I had stepped into was indeed a body scanner and that I had received a not so small dose of radiation as a thank you for my lemming-like behavior.
Sure enough, when I arrived at Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport, I talked to the baggage check-in agent and he told me that yes, Dallas has body scanners and that you can, of course, choose a pat-down if you like.
When I arrived at my terminal’s security point, the machine used was the exact same box like the one I walked through in Tampa International. The people went inside and stood exactly as I had and put their hands in the air the same way.
When it was my turn to be checked, I requested a pat-down.
“Of course, that is your choice”, said the TSA agent.
She proceeded to give me a manual pat-down, which I have to say was no big deal at all. At no time, did I feel uncomfortable or violated in any way.
So, what happened at TIA and why in the world did that TSA agent so unlawfully mislead me? Why did I receive such a completely different answer at Tampa International Airport and at Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport?
My thought is that the TSA agent believed 100% what he was telling me. I did not sense or see any body language that indicated that he knew he was lying. I think the man was told an untruth from his superior or someone else at TSA and is simply passing on the lies to airline passengers.
The important takeaway of this post is BEWARE. Be prepared for lies from TSA when you travel and when in doubt, insist on a pat-down.
I am now on the hunt for some black algae which will apparently release that radiation from my body. Any tips?
UPDATE: The program TSA Precheck is now available for those travelers who wish to avoid x-ray body scanners and avoid long security lines.