Whenever there’s an opportunity to out myself I take it. Travelling’s the best since you’ll (probably) never see this or that person again. So when it came to walking into the giant tupperware container and being zapped with radiation, I said, “No, thank you! Opt out!”
I’ve done this several times now, and can tell you. It’s not exactly a bad thing to get a pat down.
This winter, I had reason to travel to New York City. Leaving from L.A.X. – known for stocking lots of those machines (former Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chernoff, set himself up with the Patriot Act to make billions off the now-ubiquitous Rapi-Scanners) – I was fully prepared. I made my case (“Um, I don’t want to do that” which elicited a loud, “OPT OUT! MALE!”) Fifteen minutes later, a low key brother ambled over. Thinking about Jim Carrey circa In Living Color, I immediately took the position: arms up, legs spread.
“Yeah, you can lower your arms,” he said, and I relaxed. His pat down was pretty low-key. A slide here, a slide there, and I was done. He was polite, and said nothing about the hole in my right sock.
Returning to California, I had – again – mentally prepared myself to Opt Out, and immediately told this to the big T.S.A. lady in blue.
“You want to what?” she said, eyebrow cocked.
“Opt. Out,” I sad, as though speaking to a very small child. “Cancer runs in my family.”
“Uh huh,” she nodded at the scanner. Maybe it was because the airport was near empty on a Saturday night, but it was one of those regular metal detectors.
Walking away, I passed a barefoot woman in a Sari with a bindi on her forehead (don’t they scan bindis), and heard a man yelling, “I fly all the time!” I looked back and saw a panethnically dark skinned man with a foreign accent surrounded by pan ethnically dark-skinned Americans dressed in blue T.S.A. outfits. The man made it through security, and took the flight same flight as I to L.A. (we made it safe, obviously: I’m writing this in May.)
Last week, I stood at L.A.X. in a line that stretched out the door, passenger’s looped around on the concrete sidewalk. It felt like the concentration camp flight to San Francisco was on Southwest. There was mindboggling flurry of instructions: “Over there!” and “Last name?” and “YOU’RE NOT LISTENING TO US.” Everyone moved pretty quick, and I came away from that part thinking maybe Disneyland could learn something about running lines – or, Dachau. I mean, there’s not much of a difference between planes, and waiting to board Flying Teacups, right?
I don’t know if it was T.S.A., or SouthWest cattle car flights, but the minds behind T.S.A. were very tricky about how they profile people. You didn’t know, up until the last minute, if you’re going through the regular metal detector, or the cancer causing radiation scanner. If I’d kept my mouth shut, I would have been slotted through the shoe wearing, non-invasive, pre-2010 metal detector but I had to open my mouth and say ‘No, thanks,’ when the T.S.A. agent was shouting, “OPT OUT! MALE!”
Because the T.S.A. doesn’t really know what to do with opt-outs (which made me think oddly, for a moment, that opting out was like declaring oneself trans), you stand just to the side of the metal detector. They don’t ask you if you want to sit. You’re reduced to looking around, not knowing what to do with your hands, and feeling half-naked in public. They didn’t say anything about my eyes, so even though I could look at everything, I chose to stare up, beatific as St. Joan of Arc before she was lead to the stake. Meanwhile, the other passengers – those Opt-Inners – bump up against you as they brush by. Suddenly, because you’ve declared yourself “The Other,” you are both invisible, and not worth common courtesy.
Finally, the screener walked appeared and barked, “Over there.” As instructed, I walked, “over there.” Someone grabbed my arm, “No, over there.” It was a two foot distance, but I guess when you’re in charge of overseeing national security on commuter planes filled with people wearing fanny packs, every inch counts and vigalance rules.
Meanwhile, I kept looking over my shoulder, at my luggage, all lonely in three gray plastic bins. “What are you looking at?” another officer scowled in my hear. “My stuff. My wallet – ” A blue gloved hand reached up, and turned my head away. Okay, great, the price of being cancer free could be a stolen wallet and/or identification. This was most worrisome since I didn’t get the feeling the “guards” were at all interested (or capable) of switching to investigation mode ie., shutting down the terminal and scanning the footage for the pickpocket. If I got ripped off, I was fucked. (In fact, last week, scanner / security people were caught stealing from passengers … at L.A.X.)
Finally-finally: the pat down. “Okay,” I said, and relaxed. This guy was good with his hands, much better than the one who
did me patted me down last winter. He was so good, I wanted to ask him if he did Thai Massage in the Men’s Room on his break.
Gentle, he stroked my arms, torso (front & back), sliding his hands over my groin (nice!), and butt (yes, I’m vers. – my booty instinctively arched), pulling back waistband front and back, and peering down into/at all my junk (luckily, I’m a secret exhibitionist: he could have taken a picture, I wouldn’t have minded.) Then, he knelt and started on my nether regions below my waist. Starting at my feet (ticklish! more of that please!), his hands moved up my calves, outer thighs and then – almost done! – inner thighs.
Just before the pat down ended (awww, so quick!) his hand paused, resting on the bulge inside my left thigh and asked, “What’s that?”
The (gay) male, opt-out was immediately over.
“Please proceed to boarding.”