The Joys of the TSA

The TSA's Miss September
I was having a hard time finding anything to write about today. Oh, I ran across the story of the big bad Obama Zombies, a/k/a Secret Service, who decided to terrorize a sweet, and very white, 78 year old grandmother at a Denny’s. After all, all she was trying to do was help her sick grandchild …… by selling $1,400,000 worth of stolen government property. But that was about it. Then I found the story of the pinhead who bet his friends he could fit in a child’s swing (you know the ones, with the leg holes cut into hard plastic) and then did. Of course, to no one’s surprise, he got stuck and his friends (wisely I assure you) left him hanging there until the fire department got around to rescuing him ….. 9 hours later. But that’s pretty much the whole story there. Then there were the humorous comments made by New Jersey state senate candidate Phil Mitsch who showed off his tender side by giving women all over America useful relationship advice via Twitter.

you increase your odds of keeping your men by being faithful, a lady in the living room and a whore in the bedroom.

Man oh man, as you might have guessed, women all over the country said “Damn! Thanks Phil! We never could have saved our marriages if it weren’t for you!”

Okay, they didn’t actually say that. And, to the credit of women everywhere, not one called for him to be bludgeoned to death with a claw hammer. But, beyond that, the response wasn’t nearly as positive as Mr. Mitsch might have hoped.

And, let us now forget the caring and professional Crisis Pregnancy Centers in North Carolina that recently advised a Jewish woman that “in order to avoid eternal damnation she should keep her baby and think about accepting Jesus as her lord and savior.” This is while they’re asking for government funding.

Yeah, that’s going well.

Then I ran into the spate of stories I’m going to feature today. The TSA, which has been accused of being racist, morally bereft and staffed by the egregiously incompetent has been making a sincere effort of late to shore up its public image. And, gosh, aren’t they doing a skippy job of it?

Let’s ask masectomy survivor, Lori Dorn, what she thinks.

Now that she’s calmed down from being almost strip searched in public.

You can rest easy next time you fly, because TSA screeners are ensuring our safety by thoroughly inspecting the chests of breast cancer survivors, and dismissing their pleas for basic human sensitivity.

The Associated Press reports that last week, Lori Dorn was flying from New York to San Francisco when she set off a full-body scanner. After being diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, Dorn underwent a bilateral masectomy and chemotherapy. The scanner detected tissue expanders that were implanted as part of her breast reconstruction. Though Dorn has a medical device ID card, a TSA agent and her supervisor refused to allow her to get the card from her bag, and told her she’s have to undergo a pat-down. Dorn writes on her blog:

She then said, “And if we don’t clear you, you don’t fly” loud enough for other passengers to hear. And they did. And they stared at the bald woman being yelled at by a TSA Supervisor.

Dorn says she didn’t object to undergoing a pat down, but didn’t want to have a TSA agent touch her breasts in full view of other passengers without allowing her to explain her medical condition. She adds:

I just didn’t understand why these agents were so insensitive to the situation. I would have been happy to show her which bag was mine and have her retrieve the card, but she did not allow even that. I have been through emotional and physical hell this past year due to breast cancer. The way I was treated by these TSA agents added a shitload of insult to injury and caused me a great deal of humiliation.

Now after reviewing the situation, the TSA has issued a public apology. The agency stated on its blog:

We do our best to treat passengers with the dignity and respect they deserve, but in Lori Dorn’s case, it looks like we missed our mark. We sincerely regret and apologize for the experience Mrs. Dorn had at JFK. The Federal Security Director for JFK has personally reached out to learn more about what happened so he can help ensure that she and others will have better travel experiences in the future.

It goes on to explain that she should have been allowed to retrieve her medical card. This wouldn’t make her exempt from a pat down, but agents were supposed to offer to take her to a private screening room. The post also says:

TSA has just rolled out an in-service technical training course focused on screening prosthetics. This curriculum focuses on all types of prosthetics and the requirements of the standard operating procedures related to the screening of Persons with Disabilities and Medical Conditions

Dorn has accepted the TSA’s apology, and it’s good to hear that the agency is acknowledging that agents behaved inappropriately and trying to do something about it. However, it’s staggering that incidents like this are still happening on a regular basis. There are bound to be a few disgruntled asshats in any organization, and working for airport security is definitely stressful. However, it’s not like we’ve only seen a handful of these incidents. Why didn’t the agency start emphasizing treating flyers with dignity and respect after the first several dozen complaints? Not that TSA employees should need specific instructions on dialing down the dickishness when dealing with a woman who’s recovering from breast cancer.

I have one of those medical cards for my left leg which has two steel rods in it. I have yet to be allowed to show it to anyone, ever. I have, however, learned to only wear shorts when I travel so I can point to the scars. It’s just easier that way.

As to charges that they are racist, the TSA has responded by singling out African American women who don’t try to make themselves look white.

What could possibly go wrong?

“My hair is called an Afro,” says Isis Brantley in the video. The Dallas hairdresser hasn’t cut her hair since she was 12 years old. She says it was that hair that led her to be chased down by a TSA guard and subjected to an extra patdown. The TSA claims she left before the full inspection was completed.

Last month, the New York Times travel columnist Joe Sharkey reported on the experiences of two African-American women who felt they had been unfairly singled out for patdowns because of their natural hairstyles.

Separately, at least one woman said she was being targeted by black TSA employees, which she attributed to prejudices within the black community against unstraightened hair.

Brantley was at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, she told Dallas’ KXAS-TV, when she went through security and then “I just heard these voices saying, ‘Hey, you! Hey, you! Ma’am, stop! Stop! The lady with the hair! You!'”

The TSA responded that it has a responsibility to search for hazardous items anywhere they might be hidden. But a supervisor in Atlanta did apologize to Brantley, who said, “I was outraged. I was humiliated. I was confused.”

If you ever get the chance, pick up The Autobiography of Malcolm X since there is a great rant in there about his having to “conk” his hair so he could date white women. For whatever it’s worth, I happen to think Afros look nice. Not on me, that would be silly, but for people whose hair naturally flows like that then have at it I say.

Just plan on taking the train in the future.

But the one story I had to save for last is one that, I know, will be the one of most interest to all the female Nude Hippo staffers. This passes creepy about five miles back so have your hand sanitizer ready. The TSA wrapped an encouraging note around a woman’s vibrator.

When blogger Jill Filipovic unpacked after her most recent trip, she noticed that TSA screeners had found her vibrator. And they’d left her (a note which read “Get your freak on girl).

Filipovic told BoingBoing that she’d been traveling with a “Silver Bullet” vibrator from Babeland. Screeners apparently discovered it and decided to add a helpful comment. Filipovic’s reaction, which she posted on Feministe:

Total violation of privacy, wildly inappropriate and clearly not ok, but I also just died laughing in my hotel room.

It’s nice that Filipovic has a sense of humor about this, but she’s right that the note is not okay — especially for an organization that’s already come under fire for its invasive search practices. Given that “groping” leaps to many people’s minds the minute the TSA is mentioned, it might behoove agents to exercise a little discretion when going through people’s stuff. At least agents didn’t take the vibe, but Filipovic says “I’m unsure if they handled it. Given that uncertainty, it’s definitely being retired.” Wise move — but it’s pretty sad that an agency that’s supposed to keep us safe from terror is instead forcing people to throw out their sex toys.

There is sympathetic sobbing coming from the break room right now as the women of Nude Hippo mourn the loss of another, high quality, silver bullet. And, because I care so much, you can order one by clicking that link.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hs5_jB46xQE&w=500&h=317]

Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG AM 1280, every Thursday morning around 9:10!

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