Tag Archives: airport security

hair frisk on 9/11 at Des Moines airport.

flying on 9/11 was a little eery but for the most part just fine. I had absolutely no wait at airport security in Des Moines. oddly empty but I was told that’s not unusual for a 10 am midweek flight. But oddly, After I did the scanner thing, the guard asked the squeeze my ponytail. A hair frisk of sorts.


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To check or not check luggage – and those x-ray scans? fuhgettaboutit

As has been reported elsewhere, the hysteria whipped up about those x-ray body scanners that would greet us at the airports over Thanksgiving turned out to be unwarranted. Not only did I not encounter any of these new machines – or the advanced pat downs – at the Des Moines airport. I didn’t see them at LaGuardia either. And if anything the poor TSA people seemed to be bending over backwards to be as polite as possible.

What I did encounter is crowds, especially at LaGuardia on the Monday evening after Thanksgiving, which was sort of surprising since I thought the worst would be over after Sunday. The line snacked around and out of the security checkpost but fortunately moved swiftly. One thing I did notice: we were offered at every leg of our flight free check-in service for our bags. For the Des Moines-Milwaukee portion – when we were traveling in a small plane – gate-side check in was required. Which was fine. Except on the way home, we had to pick the bags up at the baggage claim instead of on the jet ramp after deplaning. On the way out, we were cajoled into checking our bags for the Milwaukee-LaGuardia flight, warned that the plane’s bins were narrow and there weren’t many of them. Wrong. When we got on the plane, we saw plenty of room for our bags and the bins weren’t that narrow. Too late – we had to wait to pick them up at baggage claim at LaGuardia, adding some unnecessary time to our long trip (with a three-hour layover in Milwaukee and a 11:15 p.m. arrival in NYC). On the way back, we had wised up and didn’t check our bags en route to Milwaukee – but then had to check them (and pick them up at baggage claim) on the last leg into Des Moines. So oddly, we stood by baggage claim coming and going – something I haven’t done in a long time.

And about those cookies. Now that Midwest Express has been bought by Frontier Airlines, whither the famous fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies? Outbound, we were served them on the small plane but not on the large plane. Returning, we were served them on the large plane, not the small plane. Go figure.

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No “body cavity searches” – Amen to that

As I prepare to fly the not-so-friendly skies for the first time since April, I am trying not to get all hot and bothered about  the new airport x-ray scanners. Which is somewhat easy to do at least in Des Moines because we don’t have them yet.  If I encounter them, I intend to submit quietly – 1) Because I don’t want the alternative, the “grope pat down” 2) I just want to be on my way safely and quickly.

Am I convinced this is what’s needed to ensure our safety from terrorists? No.

Am I convinced this technology is completely safe? No.  According to a recent item in the NYTimes Travel section, the F.D.A.’s website says the screening system poses “minuscule” health risks (what else would it say?) but some academics at U of California San Francisco aren’t so sure.

One piece of good news: the head of the Transportation Security Administration told reporters today that body cavity searches are “not where we are.” Phew.


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Packing to pass muster at airport security

Here’s some of the less likely suspects – as tips go – from a recent NYTimes travel story to make it through security at the airport:

– Tie up loose headphones and cellphone cords packed in your luggage so they’re not mistaken, in an X-ray machine, for a jumble of wires (presumably that could be used for a bomb).

– If you’re worried something might trigger suspicion by a TSA security screener, be up front rather than seemingly nonchalant. Flag attention to it.

– Prepare your kids for the possibility they might get patted down and/or briefly separated from you so they don’t freak out if/when this happens. TSA even has produced a kids video about security measures at tsa.gov/travelers.

– And my personal favorite, not included in the NYT list, be yourself – maybe a slightly more polite and patient version of yourself.

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Full-body Scanner: The New Yorker Part 2

Maybe this will become a regular  feature of  The New Yorker – the full-body scanner cartoon.  Obviously, it’s a source of great inspiration – there’s been a full-body scanner cartoon in the last two issues. I promise not to make full-body scanner blogs a regular feature here but still, the latest cartoon on the topic (Jan. 25 issue) by Michael Shaw (page 53) is another funny look at some of our worst fears about what this airport security technology could give birth to (pun intended).

In this cartoon, a woman stands fully clothed with her hands raised over her head inside a cylindrical scanner (roomier than the one rendered by last week’s cartoonist) while a female TSA  guard looks at a small screen on the outside wall of the scanner.  “It’s a boy!” the guard announces.


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Full-body scanner: My worst fears as depicted by The New Yorker

The Jan. 18 issue of The New Yorker has a hilarious cartoon  (wish I could reproduce it here…maybe I can?)  that addresses my worst fears – and I suspect many people’s worst fears – about using full-body scanners at airport security checkpoints. The cartoon, by Michael Crawford (on page 47), shows some poor schnook, fully clothed, standing with his hands raised  over his head  inside a claustrophobia-inducing cylindrical scanning booth (sort of a vertical version of an MRI). Nearby, people standing in line are looking up at two large screens and laughing at two full-body naked images of the guy who – upon closer examination –  has a stuffed teddy bear tied to his waist, just above his ample tushy. Gotcha!

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