Avoiding airport x-ray machines – it ain’t so bad!

Airport security lines, Photo by alist, Flickr

Just returned from a visit with friends and family this past weekend. Always nice to get away for a bit.

At the airport, as I was about to go through security, my mind swung back to the recent article I did on airport x-ray machines. As I stepped into the scanner, I told the TSA rep I didn’t want to be scanned and asked for an alternative.

I was politely asked to step out of the scanning field and wait to the side for another TSA rep. Moments later, the woman took me through to the other side.

Receiving the “personal touch” (not this author) by a gender-appropriate TSA rep

She clearly explained that she would be patting me down from head to toe. Asking if I had any sensitive areas or medical implants, she then proceeded to do a thorough “brush down”. It was the gentlest and most respectful going-over that it could have been. With each area, she told me what she was going to do before she did it. At no time did I feel vulnerable or violated in any way.

This first leg of my trip was at the Sacramento airport. I’d mentioned to the TSA rep (the woman doing the pat down) that I’d read that TSA members had some concerns about the machine’s radiation. She told me that it was examined regularly for this.

I also mentioned that I know the reps weren’t allowed to wear radiation badges and she acknowledged this was true. Seems a shame that the 1st line of defense isn’t allowed to use something so simple that could be such a valuable tool for monitoring this huge machine. But perhaps the TSA doesn’t really want to know if there’s a real risk taking place.

On my return, I was at a smaller regional airport and again I asked for the “personal touch”. Again I received a thoroughly respectful, gentle going over, with step by step explanations of what the female TSA rep was going to do before she did it.

My conclusion?

The next time you open your garage doors and pull out to go to the airport, allow a little bit of extra time. It may take a few extra minutes to get the “personal” going over by a gender-appropriate TSA rep at airport security, but you should be able to count on that not only will you avoid exposure to unnecessary, low-level radiation, you’ll be treated with respect and dignity for your effort. I’d say that makes it worth it.


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