Reagan National, 6:40 a.m. today. I opt-out of the humiliating back-scatter machine and ask for a pat-down. Once again, the TSA officers eye me suspiciously. "Wait here," one says. I wait, and wait some more. One obvious technique the TSA is using to funnel passengers through the back-scatter imager is to waste their time -- many people can't afford to wait five minutes for a pat-down, and will exchange the humiliation of the Federal Dick-Measurer for a speedier trip through security.
Eventually, I'm called over for my pat-down. "Do you want to do this privately?" he asks. "No, right here in the middle of the airport is fine," I say.
MORE ON TSA:
Jeffrey Goldberg: TSA Meets Resistance
Jeffrey Goldberg: Pilots in Revolt Against TSA
Jeffrey Goldberg: TSA Opt-Out Day With a Twist
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Things He Carried
"The guidelines have changed, just to warn you. We now have to run our hands through your groin until we meet --"
"Resistance. Yes, I know," I say.
"Are any parts of your body sore?" he asks.
"No," I say, instantly regretting that I didn't say, "Yes. My groin. Very sore." Next time.
He feels me up. "Could you widen your stance, please?" he asks.
"Hey, I'm not in the United States Senate!" I say, widening my stance.
His search is fairly half-hearted. He spends more time stroking the back of my tie than he spends between my legs.
I ask, "Do a lot of people opt-out?"
"No, not many."
"People are cows," I say.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean they'll do whatever the federal government tells them to do," I say.
"How come you don't go through the machine?" he asks me.
I give him several more answers than he expected:
1) I prefer to limit my exposure to radiation, which the back-scatter imager produces;
2) I don't think this new technology will stop terrorism;
3) I find the idea of the government taking pictures of my genitalia a discomfiting invasion of privacy;
4) I find the specific pose a person is forced to take inside the machine -- hands up, as in a mugging -- particularly debasing.
"Okay," he says, "have a nice flight."
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.