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The New Fear of Flying

airport-body-scannersI used to be afraid of flying. You couldn’t tell by looking at me, but those first 20 minutes after takeoff turned my insides into one big knot. Like in the movie “Say Anything,” I knew that when the “no smoking” light went out, the danger had passed. By the time federal regulations (thankfully) banned smoking on airplanes, I had managed to vanquish my fears. I fly so often, now, I haven’t even given it a second thought.

Until recently.

The idea of going through one of those naked body scanners at the airport has instilled in me a whole new fear of flying. When I flew to New Jersey a few weekends ago, the new protocols hadn’t yet been put in place, so I flew without apprehension. But when I was getting ready to fly back to Paris the night before last, every muscle in my body tensed up at the thought of what I’d face between checking my luggage and getting to my gate.

The night before my flight, I had an unfortunate “incident” that required a trip to the emergency room for a few stitches in my knee. And while I was sitting in my little ER room waiting for the stitches, I received a text message from American Airlines saying that my direct flight from Miami to Paris the next evening had been cancelled. I had to rebook on a flight that took me through Heathrow, my least favorite airport in the world … no, the galaxy. So, I figured that with the way my luck was falling, I’d surely be singled out for that added security screening, and that my luggage would surely get lost somewhere between Miami and Paris.

Fortunately, the winds started blowing back in my favor, and I sailed through security without any invasive screenings or random bag checks. And, I’m delighted/surprised to report, my suitcase was one of the first on the conveyer belt.

As I said, I fly fairly frequently, and I have very mixed emotions about this new screening procedure. On the one hand, I’d like to know that the guy sitting next to me isn’t a panty bomber. But, really, will something in his “package” be detected by either of these new screenings. Will “Nude Vision” be able to see a bunch of chemicals and a wick? Will a pat down of his crotch? “Uh, excuse me sir? Is that a bomb in your crotch, or are you just happy to see me?”

As does just about every woman with a pulse, I have body image issues. The idea of someone who I’ve never met before being able to see my naked body on their television monitor makes me want to starve myself for a month before I fly. And, seriously, if a perfect stranger came up to me on the street and grabbed my boobs or my crotch, I’d hit them with my 20-pound purse first and have them arrested. That it’s a woman in a TSA uniform only makes it seem like one of those bad women in prison movies. What’s next? Invasive body cavity searches? “Bend over and cough, please.”

Most of all, the fact that we have to have this discussion at all makes it feel like the terrorists have won. I can picture Osama bin Forgotten sitting in his cave in Afghanistan, having one hell of a belly laugh over this. “First we took away the infidels’ right to carry liquids onto the airplane. Then we forced them to walk barefoot through airport security. What can we aim for next, team?”

What do you think of these new procedures? Are they warranted? Overkill? A violation of our right to privacy? Please, I want to know.

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3 Responses to “The New Fear of Flying”

  1. Linda says:

    When I flew to Paris in September I found out the local airport now has those scanners. I had the option of going through them or having the pat-down. I would have gone through the machine but had a problem with my arm and knew I wouldn’t be able to hold it up high enough to “assume the position” so I went with the pat-down. Had my arm been ok I would have just going through the machine. I figure – it’s one or the other and really there’s nothing we can do about it. It is what it is. I think I read somewhere that the security person viewing the results of the scan doesn’t see the passenger in question, only on the screen. I don’t know if that’s true or only in certain airports.

  2. Linda Donahue says:

    Did you find the pat-down an overly intrusive experience?

  3. Randi says:

    You know, I went thru one of those “Pat Downs” in New Mexico and I felt like it was terribly invasive… you want to feel my crotch… let me kick you… So leaving Paris, France, again was subjected (why me?) to a body search (no jewelry, no medals) and I went ballistic.. they were about to take me away when my husband said just let them do it and we can board our flight… so I did and haven’t had an issue since… The machine for me isn’t an issue since I realize how it works…. they really “don’t see you” in the real sense of the word and hey, better than a pat down…

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