Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Six Easy Ways to Survive TSA Security Checks and Full-Body Scanners

An airport security sign indicating that either a robbery or a full body scan is imminent... (photo courtesy of

In the midst of the latest TSA scandal, the dreaded full body scan, several websites and blogs have recently posted the following question: Which would you prefer, a full body scan or shoe removal when passing through airport security? For me, it's a no-brainer; I prefer the full body scan hands down (no pun intended). Nothing drives me more insane than the rite of shoe removal when passing through US airport security. It's annoying, inane and pointless. I mean, really, over 8 million passengers have had to go through this ridiculous hassle because one guy once (ONE guy! Once!) tried to conspicuously blow up an airplane with the sole of his shoe? Seriously? Can you imagine if security officials reacted this way to every one-time incident? Let's say that some guy tried to smuggle some TNT onto a plane by hiding it beneath his long, wavy hair. Would we then all have to go through a thorough hair inspection and mandatory haircuts before entering the boarding area? 

It could be worse: Bolivian transportation security force near Uyuni, Bolivia (photo by Simone Cannon)

I have never gone through the shoe inspection smoothly. This is in part because I insist on wearing my lace-up hiking boots since they are usually too dirty, heavy and bulky to pack in my regular luggage. This leads to a precarious dance of hopping around on one foot trying to undo the three yards of laces securing my boots to my feet, while simultaneously grasping my passport and boarding passes between my teeth, juggling my jacket, scarf, hat, laptop, carry-on bag and small neck pouch in my arms, all while trying not to lose my balance and make a complete fool of myself. At the other end of the security area, it's the dance in reverse. Give me the full body, all-is-revealed body scanner anytime. I seriously doubt that the sight of my body will send security agents into any kind frenzy, good or bad. Anyway, I suspect that the most negatively affected by all this will be the security agents. After several months of having to look at grainy black and white images of 1,000 flabby, naked bodies a day, the poor agents will be in need of some serious therapy. Most of them will probably never be able to have sex again, poor sods. Anyway, for everyone's sanity, the best thing is to stay calm, get it over quickly and board your plane. Here are a few tips to help things go smoothly.

Trendy, but probably excessive for passing through the TSA inspection quickly (photo courtesy of

1) Carry as little as possible in as few bags as possible. The less you have to juggle, the better. This is not only good for you, but your fellow passengers. Remember the time that you got stuck behind the mother with two small kids and a baby and their collective belongings?

2) Wear slip-on shoes: learn from my example and wear loafers, slides, anything that you can push off one foot with the other foot or otherwise remove and put back on quickly. 

3) Avoid carrying or wearing anything that will flag security: watches with metal bands, excessive jewelery, large belt buckles, purses with chain straps, excessive piercings, sunglasses with metallic rims, lighters, large bottles of liquids, tweezers: all of these cause delays and annoyance (to you, security and to the people behind you waiting to go through the metal detector).     

Staying, calm, cool and collected gets everyone through security more quickly (photo courtesy of

4) Timing is everything. Arrive early so that you have plenty of time and are not stressed about missing your flight. Try to schedule your flight in the early morning, late at night or on the day of a holiday to avoid long lines and crowds (the airport is deserted on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, for example). 

5) Try to pick the line with the business travelers. Avoid the line with the once-a-year travelers, large families or obvious tourists. Stick with the "been there, done that" crowd; the line will move much more efficiently. 

6) Stay calm: it's just a few minutes out of your life and soon you can board your plane and be on your way. The worst thing that you can do is stress out; you will make yourself and everyone else miserable. Let it go.             

Let us know about your experiences going through airport security. We'd love to hear them!

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