This is the second time I’ve opted out of being scanned, but the first time since the procedures got more intrusive. I’ve traveled several times without being forced to make this choice, only because (for now) not everyone is required to go through the scanners. For the most part, it has been possible to avoid the scanners just by picking the right line to stand in, which I assume means that the government has determined that terrorists have poor line-picking skills. This time, however, I got waved over to the scanner line and so I had to deal with it.
After I opted out, I had to wait for a few minutes but eventually a TSA worker came over with a clipboard. If you opt out, it appears that they make a record of the reason why you are opting out. The first time this happened, I assumed they were putting me on a list to get audited or something but they didn’t write my name down. So maybe it is only for statistical purposes. But in any event, it turns out that the TSA has redesigned the form used to record this data. The new form resulted in the following exchange:
TSA: “For which of these reasons are you opting out?”
Me: (I glance at the form) “All of them.”
Him: (laughing, a little) “Well, you have to pick some.”
The form requires him to be more specific.
Me: “Okay, so what are they again?”
Him: “Such as health, safety, radiation, or privacy.”
Me: “Yes. All of those.”
Him: “Well, health, safety and radiation are in the same category.”
I look again. They are, and evidently he is supposed to mark only one in each category. This makes no sense at all. What do they think the health-and-safety concern is? Do they think I’m afraid the scanner is going to fall over and crush me?
We look at each other for a second.
Me: “Well, I think those are the same thing, but anyway I object for all those reasons.”
He doesn’t mark anything, as far as I can see.
The patdown that followed was actually much less intrusive than it could have been. I think maybe he didn’t want to be around me any longer than he had to. So that is one strategy to consider.