Lots of bad ‘feelings’ going on at the TSA

Published 10:11 am Thursday, December 2, 2010

I feel bad for them, if you want to know the truth.

I speak of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees who are paid to do things with their hands that the rest of us wouldn’t do for any amount of money.

Like most government employees, they are simply carrying out the policies of their overlords. They must screen every traveler as though he or she is a terrorist in waiting.

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As everybody knows by now, travelers who opt out of the full-body scanners — which display everything under their undies — must be patted down everywhere.

And so it is that little old ladies are subjected to more groping than they encountered on their wedding nights back in the ‘40s.

Catholic nuns experience more prodding, from the tips of their toes to the tops of their habits, than they’d receive from a busload of drunken masseuses.

And men of every walk have their “junk” patted down so thoroughly that the only fellows more humiliated than they are their screeners.

And for what?

C’mon — we all know who the main threat is coming from. At the very least, we mostly know which travelers it is NOT coming from.

I know it’s unpleasant to acknowledge, but the al-Qaida fellows are at war with us.

Since they don’t have battleships, fighter jets or tanks, they wish to blow up our commercial planes.

Since we know that’s what they’re trying to do, our government, since 9/11, has written new laws and spent billions to upgrade our systems.

And yet we all have to pretend that the skies must be secured from grannies, grandpas, nuns and priests on the off chance they might be packing plastic explosives in their bloomers?

Then again, who can argue with success: Not one plane has been blown out of the sky by a child, a nun or a cranky old fellow.

There surely is a better way to secure our skies. In the nongovernment world — the private sector — companies routinely seek out “industry best practices” — better, faster, smarter ways to do things.

In the airline security business, the Israelis clearly are doing something right. Sure, they have way fewer airports and flights than America does, but then again, they don’t grope strangers or use high-tech machines to peek beneath their skivvies.

Profiling need not mean “stereotyping by skin color or nationality,” either. It means highly trained people applying proven processes to assess potential threats — profiling behavior — and removing them.

Why are we afraid to do something this sensible? Because we’re afraid of offending somebody? And so we inconvenience everybody?

That’s why I feel bad for the average TSA employee, particularly the fellows. How’d you like it if your career choice required you to navigate the nether regions of other men’s “junk” all day long?

In fact, I take issue with the self-described “hot” women who complain that they are being singled out for invasive groping because they are attractive.

They are angry, apparently, that male TSA workers touch them in a way that usually requires dinner and a show.

But I sympathize with the TSA fellows on this one.

After touching men’s “junk” all day, they probably need to work over attractive female travelers just so they can get the feeling back in their hands.

In a world turned upside down, isn’t it the patriotic duty of all Americans to subject themselves to such treatment?

Tom Purcell is a freelance writer and also a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. E-mail Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.