Saturday, September 18, 2010

TSA considers my bra a threat to national security.

Flying sucks.

I know this is not any kind of earth-shattering revelation, but it seems to have sunk to new levels of depravity and humiliation.

And sometimes you don't even have to actually fly.

Every other weekend or so, the Princess flies to Portland to visit her father.  Since the Princess is 11 and in order for her to be able to fly on her own without an adult, I have to pay a super-special fee to the airline of somewhere between $25 and $100 - depending on the airline - each way.  This extra fee is very important and compensates the airline for....


Actually I'm not sure what this fee is for.  Maybe the extra pat on the head from the gate agent?  Frankly, I think the airlines find it somewhat comparable to checking a heavy bag....they put a sticker on her and everything.

Regardless, because she's a minor, I'm allowed to take her through security to her gate and wait there until takeoff.

Lately, she's been flying out of San Jose because the rates to Portland are slightly less expensive.  The San Jose airport is very cool and mod and screams "I'm the Silicon Valley airport, bitches!"  It is also in the process of a massive remodel, which has included the purchase of new high-tech security scanning equipment that I'm pretty sure can see what I had for lunch.

Everybody needs a nemesis, right?  The San Jose airport security scanners are my nemesis.

EVERY TIME I walk through these damn things, I set off the alarm.  EVERY TIME.

Now, I'm a pretty seasoned traveler.  I know the security drill inside and out.  Laptop out.  Liquids in baggie out.  Belt off.  Scarf off.  Shoes off.

I usually stick with my "safe outfit" when I know I have to face security in any airport...cotton cargo pants (with no metal rivets), t-shirt, wrap, ballet flats.  All comfy and metal-free.

But every time I walk through the damn security scanning machine at San Jose I set off the alarm and am then treated to a super-special pat down that includes what is essentially a breast exam by a TSA agent in front of a large crowd.  It's so great.

I've come to the conclusion that it must be the underwire in my bra that is setting the damn thing off.  So each time, I try a different bra.  Each time I am hopeful that THIS is the bra that TSA will finally concede is not threatening to national security.

This last time, I kinda lost my shit.  I was wearing metal-free sweatpants, a tank top, simple bra with thin underwire and socks.  I intentionally broke every fashion rule in the book JUST so I wouldn't set off the damn scanner.  I was ready.  I was pumped.  There was NO way any beeper was going to go off.

So I sent my daughter through the scanner first.  Nothing.  Good to go.  Whew.

And then I followed her.




Me: I have NOTHING on me to set this off?  Do I look like I have metal on me????

TSA: Ma'am, do you have an implant?

Me:  What?  It's my bra.  I'm telling you it's my bra.  It's got to be my bra.  I like nice bras and they set off your scanners.  Please don't make me go through the pat down.

TSA:  Please step over to the screening area, ma'am.

Meanwhile, my daughter, who has witnessed this interaction a few dozen times already, is rolling her eyes and trying to pull half a dozen things off the security belt by herself.

Me:  My daughter needs help.  Can I help her get our stuff?

TSA: You can't touch your things.  Sorry.

Me: Fuck.

They then proceed to once again feel me up in front of a large crowd.

Me:  I haven't been to my OB/GYN in awhile.  Do they feel healthy to you?

TSA:  I'm sorry about this, ma'am.

Me:  They're nice, right?


TSA:  It must be your bra, ma'am.

Me:  Ya think?  Now can you please explain to me how I can wear a bra and NOT set off your scanners?

TSA:  I don't know, ma'am.

Me:  Should I take my bra off in line?  Put it in a container with my shoes?  

TSA:  You can go collect your things now.

It's here where I decide this is a battle I'm never going to win and leave in a huff.

This whole series of events has now left me in mortal fear at the security checkpoint at every other airport.  I break into a sweat at about the same time I'm putting my shoes in the bin.  I hold my breath and pass through the scanner.  AND IT NEVER GOES OFF.

The Princess flies out of San Jose again next weekend.  I swear I'm going to reach underneath my shirt while in the security line and do the under-the-shirt bra removal.  Set the girls free and sail through security.

There's no rule against that, right?

How come Lady Gaga doesn't have to put up with this shit?


  1. I feel your pain. My boyfriend told me to just wear a bra without underwire. Um, what IS that?!? My gals REQUIRE underwire. Without it, I may as well be going bra-less.

    Ooh, I just had a though...jog bra(s)?? Maybe not a typical going-to-the-airport look, but you could fake like it's a I-just-left-yoga-and-am-now-at-the-airport look??

  2. Oh geez. The airlines have been dead to me for a few years now, and every time I read a post about them, I get incensed again! Ugh.

    Lady Gaga is spectacular.

    I'm so excited that I can get my free breast exam by the TSA. I think the Obama administration made a genius decision when they allowed this to be written into the health care reform bill, but I don't think many people know about it. Thanks for being so informative.

  3. Seriously? I've never set off the metal detector! Ok, two words: Sports Bra. Try it! If it doesn't work, then we'll know you have metal imbedded into your body:)

  4. Just be happy it's just a breast exam. Coming soon:

  5. How does Lady gaga get away with that?! Great question!

  6. Ah, yes, nothing beats a pat-down freebie first thing in the morning...

    As far as Lady Gaga, nobody's gonna mess with that freak....

  7. I say go braless and give them all a treat, or if you're like me, something to trip on.

  8. The TSA$$#0LE$ don't have to have the frickin' sensitivity set so high.
    Why is being protected so damn inconvenient?

  9. Since all alarms have to be resolved, try asking for a private screening if it bothers you to be screened in public. Duh!!!

    If there's a full body scanner, go down that line.

    There are different screening options for you.

    Apparently, some of you females never had a breast exam or you would know the difference.

  10. Been There - Now why would I have any reservations about leaving my 11-year old child unsupervised and responsible for collecting a laptop, suitcase, backpack, two pairs of shoes, jewelry, two jackets and a purse, while I hop into a private room where I can get patted down with absolutely no witnesses as to whether or not it's appropriate? That sounds really great! I can't believe I didn't think of that. How did you so eloquently put it? Oh, yah, right..."Duh".

    The full body scanners aren't operational yet, but I'm REALLY looking forward to that because then they won't have to feel my boobs, they'll be able to SEE them. Double awesome.

  11. Ugh. I hate flying these days. And I don't even wear a bra. I have a mouthful of implants...

    However, MY WIFE usually wears an underwire, and I don't recall her ever setting it off, so I'd assume it might be something else for you. I couldn't begin to imagine what.

  12. Sul - Nah, it's the bra. It only happens in San Jose. San Jose hates bras.

  13. The charge is to walk your child the 100 feet to their seat and back. I want that job. Big money with very little to do.

    Just do a Houdini at security and toss your bra in with your shoes. Although if you haven't had a date in a while you could leave it on.

  14. Your are on someone's list if you fly through SJO on a regular basis, plain old harrassment. We are seen on at least a dozen cameras before we get to the scanners these days. Same thing happens to me every time at SJO, but LAX really is the worst. I have gotten over the it and leave that part to the TSA agent who has to run down the list of how they are going to touch me. I find giving them a smile or a giggle before each section makes them very nervous. I did my job, if they want to make my bra an issue bring it!

    On the kid and things front I completely agree with you there has to be a diffrent way to handle things. It might be worse than the pat down. I am like a hawk when my stuff comes out of the machine and the agents always act like I am going to run just by trying to keep an eye on my stuff, F'them. I don't have kids, but I am a crazy Auntie with my niece and nephew. I think I have more fear of loosing site of them than my sister. I can't imagine a situation enforced by TSA. You daughter is a pretty together little girl if she can gather all of that and not freak out in all of the chaos and under lying angry adult energy.

    I say: be comfy, be loud and communicate with your daughter when they pull you aside so everyone can hear, and make the TSA so uneasy during your scan that they finally start marking bra's "TSA APPROVED" in the stores. They did it for men's computer/breifcases.


    PS - I grew up in San Jose and it is a city of wanabee hippies. It isn't San Francisco and it isn't Santa Cruz the city missed out on a whole movement and is acting out now.

  15. I set off the metal detectors everytime I go through because of my bra. Here's the thing though, I can't wear a sports bra cause I am usually travelling for business and either going to or coming from a business meeting. It is seriously ridiculous to the point I tell them before I go through "My bra is going to set off the detector, you might as well call for a female assist now".

    Traveled Sunday our of Boston - set it off and then again on my way back from Syracuse. Both times had to endure a highly ridiculous female pat down.

  16. I bought this to exercise in and it was so comfortable. Works best for under a T shirt or other small collard shirt as the straps will show in a wide neck shirt.