Earlier this year, I had my first body scan. (Actually, it wasn’t my first. That one took place during the Nixon presidency—in Butterfield Canyon, if I remember right, or maybe it was the Motorvu Drive-In on 3300 South about 3500 East. I forget. I do remember the movie, though—The Reivers). But this was my first airport body scan, and I think it was at Los Angeles International Airport. And, I forget for a very particular reason—to me, a full-body scan is no big deal. I’m the opposite of Jason “No One Gets to See My Goods” Chaffetz. I figure if anyone is so insufferable that they could stand looking at my fat ass in the name of national security for more than a few seconds, more power to them.
This past weekend, I was in Sacramento. All over California these days, signs are posted, warning about this hazard or that. For example, at the airport you will find signs that warn that you’re about to inhale jet fumes as you board the plane. In a restaurant or pub, before you ever see a menu, you will find warnings that “chemicals” that could kill you might be served there. You know what’s coming next: graphic pictures of people who are on life support thanks to them breathing airport air in order to better demonstrate the peril of walking down an airplane walkway; and photos on menus of babies born with birth defects because Mommy or Daddy mistakenly ate a fried hamburger and washed it down with a porter instead of a root beer. For those and other reasons, California remains one of the crappiest places on the planet to live. Body-scanning warnings are coming.
Yet, it’s not I who suffers in a body scan. it’s the scanner, and I do concede that a warning should be placed on airport body scanners—not for me, mind you; I’ve been radiated by the sun for nearly 57 years now, and I don’t really care about body-scanner radiation (which is less than the radiation emissions inside a jet plane, by the way). I’ve burned at the beach, so a little radiation won’t hurt me now. My warning would be directed to whomever that poor person is on the other side of the body-scan curtain. My guess is that with just one look at my repulsive naked form, he or she will have an increased chance of a cardio event by a factor of about six—compared to the normal person, who is only at double risk of suffering a myocardial infarction upon seeing me fully clothed. People who never see me incur no increased health risks, except those considering downing a bottle of antidepressants after reading a column like this one.
Am I worried that those gray images of me might end up on the Internet? Hell, no. In fact, doing so might be the death of the Internet and if it expedites the demise of Facebook, I’m all for it.
That said, I’m no fan of body searches. That’s too much. The first time I went to Greece, a guy—or lad—at London’s Heathrow airport shoved his hand so aggressively up my crotch I thought he was going to yank out one of my teeth. That was my first body search of the uninvited kind—scanning a body is one thing, searching a body is another, and it doesn’t matter what movie is playing if you don’t get to search back.
Some people say they feel violated during airport screenings. Again, in Sacramento, I felt violated, and I was just watching—or being a voyeur, if you really must know. A middle-age woman was going through the security line and her random number for frisking was pulled. The agent’s hands were all over her, front and back. She was wearing one of those ancient “lift and separate” bras (which I recognized from my Butterfield Canyon days). Right there for all the world to see, she had to pull her blouse up nearly over her head. I thought, “You’ve gotta be shittin’ me.” If not for my son Pete pulling me along because he was embarrassed for the both of us, I’d still be there, gawking.
It wasn’t in a sensual or sexual way. I was gawking because I couldn’t believe for even those few seconds that what I was seeing was taking place in a U.S. airport. I’m not familiar with LDS garments, so I don’t know if that was what she was wearing. However, she clearly had on some kind of undergarment that, for whatever reason, made the whole episode even more gawkish and surreal. I felt a little bad for her, but I felt terribly bad for the rest of us.
Some say such episodes are proof that the terrorists have won. That’s bunk. It’s proof instead of how far we’ve sunk. We have allowed the erosion of our personal freedoms and, along with them, our very dignity. We’ve been buying the fear sold to us by our politicians for nearly a decade now. You know what we’d find if our senators and representatives had their body cavities searched? The cash from the folks who make body scanners and surgical gloves.