Rebecca Bernard

Take a Road Trip To Avoid New TSA Crackdowns

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road_trip_bingoThe Transportation Safety Administration, or TSA, is one of our most favorite things about flying. There’s nothing like standing in a long line for the opportunity to divest yourself of outer garments as fast as possible, put all your possessions in tiny bins, and then walk across the nasty floor in your socks (or bare feet if you’re adventurous) for someone in a booth to look at an image of your practically-naked body to check for security threats. While for many of us getting re-dressed usually follows, sometimes there are complications that mean you get an extra check. On the best days, you get pulled completely aside for a private screening and TSA officers treat you like the VIP you are and go through your body and your bags to make triple sure that the worst things with you are your sanitary napkins.

Going through this screening can be inconvenient, but as it’s happening you repeat a mantra in your head, reminding you that this has to be faster and less stressful than driving the distance. Some new screening procedures taking effect soon, however, might make you rethink that flight and consider hoping behind the wheel instead. Travelers are reporting that they are now also being told to remove books from carryon bags before they are sent through the scanner, and the TSA itself is reporting that pat-downs are about to get a lot more handsy.

When author and Twitter queen Roxane Gay boarded a flight on March 1st, she reported that TSA informed passengers that they must remove all books from their bags (she refused). Other Twitter users have said the same thing, joking that the government must be afraid of the written word. Amusing quips aside, Travel and Leisure has questioned the TSA, and they replied this is a practice when bags are “stuffed with too many things.” Whatever items are removed from luggage must be swabbed to check for explosives, so books removed from bags are subjected to the same test.

The TSA spokesman told Travel and Leisure that this is not a rule for all books, but to be slightly fair hollowed out books can be used to smuggle forbidden items through security. I guess I better apologize now to everyone who comes behind me in a TSA line if books start being officially targeted, because it’s going to take me a long time to unpack all the tomes that fill my bag (especially after a trip to NYC’s Strand Bookstore).

If you are one of the lucky ones that get pulled aside for extra screening, Lifehacker is reporting that TSA pat-downs are going to get more involved. There are no hard specifics about what that means, but a warning to airport staff has said the procedure “may involve an officer making more intimate contact than before.” Some sources are saying that this means that screeners will be using the front of their hands when checking passengers, instead of the side and the back. We’re also wondering if this means that an examination of women’s breasts will go from a simple swipe under them to a full check. With videos all over the internet of women and children being traumatized by screeners, we are not quite sure what else they will do to make what is already a bit humiliating that much worse.

If all of this makes you shake your head and dread your next visit to the airport, we here at The News Wheel recommend a nice road trip if time allows. Not only do you pick the route with a car, but you are also not limited to how many liquids, books, and sharp objects you may bring. You are also not limited by baggage fees, but only by the size of your trunk. I’ll be seeing you on the highways this season, because you know after this article I will be offered the special TSA pat-down service.

Sources: Travel and Leisure and Lifehacker