Why Did The Idiot’s March Return To The MedTrek in Egypt Become All About TSA Groin Scrutiny?

Flights from The Idiot’s California basecamp back to his walk around the Mediterranean Sea are usually uneventful. But a blog item that he posted when he was among the first passengers to encounter the Transport Security Administration’s (TSA) new and more intimate pat-down regulations that came into effect when he flew on March 2 produced a media frenzy.

Oddly, The Idiot was in reportorial mode and took two photos at 5:15 a.m. at the Redding Municipal Airport last Thursday before learning about the change in TSA pat-down procedures. He was wondering why an airport with less than five departing daily flights requires 14 TSA agents to manually inspect luggage and passengers. How much does it cost, how they were hired, where are they from and who’s paying for it?

Redding is one of the few airports where TSA agents physically inspect each piece of luggage. The Idiot always watches them go through his bag and urges them not to wrinkle his shirts.

The Idiot is ALWAYS patted down in Redding, and most other airports, because a permanent gold bracelet on his right wrist sets off alarms. He figures it’s a small price to pay for beauty.

But his interest in the numbers and cost of the TSA crew faded when he went through security and experienced what he later told NBC News was “the most intriguing, intense and invasive pat down I’ve had by the TSA since they came into existence” in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The intimate pat-down procedure being introduced that morning prompted The Idiot to blog and tweet about his travel experience. His Where Is the Idiot Today? blog post entitled TSA Pat Down read:

Encountering just-implemented TSA pat-down procedures that call for increased scrutiny of the groin area for weapons.

Caption: “You’re not going to like the new pat-down regulations that just came into effect,” the TSA agent at the small airport in Redding, CA, (14 agents for fewer than five departing flights a day) told The Idiot, who is regularly patted down because he has been wearing a permanent gold bracelet on his right wrist since 1969. “They’ve discovered that bad people conceal weapons in their pants and we’ve got to do more extensive vertical and horizontal pat downs.”
“Well, what do you think about this increased intimacy so long after 9/11?” asked The Idiot, who has permanent TSA Pre status, knows the agent in Redding and tries to practice patience and tolerance during frequent individual security checks in US airports.
“We don’t like it either,” the inspector told The Idiot, who was on the first leg of a multi-flight return to the MedTrek in Egypt via Boston and Washington, D.C., as he got down to business.

The Idiot-ic tweet to promote the TSA Pat Down blog on Twitter (@joel-sm) included a link and read: New #TSA agent pat downs increase #groin scrutiny for #travelers in #USA #airports. #travel #security #patdowns

The tweet and blog launched increased national media interest when they sparked the interest of Silas Lyons, the editor of the Redding Record Searchlight, who had reporter Alayna Shulman check out the story and get additional details about new TSA regulations and procedures that could impact millions of travelers. Her article, which mentioned The Idiot’s blog and recounted his touching experience at the local airport, led to a flurry of interviews with The Idiot while he was in Boston for three nights to celebrate his partner’s birthday.

The Idiot was interviewed in Boston about his touching TSA encounter in Redding, CA, by ABC and NBC while stories were carried by CBS, USA Today and numerous other media outlets, ranging from UPI, AOL and The New American to Raw Story and TravelMole.

ABC’s Good Morning America ran a segment on Sunday sparked by the blog post that included an Idiot-ic sound bite.

The interest also prompted The Idiot to take a close look at TSA operations in Boston, D.C. and Zurich when he continued flying to Cairo.

The Idiot was able to opt for a full-body scan to avoid the more intimate and invasive TSA pat down at Boston’s Logan Airport on Sunday morning.

Following a lunch in Washington, D.C., The Idiot chose to have another scan at Dulles Airport on Sunday afternoon to evade what a TSA agent there called “a groin anomaly pat down.” Whew!

While TSA agents in Redding, Boston and D.C. we’re very polite with The Idiot despite his questions and comments regarding intimate groin scrutiny, the security inspectors in Zurich on Monday morning verbally rebuked him for taking “photographs in a high-security zone.”
His wrist bracelet set off alarms in Switzerland but the pat down was old school and accompanied by profuse apologies from the inspector for his colleagues’ outburst.
“They should put up signs if photographs are forbidden,” said the always helpful but very unSwiss Idiot.

Naturally The Idiot, who has walked 12,162 kilometers around the Mediterranean Sea, almost forgot all about the TSA and pat downs when he arrived in Cairo looking forward to three weeks of MedTrekking towards the Libya border.

But not quite.

“What kind of pat down would The Idiot get if he flew wearing his Cairo pool-going outfit?” he wondered.
(Photo: Mohammed Ashraf)

Posted on by Joel in Egypt, Featured, Follow The Idiot, Idiotic Musings, MedTrekking, Travel, USA

About Joel

Joel Stratte-McClure has been a global trekker since the 1970s. He lived in France for over 30 years, working as a journalist, before he turned his attention to a unique life-time-project of walking the shores of the Mediterranean. The first 4,401 kilometers are explored in his inspirational and entertaining first book "The Idiot and the Odyssey: Walking the Mediterranean." The next 4,401 kilometers are covered in the gods-filled sequel, "The Idiot and the Odyssey II: Myth, Madness and Magic on the Mediterranean,” published on Valentine's Day 2013. The last 4,401 kilometers will be discussed in the last book of the trilogy currently entitled "The Idiot and the Odyssey III: Alexander the Great Walks the Mediterranean."

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