As a “million mile flyer”– I am skilled at managing my way through airport security with as little hassle as possible.
Even when I am “TSA Pre-cleared” I always have my liquids in one regulation size plastic bag, always declare my iPad or PC, and avoid wearing jewelry or high heel shoes that can set off a metal detector.
But I was completely unprepared for my experience with the TSA this past week.
Career Girl Hairdo Threatens Airplane
On Tuesday I had an early morning flight from San Jose to Los Angeles – the outbound leg of a one day round trip. Pursuing my no hassle, no stress strategy, I wore a pair of fashionable flat sandals with my red and white spring dress – and limited my jewelry to tiny post earrings and a watch. My hair was in a sophisticated updo – appropriate for a high power business meeting.
My coat and purse (with iPad and iPhone) were going through X-Ray when I stepped into the scanner and put my hands over my head.
I stepped out, grabbed my bag and turned to leave when I was stopped by a female TSA agent who told me she had to “pat down my (hair) bun”. I was stunned!
Her supervisor agreed the agent had to change her gloves but supported her assertion that my hair bun could contain some dangerous weapon!
She didn’t pat, instead she rummaged. Her gloved hands drove through my whole hairdo. Hairpins went flying.
Thank God I was dropped off at the airport at 6:50 AM for a 7:55 AM flight. After leaving security, I had to buy a can of hair spray, go to ladies room, take my hair completely down and redo the updo before proceeding to the gate.
From Los Angeles in the afternoon, the very same hairdo caught nary a glance from TSA.
The Truly Dangerous Ponytail
As my mother observed when I was a child, I never made the same mistake twice.
On Friday I arrived at the airport for a flight to Las Vegas — where I was attending a weekend conference — with my hair in a ponytail.
Bags checked I sailed right through San Jose TSA security.
Then last night returning – after spending Monday on a tour of Death Valley – tanned and wind-blown I was stopped after the scanner.
You guessed it. No, the TSA agent didn’t need to change her gloves – she just wanted to “look at my pony tail”! As soon as I turned around she had her dirty gloves all over my head.
TSA Fears Blond and Curly
I was still steaming when I Googled “TSA Hair” and found the cause of my harassment.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) successfully sued the TSA for its attention to women of color with “afro” hairdos the TSA asserted weapons hidden in their hair.
It was unfair, they charged, that other women (i.e. white women) with buns and ponytails were not hand searched.
The TSA signed a consent decree in late 2015.
The logical resolution would be to upgrade TSA’s screening technology.
If any CT or MRI medical scan can penetrate hospital gown and skin to expose our musculature, bones, and internal organs – surely the TSA can procure scanners that penetrate human hair to the scalp!
Rather than improving their screen techniques – i.e. scanner abilities – the TSA widened its net to include white women.
I am in a quandary. My fine textured hair is always done in some kind of bun or a ponytail.
Is it reasonable that the TSA compel me to submit to an invasive hair “strip search” or cut my hair super short just to board an airplane?
How does the TSA treat a woman in a hijab or a man in a turban?
What if a woman is wearing a wig?
Security Begins with Consistency
TSA publishes regulations on size and quantity of liquid containers, jackets, shoes and so forth.
They must similarly publish rules to guide women on how to style their hair if that is now a criteria for passing TSA security.
Similarly they must establish standards of sanitation that travelers can be assured will be followed by TSA agents.
There are two reasons why I am not waiting with bated breath for these new regulations: ineptitude and political correctness.
Ineptitude – why was the ability to see scalp through hair not specified when scanners were procured?
Political correctness – consent decree signed by unelected, unaccountable, anonymous, unionized, unimaginative and arrogant bureaucrats.
In the meantime, I will be making an example of the TSA by removing my pony tail scrunch or bun hair clip and letting my hair fly before entering the scanner – sure to prompt questions from my fellow passengers.
TSA policy is NOT making us safer – just more cynical.