Yesterday was the busiest flying day of the year. Naturally, then, it was also the perfect day for me and many others to protest the Transportation Security Administration's onerous new security measures for passengers.

Sponsored
We’re going to need a bigger boat, Seattle Rep presents Bruce.
A world premiere musical that you can really sink your teeth into Get your tickets HERE!

National Opt-Out Day protests took place today across the country, organized at the grassroots level through sites like WeWontFly.com and OptOutDay.com. The idea was to inform fliers of their right to opt out of the new full body scanners, and hopefully bog down TSA checkpoints with lots of slow pat-downs and long, long lines. And I was pumped for it.

As you might guess, I have no use for the TSA and these new regulations have me even angrier at them.

But then a funny thing happened: I got to SeaTac and the airport didn't seem all that busy. The protesters were supposed to meet up at the terminal's Seattle's Best Coffee shop, except no one was there. Luckily, I was directed by the baristas to find them inside of a "free speech zone" established next to Security Checkpoint 3, where long lines were expected.

Interviews with protesters after the jump!

Long story short, it wasn't much of a protest. There were around five people passing out flyers and chatting with travelers who wanted more details. I had imagined people in FUCK THE TSA t-shirts holding megaphones and telling passengers to opt out of the scans—and passengers actually waking the fuck up and doing it. Instead, there was this tiny and polite distribution of travelers in an area determined by the airport.

I asked protest leader, Rachel Hawkridge, how she planned on handling the new security requirements. She said that she was not planning to fly, but if she absolutely had to fly, she said, "I have chosen to be molested—I have already had too much radiation in my lifetime."

The next person I spoke to was airport spokesman Perry Cooper. I asked him if he would go through a full body scanner. He replied, "Sure, why not?" (This is a moot point because as Cooper admitted, airport employees do not have to go through scanners since they have a separate biometric ID program.) He adds that so far, only a few fliers have e-mailed or called the airport to complain and business is actually up a bit from this time last year.

The TSA was on their best behavior yesterday. At security checkpoint 3, only one of the four full body scanners was actually in use. And in the roughly two hours that I was there, I didn't see anyone opt for a pat-down. I asked a TSA employee if I could speak to the on-site manager, but she said she did not know who that was (yeah fucking right). The TSA contact number Cooper gave me, a man in Salt Lake City named Dwayne Baird, did not respond to a message I left for him.

It was a disappointing day for me. A middle-aged woman named Carol, with whom I spoke near the ticketing counters, seemed to capture the public's general response. When asked how she felt about the new security requirements, she replied, "You know, if it keeps someone from blowing up a plane, it's OK." Surely that decision was formed based on a sound knowledge of the scanner's radiation load? "I'm not as informed as I should be," Carol said.

Get informed, guys. There's a reason pilots, flight attendants, and airport employees aren't being made to walk through these scanners—the science on the radiation they emit is still in question (PDF). And even if it wasn't, it still wouldn't be right for the government to force us into pat-downs that border on sexual harassment and nude photos that are allegedly deleted, all because one fool tried to set off a bomb in his underwear.

By the way: If you are really worried about stopping terrorists, maybe you should tell the TSA to do a better job of keeping an eye on entirely un-screened bags like the one that I inadvertently left sitting unattended just beyond the checkpoint line for the first hour I was there.

Airport_019.JPG