Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Ins And Outs

Opt Out.  I looked it up in the dictionary. Turns out you can’t get a definition from the dictionary for two words all at once.  Not without a hyphen.  Make a note of that.
I settled for the first word.  Opt is a verb, meaning to make a choice or to choose. The dictionary—a book which is admissible even in the halls of justice and on the Senate floor—uses opt (meaning to decide to leave or withdraw) as a synonym for choice.
For example. Spending four hundred to fourteen hundred dollars on an airline ticket to visit your new grandchild or represent your company at a convention comes with the added bonus of two “choices” when you fly the friendly skies—you can stand in a scanner with your feet spread apart and your hands surrendered in the air, or you can Opt-Out.
To opt is to choose, as in Choose Life. Or to opt is to use your Right To Choose. But that’s another battleground.  Still, the issue there isn’t about the right to choose, it’s about what you’re choosing. On both sides of the fence, everyone agrees the government says you have a right to choose.
That’s turning out to be an oxymoron—the government enforcing our rights.
If you stand in the scanner, you admit you have yielded your fourth amendment rights and recognize you are now seen as guilty until proven innocent on the other side of a scanner. If you’re lucky.
The Dictionary gave Cop Out as a related word, defining it as “an act or instance of reneging or evasion.”
So now we have Opt-Out and Cop Out, kissin’ cousins to each other and listed under the same heading by the dictionary. Opting-out refers to a method by which individuals can avoid receiving anything unsolicited, where copping out means “to avoid one’s responsibility or fulfillment of a promise.”
But if you Opt-Out, like Robynne* did this week at the Honolulu Airport, you may find the skies are not so friendly. Like her, you may find your personal belongings taken away from you, the fragile contents mishandled, your body roughly felt up, your private parts uncomfortably slammed, your protests met with anger and rudeness, and your airline ticket rejected as you are ejected from the security area for asking to speak to a supervisor. You may be lied to by every security person who speaks to you and you may be separated without explanation from your traveling partner.
All because you bought an airline ticket and believed the sign at security which assured you of your right to Opt-Out. At Honolulu Airport if you Opt-Out, you may instead be thrown out.
I am sick and tired, but mostly sick to my stomach, of reading about the humiliating and intimidating treatment TSA agents are forcing—and I mean forcing—on paying airline customers. The only positive thing I can say about the treatment of people who exercise “their right” to opt out is this:  at least John Pistole’s employees are indiscriminating in their discrimination when they treat every passenger like a criminal.  They’re happy and angry all at the same time to roughly and rudely feel up and pat down men and women and children and the elderly and the infirm.
So the way I see it, their friendly signs assuring you that you have the right to Opt-Out are lies. If you Opt-Out in an airport, you will find it is not the method by which you can avoid receiving anything unsolicited. And from what I’ve read of flyers’ experiences lately, the treatment the TSA hands out at airports is tantamount to solicitation.
If you exercise your “right” to choose a pat-down before flying, then chances are you will face intimidation and humiliation at the hands of the very people who first posted your rights in the security line and then reneged on them at the scanner.
The Opt-Out is a Cop Out. There is no reasonable excuse for any of us to be treated like criminals when we have done nothing wrong. It’s time for the TSA to get out.

* (While Robynne’s experience is journaled at this site under an offensive title, the story of her mistreatment by the TSA is far more offensive to me than one curse word.)


  1. I always opt out. My favorite moment is when the agent yells, "Female opt out!" at the top of his lungs, guaranteeing dozens of eyes on me for at least a few seconds.

    1. I haven't had the courage to opt out yet. The idea of any blue-gloved stranger putting their hands on my breasts and between my legs makes me so nauseous I melt down just thinking about it. NO one should have to endure treatment that originated in prisons and was enujoyed by Nazis without being guilty of a crime. I hate everything about the scanners just as much. But even more, I hate that every freedom that makes America safe and strong is on the conveyor belt waiting its turn to be incinerated. This is only the beginning.

  2. The last time I flew to Phoenix in summer of '11, I made the mistake of opting out whilst wearing a dress. If you want to give a sexual abuse survivor flashbacks and make her cry most of the way home, that's the way to do it... It will cost us wear and tear on our car and it certainly causes issues with needing to get far away in a hasty manner, but any time I can avoid dealing with the TSA, I do so. I am so saddened to see our rights being destroyed a little at a time with so little resistance. So tragic.

    1. Oh, MrsH, that makes me weep. I guess the next sign which needs to posted in airports is a warning to women to never wear a dress or a skirt - it's an invitation for a TSA solicitation. You're not the first person I've heard who's had that experience. I have another friend who got her first pat down a few months ago after multiple flights. This one came simply because she wore a skirt. I feel your pain. It's one of the reasons I have not opted out of the scanners except when I opt out of flying. And at the moment, that's most of the time.