#106: The Government Touched My Penis

December 31st, 2012

In order to get to Kansas, I had to let a government worker touch my penis.

I mean, I guess I could have gone through a machine that would simulate a nude photo of me for a government worker to look at alone in a windowless room somewhere in O’Hare International Airport.

(Before you correct me, the TSA switchover from backscatter radiation scanners to millimeter-wave technology at O’Hare is scheduled to be completed in January. Also, although our choice was between a pat-down and one of the millimeter-wave scanners, I’m not comfortable with the images it takes even if it converts those images into a generic unisex outline before the TSA agents see it. It doesn’t matter if you turn my nude pics into Gumby; I don’t want them to exist at all.)

But instead of having the government use radiation to photograph me fake-nude before I participated in a voluntary transaction between myself and a subsidiary of publicly traded AMR Corporation, I opted to let a low-ranking government employee touch my cock through my pants and a pair of rubber gloves he later tested for drugs.

It’s OK to touch someone’s genitals if you use the back of your hand, apparently. I wish I had known that rule in high school.

It’s appropriate for me to make jokes here. After all, that’s where we hear our criticism of these tactics. Stand-up comics. Local newspaper humor columnists. Twitterers.

Yes, there are more cogent, rational critics — ProPublica and PBS have done a yeoman’s effort in notifying the public of everything from the backscatter cancer risk (six to 100 U.S. airline passengers each year could develop cancer from the machines, they say) to the high rate of false positives from the millimeter-wave scanners (23 to 54 percent, sez dem).

But instead of protests and action, we have passive disdain that evaporates the moment we get past security and have to find our gate. We have a snide, cloying TSA blog that jokes off all criticism because fuck you, that’s why. When they switch to a less dangerous technology, they expect us to thank them.

The jokesters and gagmen are the only ones most of us hear with a word toward this.

So I chose to let a government worker paid $13.70 an hour and hired, according to an April press release from the TSA, for such attributes as a “Mental ability to observe and identify objects” make me stand with my legs spread wide. He put on a pair of blue rubber gloves and wrapped one, two hands of blue around my calf, then slowly moved upward along my leg. He repeated the process on the other side and on my arms, then flipped his hands over to quickly brush over my penis and testicles through the front of my khakis.

No, I didn’t feel violated. I felt that I should have. I would have felt violated years ago. But that’s not us anymore. Even if we have machines simulating nude photos of our children, even if we pay people to quickly rub our junk and finger our waistbands, we no longer feel violated. We feel inconvenienced.

A grown man touched my genitals through my clothing and I worried it would take too long and I might not have time to grab lunch before my flight.

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Read about another show of force in Chicago

Backscatter vs. Millimeter-wave (slightly out-of-date on which airports use which)

TSA hiring requirements

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