Thursday, April 8, 2010

New Airport Screening

The line of passengers at the new airport screening machines was long but moving quickly. I was here to interview Bill, a security guard and scanner operator.

“Bill, do people have any privacy issues with these new full-body scanners?” I asked.

“No,” Bill said. “They really seem to like the combination of airline safety and body imaging. It saves everybody time.”

Bill continued as he worked. “We thought people would really take issue with us being able to see through clothing and such, but so far so good. Whoa – look at the body on this lady! I’ll save that one and put it up on YouTube later. Nice!”

“YouTube?!” I exclaimed. “I thought these scans were confidential and destroyed right away!” I asked.

“Well, they’re supposed to be but someone messed up the legislation so we keep and share them. Confidently. Not confidentially. Big difference.”

“Hey, Gulwinder! Look at this guy!” he said to the guard next to him. “No spleen! Check it out! Looks like he’s had his gall bladder out too.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. What was more shocking was that people didn’t object at all. They even seemed to appreciate the system.

“This screening at the airport is very convenient,” said one female passenger. “It sure beats waiting at the doctor’s office, then going to the x-ray place, then back to the doctor’s. Here, we get everything done at one time. And you get airline points,” she said.

“Can I see your boarding pass please, Ma’am?” said the guard. “I see that appendix surgery is healing nicely.

We’ll get those stitches out on your return flight.”

Other comments followed. “Yes Sir, just put your watch and loose change in the bin with your jacket. Oh, and you might want to get that polyp checked. Here’s a referral card for a proctologist. Have a nice flight.”

“When entering the scanner, please hold your arms like this, take a deep breath, hold it until you hear the whir and click, good! Please step forward.”

“Sir? When you bend over to put on your shoes, could you cough please? Good! Everything appears to be normal. See you next flight.”

“Congratulations Ma’am – it’s a girl. No, it’s a boy - look at that! Next?”

“Good morning. Can I see your boarding pass please? Thank you. You’re beeping because of a coin in your stomach. See? Did you swallow that recently or when you were a child?”

“Good morning Ma’am! Just drink this barium, or ‘airline coffee’ as we call it, and we’ll be done in a jiffy. Next!”

“No sir, it appears that pain in your tummy is just gas – quite normal. Have a nice flight.”

“Sir, we have reason to believe you are carrying contraband. Lucky for you, you are also scheduled for your annual colonoscopy so you get the 2 for 1 cavity search special today. Just go with these officers…”

Not only were these people fast, they were good too. “Did you go to medical school to learn all this stuff?” I asked.

“I took a semester at the community college, but I realized I could learn more out here at the airport. After I write my exams this week I’ll move into internal medicine like the baggage guys.”

I must say it is comforting to know our health and airline safety are in such good, usually gloved, hands.

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