9:48 PM

I Really Tried Hard to Avoid This Story

Those who read this blog regularly know I like any story that is out there a bit – I like topics that are off the beaten path of the usual aviation stories we read daily.

Recently, a story broke that was so far out there, I knew I'd have to chain myself to the wall to avoid blogging about it. Well, turns out I couldn't resist...in a nutshell, it goes something like this:

A woman in Texas was trying to board an airplane in Lubbock when her nipple rings lit off the TSA's scanning equipment, and she was pulled from the line. While she says male TSA agents snickered from the other side of the curtain that hid her from view, the woman was forced to use pliers to remove one of the rings, an experience she called "a nightmare." After removal of the metal rings, she was scanned again and was allowed to board even though she is reported to still have been wearing a belly button ring. The TSA is investigating the incident, and the woman has retained California power attorney Gloria Allred to pursue possible legal action.
According to the TSA web site, they do make it pretty clear that body piercings are not allowed:
"Hidden items such as body piercings may result in your being directed to additional screening for a pat-down inspection. If selected for additional screening, you may ask to remove your body piercing in private as an alternative to the pat-down search."
But let's be real here. There is a place for hard and fast rules, and a place for common sense and reality:
All that needed to happen here was for the woman to go behind a curtain with a female TSA agent, show the agent her non-lethal nipple rings, and be done with it. I can get on the plane with a key ring after the jagged metal keys have gone through the scanner in the tray, and we all know KEYS can be used as weapons if held between your fingers in just the right way...so says a million self-defense sites like this one. So what did the TSA think this woman was going to do with her firmly-implanted nipple rings anyway? Any speculation here would ruin my blog's PG rating.
Airport security remains a very good idea, but the implementation of it by the notoriously inept TSA keeps shooting the idea in the foot. Our U.S. air travel system has become a laughing stock around the world, and the TSA keeps working overtime to keep that reputation alive. When you look around the Internets at last week's headlines about Nipple Ring-Gate, it is hard not to just see how stupid this incident makes the TSA seem to the public:
It starts with a nice, simple and straight-forward head from the Student Operated Press, via AP:

TSA 'agents' force Woman to Remove Nipple Rings with Pliers

But Wonkette gets a little more in your face:

Run for your life
Terrorists Make Lady Rip Off Nipple Piercings to Board Plane

A Political blog in the L.A. Times asks:

The politics of nipple rings: Where do Clinton and Obama really stand?

CNN heads their story with the obvious:

Nipple ring search procedures faulty, TSA admits

The New York Post SHOUTS this:

'NIP' SNIP AIR TRAUMA

And a site called the LAist, posted an alert more dangerous then the rings themselves:

Alert: Nipple Rings a Danger at Airports
I could go on all night, the heads just get more outrageous with each scroll down The Google's news results page.

Bottom line: This incident was uncalled for, it was shameful, and the TSA needs to be trained to not let this happen again. Because while they were distracted by wasting time embarrassing this poor woman to tears, can they really be absolutely sure someone that actually posed a legitimate threat to the passengers didn't slip by under their snickering noses?

No, they can't.

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