Recent Nude-o-Scope Opt Out Experiences

A couple of weeks ago going through Dulles airport I opted out of the nude-o-scope, and the TSO that had been called over for my screening was clearly uncomfortable with giving me the full body rub and was trying to motion me to just go through the metal detector. But the guy who sent me over for the rub down was still watching, so he couldn’t get away with it. After I offered some bawdy talk about the process the screener became so visibly uncomfortable that he gave me the old-style pat down instead of the required enhanced one and sent me on my way.

Usually I manage to avoid the scanner by hanging back, fiddling with my stuff, so that I go through the checkpoint right after someone else has been sent in. And it generally works because I’m not hot enough for the screeners to want to send me in as a favor to whomever is watching in the pervert booth. I get a pass because I happen to be ‘next’ at the right time while the machine is busy. Sort of like the ‘random’ secondary checks they used to do at the jetway boarding each flight, you never wanted to be first in line or you’d be picked and you never wanted to walk through right after they finished screening someone else.

This morning I didn’t manage to time things right, and was picked to go through the nude-o-scope. At the Reagan National US Airways pier we’ve got Millimeter Wave machines, so not radiation risk as with the backscatter. That doesn’t make me want to go through them any more. When the Smurf asked me if I had my wallet and all other items out of my pocket and began looking towards the machine, I replied “Oh, no, I’m just here for the body rub.” The guy rolls his eyes, motions me through the metal detector and instructs me to stand alongside the x-ray machine while they call for someone to do the enhanced pat down.

I wait, and another screener starts to make chit chat, why don’t I want to go through? Another agent joins in the discussion, and the two TSA gropers start debating each other on whether there’s any radiation risk from the millimeter wave machine or just from the backscatter machine. I just ask whether they have a selection of oils for my rub down? They reply “Coconut and strawberry.” I then asked whether they had enough, since liquid rules wouldn’t allow more than 3.4 ounces. He laughs.

I wait. And wait. They make another call for someone to perform the pat down. Supervisor comes over and says, “Oh, I just make those wait.”

Another guy opts out. His girlfriend had gone through the nude-o-scope (likely picked randomly based on looks) and she starts getting agitated because he’s now waiting behind me in line for the pat down.

They call over for help, as we quickly have 3 males waiting to be groped.

The supervisor comes back over and says “I’m going to make them wait 5 more minutes.”

I mait. And wait. And wait.

Finally another screener comes over, introduces himself. He proceeds to explain what he’d be doing to me, and I offered in return that he was welcome to do whatever he wished but I won’t kiss on the mouth. He gave me a strange look and began to touch me up. I shook a bit and said “that tingles.” Then a few moments later, “oh, very nice!” As he finished I asked if I could make an appointment to go through again later. He laughed.

I was going to get information on the supervisor responsible for the retaliatory delay in screening, I had witnesses, but it wouldn’t have done anything and I really hadn’t left myself any more time that the process had already taken. My flight was boarding. So off I went.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. I generally do as you do – pick a lane where there is no AIT or it’s roped off or time it. I don’t want to go through the full body scanners, but I prefer to skip the hassle of the enhanced pat down too.

    Last week, I got picked for the full body scanner – and just like you they held me for at least 5 minutes before doing to pat down. Coincidence? If that’s the new TSA policy, it’s time to start collecting names and evidence so that we can document the retaliation.

  2. had my first opt out experience this morning in edmonton (you clear immigration there rather than first us port of entry). mr kk was behind me in line, and the agent seemed surprised he’d been placed in the ‘full search’ line. he explained that he was traveling with his wife, me. can’t help but wonder why i rated the possible nude-o-scope. :cough:

    to their credit, they didn’t make us wait extra time, but they did swab us, our hands and our boarding passes(?) thoroughly, and the long wait for immigration/security resulted in us very nearly missing our flight–literally. it took an hour to get through–your global entry is no help there. a CO rep escorted us to the plane and they hustled us down the ramp…and closed the aircraft door behind us.

    yep. i feel much safer. and my new girlfriend’s name is daphne.

  3. Next time i have some time to kill at the airport, I’m going to sit by security and count just how many men vs. women gets “randomly selected” to go through the check points, and i know this is subjective, but I going to rate the people who go through base on attractiveness just to see if there are any patterns.

  4. I agree with your policy objections to the machines, but why on earth would inappropriate comments to the front line TSA employees be the way to react?

  5. Wow Gary, I hope you got the sup’s name or will get it next time you pass through DCA. If I was in your situation (and not in a rush), I would have demanded to leave after waiting more than 60 seconds and called for the police if I was “detained” any longer…

  6. @JACK

    Keep in mind all these TSA clowns are the “lowest cost contractors” before they became a gov agency. Not to say it would have been any better but just say’in!

  7. You are not the first person whom I have heard speak of having had some sort of retaliatory measure levied against you because of opt-out. Sometimes TSA can be downright ugly about it. They have just enough “authoritah” to make one’s life miserable…. and those that are inclined that way certainly make good use of it!
    Fortunately, there are a few good eggs in that bunch who are beginning to realize that those of us who must be patted down because we set the alarm off (TKR)…. are not the ‘enemy’ and lately I have been getting some kinder, gentler patdowns. Much less aggressive than the one I received shortly after the changes.

  8. I took a trip to Seattle last week and on the way back I scanned the lines and headed for the one with the metal detector. Well, I got pulled out of line right before I was to go through and was informed that I was to go through the full body scanner. I told the TSA agent I wanted to opt out, she read a little paragraph about the intimate details of the search I was going to get if I opted out and asked me again if I still wanted to. Being six weeks pregnant, I mentioned my condition and told her I didn’t want to be exposed to unnecessary radiation (who knows if the kid might get cancer thirty years down the line being exposed to this stuff). After passing through the gate (not even a metal detector – huh.) I was patted down by a very uncomfortable sweet looking young lady who barely touched me and then tested her gloves for whatever substances. It all happened very quickly and while I felt like crying when I was initially pulled out of line (pregnancy hormones) it wasn’t bad at all and probably only took an extra two minutes. Glad I didn’t have to deal with any nastiness.

  9. I really don’t see what’s the big deal with the “enhanced patdown”. This level of secondary screening is fairly common in Europe and some parts of Asia. I’d give the nod to Frankfurt for being particularly thorough when they want to be (they crack me up…some days they seem totally bored, not even really looking at the x-ray monitor…then other days its the ‘zealot’ crew who are doing lots of patdowns and tear through your luggage in search of the almighty slightly pointy nail file that is attached to your compact nail clipper – breaking it off with a beaming smile).

    I’m totally with you on the full body scan machines – our government doesn’t have a good track record on radiation safety. Remember, these were the guys who would explode an A-bomb and then send in a charging battalion shortly thereafter. Those poor army saps were told it was “safe” and then wondered why their hair was falling out and they started dropping like flies in the years after the fact. Other stuff like Agent Orange, DDT, etc. was declared “safe” at one time and then later proven otherwise.

  10. @karen all of the Canadian airports I’ve been through use mats that determine if your selected for a random search or not I haven’t been through YEG but its certainly the case at YYZ/YVR/YWG.

    If the TSA used mats to select people for random secondaries it would do them a lot of good as they could no longer be accused of favouring women or “good looking” people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.