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Airport Pat Downs: What They Really Reveal

Aggressive body searches at U.S. airports this Thanksgiving will strike some of the estimated 24 million flyers as amusing, many of them as outrageous, most of them as tolerable if necessary, and still others as...old news.

That's right, old news. Much of the population has been enduring the intimate "slide-down" search and other airport indignities for years. I speak for just about everyone with an artificial hip, knee or shoulder.

This is no small group. U.S. hospitals replace about 800,000 joints annually, and they've been performing such operations for more than three decades. There are millions of travelers who take to the air regularly, ceramic implants and all.

I've been setting off metal detectors since the fifth grade, when a surgeon screwed four pins into each of my hips following a motorcycle wipeout. Those pins were upgraded to full-on hip replacement before 2001, the watershed year when it became impossible for my bionic limbs to clear security unmolested.

When traveling with my family, the kids send me through security first so that they don't have to wait too long while Dad gets felt up by the guy in uniform and white gloves. I've had my jeans unbuttoned and rolled down to my Calvin Klein's, and my genital area brushed and prodded. In broad daylight. With the kids watching. Many times.

So excuse me as I marvel at the inflamed response on sites like wewon'tfly.com and optoutday.com. First of all, Transportation Security Administration pat downs can almost always be avoided by submitting to a full-body scan. The health risks associated with this X-ray-ted session are way overblown. And do you really think the TSA officials under the hood are gawking? You're not that hot.

Next time you're at the airport look around and try to imagine all those people naked. Scary stuff.

I love advanced imaging technology. The last time I flew was the first time I saw one of the new scanners, and when the TSA official gave me the choice -- scan or pat down -- I couldn't believe it. You mean if I get scanned you won't touch my pants? Sign me up. It was my first flight in nearly a decade without feeling violated, and now I look forward to many more.

To me, the scanners are a godsend. I'm not sure what any of this has to do with my normal subject here at the Bank of Dad, which is a blog about kids, parents and money -- other than that all three are in play at the airport. But it occurs to me that what the see-through technology really reveals about Americans is:

· Until it happens to me, it didn't happen As I said, millions of travelers have had an uncomfortably close working relationship with TSA officers for years. The pat downs had to offend almost everyone before it became a thing.

· Modesty is alive and well Watch 10 minutes of Jersey Shore or anything else on TV short of a Cary Grant classic and you'd think we are a nation of exhibitionists. Evidently we're not.

· We're still rebels at heart I'm convinced this is an anti-authority backlash. There are legitimate concerns about the new policies. But this has much to do with Americans being congenitally opposed to anything that smacks of a police state -- even when it's for our own good.

· We've learned little or forgotten a lot Picture those towers crumbling. Terrorists mean it. If fighting back the best way we know how makes you blush for a few minutes, get over it. Those of us with artificial joints did so years ago.

Photo courtesy Flickr user francoiscuccu