Dessert Before Dinner is back for another round of exciting operatic entertainment!!!

After the smashing success of the show in the Fall, it is being revived again on a different stage with new music, but the same players!

Maggie Moo’s will again be catering the fantastic ice cream, coffee will be out for enjoyment and rumor has it there will also be some wine around:). Here are the details:

Friday, May 13
6:30 pm
9501 Wicklow Road, 37027
This is a private residence, so if you plan on attending, please carpool if possible.

There is no charge, but as always, donations are accepted. This time, all donations are tax-deductible as I am raising funds to attend AIMS, American Institute of Musical Studies, in Austria. Although given a very large scholarship, my goal left raise is around $5,000 by May 15.

Hope to see you there!

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So I just got it. The enhanced pat down. At the buzzing, terrorist ridden airport of Raleigh-Durham. Since the installation of the backscatter (aka: Michael Chertoff’s retirement fund. See below), I have managed in all my travels to be able to scope out security before going through and figure out which lines were not forcing passengers to go through the useless machine. Well, my luck ran out today. I walked up to security to find that my only option was Chertoff’s machine or the hands of a stranger going places that really only my husband’s should go. So, I opted out. And here is my experience.

I was led past the backscatter and told to wait for the next TSA agent and not to touch my bags. I didn’t really like that idea because I was about 30 feet away from my belongings and could only try and keep an eye on them while other people walked by. This only made me nervous for the mere fact that TSA agents have been caught stealing stuff. The next female agent came over and told me she would get my stuff (that was kind of a bonus. It saved me from grabbing everything in a frenzy while other passengers step on me and TSA agents yell at me to be faster. Plus it makes the agents actual do something to earn their paycheck). I was traveling with friends who chose to go through the machine (which, as an interesting side note: my guy friend still got his junk grabbed after going through the machine because apparently that little coin pocket in your pants? Yeah. Chertoff’s great retirement scheme machine can see my underwire and an outline of my breasts but just can’t seem to see into that little coin pocket. So naturally, when TSA needs to check the coin pocket on the hips of millions of Americans, they also must touch your genitalia. So much for going through the machine to keep a stranger’s hands off your private bits). But I digress. On with my story. As I was saying, I was traveling with friends. The spot where I was old to wait happened to be at the exit point of all the people going through the backscatter. So, of course, my friends come by and start talking with me to keep me company while I was waiting on TSA. Well, apparently, this is not allowed. The TSA agent who was to conduct the pat down came up and said,

“You’re not supposed to talk to your friends. You can’t touch your items and you can’t talk to anyone. You know that.”
I looked at her and said, “Actually, I didn’t. Sorry about that” Because, really, I had no idea I couldn’t talk to anyone. Last time I checked, I wasn’t under arrest and was a law abiding citizen.
And she responded, “Yes, you did.”
And I said, “No, really, I didn’t”
“Yeah. OK”.
Did I miss something here? I thought I was in an airport with adults, not kindergarten.

Anyway, she brought all my stuff over and asked if I had been through this process before. I said I hadn’t. She went on to say that her job was to give me an enhanced pat down. I told her that it was just fine with me as long as she did not “touch my breasts or my genitalia.” Her mature, highly trained response? “Why don’t I tell you what I’m going to do instead of you telling me what I can do?” I responded, “No. You may not touch those areas.”

She wasn’t really that happy with me. She went on to tell me what she would do, etc… I smiled politely. I was never rude. Assertive, but never rude. And, honestly, she wasn’t rude either. She was just a lowly TSA agent who was doing her job and didn’t know how to respond properly to a passenger who asserted themselves.

She asked if I wanted to have a private pat down or in the open. I opted for private in the room next to us. This was the subsequent dialogue. No joke.

She asked, “Would like someone to come in with us?”
“No, I trust you.”
She replied, “If you want a private screening with the door closed someone has to come with us.”
I was like….uh…you just asked if I wanted someone. I thought I had an option. I’m confused.
She continued, “We can leave the door open and then no one has to come in.”
“Oh, OK. Then just leave the door open.”
“Well, then that’s not private. It’s just out of the way.”
Uh…

Anyway, I opted to leave the door open.

I was allowed to keep my eyes on my belongings, but I could not touch them. She patted down my entire body. Another side note: when I travel now, I wear leggings and a skin tight shirt. One would think that a pat down would not be necessary because if I was carrying something, you’d be able to see it. But this bit of logic seems to surpass the massively intelligent TSA group. Anyway, she used her palm until she got to my breasts. There was no groping. Just the back of her hand running along the underside. There was also no groping between my legs. One hand went on my hip while the back of the other went up my inner thigh until it “doesn’t go any further”. She put her hands around the inner top inch of my waist band. Everything was fine, but she did get stumped when the bottom of my shirt bunched up…the same shirt that she herself had rolled up in order to check my waist band. Her quote? “Oh, I need to check this weird bunch of fabric. I’m not sure how that got there.” Really?

Anyway, it was over and I grabbed my stuff and left.

There were several people getting the pat down after going through the machine, so like I said earlier, going through the machine does not guarantee that you won’t be touched.

I understand that there are probably people reading this who don’t understand the hub bub or think I’m some right wing crazy person (as a side note, the ACLU and the Tea Party were united on this issue). I won’t try and convince you to change your mind, but I would like to let you know why I am upset by this and maybe embolden you to do what you think is right instead of just kowtowing to a large, federal institution.

First of all, both options of security are massive invasions of privacy. In order to fly, I either have to subject myself to a machine that sends radiation through my body and takes a naked, full body picture (the machine is called Rapiscan. Did no one catch that before the printing started?). No one truly knows what the radiation will do. I understand that not all radiation is unhealthy, but no one can tell us for sure what kind of radiation is being sent through our bodies. I am ferociously active in staying healthy in all areas of my life, including flying. I even opt for flying early in the morning or late at night to avoid the high levels or radiation associated with flying during the daylight hours. I also understand that the full scan of my body is not associated with my name, and so when they don’t actually erase the images (there are several instances where they haven’t) I know no one knows its my body. But the person behind the screen knows, and for me, that’s enough. My “option” to “opt-out” really is no option. Because in this case, a perfect stranger rubs their hands all over my body. I am not comfortable with this option either. I don’t let anyone rub down my body except my husband…and I should have the choice to keep it that way. But because these folks are in uniform and have the full power of the federal government behind them, they are allowed to without my say. My only true option is to not fly. (Which, by the way, is a right I have exercised multiple times since the introduction of these things.) But sometimes, there really is no other option except not to go somewhere, which then infringes on my freedom to move freely about the country quickly. It is also no real option for people who have been sexually abused. Either way, their private body parts are being exposed. Either on film or by the hands of a stranger. Is this really an option? And you know it’s bad when you overhear a TSA agent say to the 8 year old girl, “Honey, don’t you ever let anyone touch you like this.” Mixed signals anyone?

Oh, and I just can’t leave the airport. They hold you for questioning and you run the risk of being slapped with an $11,000 fine.

Second of all, I’m not a fan of an ex-homeland security head now working in the private sector sending fake bombs from Yemen to prove that current security measures aren’t working so that we should use his machine to make us safe. Hmmmmm…. makes you kind of wonder if this is really for our safety or just for Michael Chertoff’s retirement fund. It stinks to high heaven. The Huffington Post actually reported accurately on this story.

Thirdly, regarding the issue of security. Don’t worry, I won’t barrage you with quotes from our founding fathers. While I agree with many of them and their principles, Jeffersonian quotes are way overused. Instead, I will say this. 1) There is proof that these machines fail. 2) Israel doesn’t do this stuff and they have a great track record. Israel has never had a hijacking leaving Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv. The last highjacking was in 1969 on El Al to Tel Aviv, there has been 1 incident at Ben Gurion airport and one guy made it on a plane with a pocket knife. Um. That’s not bad when you have 1 billion people living around you trying to annihilate your existence. They have 3 things I really like and have been proven to work

1) Dogs
2) Guns
3) Actual trained professionals

I like dogs because they are cheaper and are more effective. This is proven. It costs around $7,500 to train a dog. These machines cost around $170,000 a pop when bought in bulk. TSA bought 150 for $25 million and it has been proven that dogs find stuff that the machines don’t. I also like dogs because I’m used to the ill behaved dogs of my friends sniffing my junk. That’s just kind of normal.

I like guns because, well, they are guns. Need I explain more?

I like actual trained professionals. These people know how to watch people and tell if something isn’t right. They know the right questions to ask and watch reactions. A passenger is only taken aside when something smells fishy. I was one of those passengers and had I been in their shoes, I would’ve taken me aside, too. That story here.

People normally respond with, “Well, that’s Israel. It wouldn’t work here.” Um. Why not? Sure, we have many more airports than they do and millions more passengers, but each technology we come up with gets trumped by a bad guy. Experts have already trumped it. What’ll they do after that? Walk us in a private room actually naked and conduct cavity searches? Israel doesn’t seem to have that problem. Their system works. Their system is cheaper. If, instead of the billions of dollars going to TSA and these machines (and Michael Chertoff), we’d spent the money on systems that have been proven to work, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

And lastly, I don’t like being considered guilty before being proven innocent. When I go through security, they are assuming that I want to hurt the people around me without any just cause. If they can do that in the name of aviation security, what will keep that from happening in another area of life?

I’m not one of these conspiracy theorists who thinks there’s some big, shadow government using TSA to push Americans closer to 1984, groupthink and a totalitarian government. I think it’s a situation of good intentions resulting in unintended consequences and people looking to make big money off of a special relationship with the government.

But I do beseech all of you out there to have a bit of intellectual honesty. We all tend to go along with something if it has been instituted by a politician with whom we agree, and vise versa. I am guilty of it myself. But I have learned the dangers of such thinking, and I try to look at things as objectively as my subjective world view will allow. I am always open to people pointing out inconsistencies in my thinking and logic. If you see any here, please share.

In the end, at this point, there’s not much that can be done except each person doing what they think is best for them. If you really don’t want to go through the machine, don’t. If you don’t want the pat down, don’t. And if you don’t want either, well, you’re kind of screwed, because the TSA will go after you for $10,000 if you refuse both and try to leave the airport. Unfortunately, we don’t have recourse with the TSA. That in and of itself should make you nervous. But there are millions of us and only thousands of them. I do believe that each person acting out of their conscience instead of fear of what might happen to them if they don’t comply (wow, did I just say that in America?) can make a difference. And if I’m wrong in that belief, at least I have taken control of my own situation and am setting boundaries of what others can do to me.