My First TSA Frisking (Trip Report)

We had a wedding up in wine country this past weekend, and it was a typical trip on JetBlue from Long Beach, for the most part. It was, however, my first pat down courtesy of the TSA. That happened at SFO on the return, and though it didn’t bother me, it was VERY thorough. I’ll have more on that down below.

We were staying right near Santa Rosa Airport, so we thought about flying on the LAX nonstop on Horizon, but it was double the price. Not worth it, especially since we could pay half and fly from Long Beach instead. Tickets were bought on September 5 for $181.40 each into Oakland and back from SFO because it was cheaper (even with the small drop charge on the car).

October 7, 2011
JetBlue 248 Lv Long Beach 315p Arr Oakland 435p
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 3, Runway 30, Depart 6m Early
Oakland (OAK): Gate 9, Runway 29, Arrive 8m Early
N552JB, Airbus A320-232, Windowpane Tail, “Blue Jay”, ~90% Full
Seat 14F
Flight Time 56m

I got to the airport a little early and my wife met me there later. I parked myself in front of the always-packed wine bar and watched the beginning of game 5 in the Dbacks-Brewers series. As a die-hard Dbacks fan since day one, I was very glad to be flying JetBlue so I could continuously watch the game on my way up.

LGB Wine Bar

Boarding started about 45 minutes before departure, and we were the last couple people on. (Had to wait for the inning to end, of course.) There was plenty of bin space despite the full flight, and I quickly flipped on the game. Not sure how I got lucky, but there was some glitch that had the TVs working in the “F” seats without interruption. PA announcements didn’t freeze the picture, and we didn’t even have to endure the long “welcome on board” video after takeoff. The only downside was that my wife’s TV (and many others around her) didn’t work. The tried a “partial reset” but it didn’t work. Go figure.

Watching the NLDS

We weaved through what seemed like a busy day of traffic in the LA Basin and landed in Oakland on time. This felt like a fast flight since I was riveted to the game the whole time. I even made my wife wait a couple minutes until the inning was over to get off. Then we ran to the car and listened as the Dbacks lose a great one in extra innings. Sad, but I’m really glad I got to watch what ended up being a great game.

On Sunday morning, we headed back down to SFO, and I got a little nervous as we sat in fog on our way down. SFO + fog = suck, but not that day. It cleared out nicely and we were right on time.

At the TSA checkpoint, they were using the backscatter machines. I’d used them before, and it doesn’t bug me, but I figured this would be a good time to suffer through a TSA pat down since I hadn’t done one yet. I opted out and was told to stand to the side. They let my wife go right through the metal detector (and nobody else). Maybe pregnant women aren’t sent through the advanced imaging machines?

The worst part was waiting and then being grilled. It took about 10 minutes before a guy finally came over. He asked why I was opting out, and I told him I didn’t want to do it. He pushed me again and asked why. I couldn’t believe I was getting this kind of pressure, and just told him that I didn’t know much about the effects of the machine and wanted to get a pat down instead. He marked something in a book, apparently explaining why I opted out, and then we went on.

Like I said, that was the worst part. The pat down was incredibly thorough with long, lingering strokes over all parts of the body, but the guy doing it was very professional and explained everything before he did it. Probably the most invasive part was when he ran his fingers inside my waist band, but again, didn’t really phase me. After, he told me to sit while he tested his gloves for what I assume was trace explosive residue. That was it, and we were off to the gate.

October 9, 2011
JetBlue 1435 Lv San Francisco 1225p Arr Long Beach 147p
San Francisco (SFO): Gate A10, Runway 28L, Depart 4m Early
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 1, Runway 30, Arrive 5m Late
N665JB, Airbus A320-232, Windowpane Tail, “Something About Blue”, ~95% Full
Seat 19A
Flight Time 1h00m

The gate agents were apparently in a very happy mood as they first congratulated a couple (via the electronic sign) that I assume got married. Their electronic boarding announcements were also punctuated with emoticons.

Fun with SFO Monitors

The guy taking boarding passes wasn’t nearly as friendly as the signs were. I asked him who Jeremy and Kerry (the couple receiving congrats) were, and he grumbled “I have no idea. This isn’t even my flight. I just came over here to help them out.” Ok.

As you can see, we got out early but landed late. What happened? It’s fleet week in San Francisco so they’ve restricted airspace to make room for all the demonstrations (Blue Angels and all). So we couldn’t take off from the usual runway 1L and instead had to taxi all the way out to 28L. That’s why we were delayed.

The flight was completely uneventful with beautiful views the whole way. My only complaint was around the TVs. As usual, the second we took off, they went into a long-winded welcome video. Then, as we sat off the coast, we couldn’t get a signal. There were a lot of agitated guys on the plane as the early NFL games were finishing up. Maybe 20 minutes into the flight, we got the TV signal back and a collective sigh of relief was heard.

After the early games were over, I flipped back to baseball. My favorite team after the Dbacks actually is the Brewers (picked them up when I moved to Chicago back in 2004, for some reason). So I found myself in the odd situation of rooting for the team I was rooting against just two days earlier.

LGB Trailer Terminals

We landed and taxied back to the south boarding lounge for the very last time. That’s right. The old JetBlue gates are being retired this week in favor of . . . more trailers. Seriously. They had to clear out the current one to build the new concourse, so there’s a brand new trailer park that you’ll probably see if you fly out of Long Beach on JetBlue in the next year or so.

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