Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Naked Truth

Imagine this:

You and you wife are driving through a foreign country.  You approach a border crossing.  You have your passports and travel documents in order so you are not worried.  But at the check-point, an armed guard orders you to a secluded lot.  There, another armed guard confiscates your car keys, passports and travel documents.  You are then ordered to a building, near a wooded area some distance away, where other armed guard are on patrol.

Shitting yourself yet?  I was.  And I wasn’t crossing the frontier in some backwater banana republic; I was on the I-87 travelling from Canada to the United States.

American Border Crossing

Now maybe I’m more sensitive to this because, as an American, I expect my country to welcome me with open arms when I return to visit instead of treating me like an enemy combatant, but I think they are going just a bit overboard.

All of this is coming up again because of a planned trek back to the land of my birth, where I am, if the TSA is any guide, decidedly not welcome.

And that’s a shame, because America is an affable country.  Once inside, you are surrounded by ease, comfort and people who will go out of their way to lend you a hand should you need one, and that’s what most Americans see, because they never step outside.  Well, let me tell you what it looks like from out here: you are living in a prison.  It’s a nice prison, a big prison—so large you can’t see the walls when you are inside—but surrounded, as it is, by (sometime virtual, sometimes real) barbed wire, armed guards and towers bristling with machine guns, it is a prison, nonetheless.

I use to mitigate the stress of returning home by flying into Canada and driving across the border—a traditionally short and pleasant ceremony—but, as demonstrated above, the TSA have sewn up that loop hole but good.  Now, the only choice I have is whether I want to be treated like a prisoner or an enemy.  So I’ll choose prisoner, which is how they treat you when you fly into a US airport.  There, the TSA goons strut about in their uniforms, looking thuggish, glaring at you, just waiting for you to step out of line, but as long as you keep your mouth shut and don’t draw their attention, you can usually get through with only minor discomfort.  I’ll take my chances with them before I step into the interrogation hut again, thank you very much.

And, this trip, they’ve added yet a new wrinkle—the ESTA.  My wife had to fill out invasive and nonsensical (“Are you planning to subvert the US government?”  Are you really going to answer “Yes” to that?) on-line form and pay $14 to be granted, by the US Government, the privilege of being allowed to travel to their border.  That’s all, just to travel there.  Once you show up (and they tell you this in no uncertain terms) they can still turn you away if they don’t like the look of you.  That’s like charging your friends a fiver just for showing up at your door, whether or not you let them in.  I find that objectionable.

Oddly, what I do not find objectionable are the new airport scanners that peek beneath your knickers.  In fact, I don’t think they go far enough; if this is what it is going to take to stop the “confiscate granny’s knitting needles because she might use them to take the plane down” nonsense then we ought to just fly naked.

Seriously, once you slide your carry-on into the x-ray machine, instead of going through the scanner, you should be directed into a cubicle.  There, you would remove all your clothes, put them in the clear plastic bag provided and step through the other side of the cubicle, into the departure lounge, where the policy will be, “No Clothes, No Exceptions.”

I am so chagrined; I found this on fly Naked Airlines--someone beat me to it.

Having everyone naked—the guy handing you your x-rayed carry-on, the woman tagging your clothing bag and putting in on the trolley, the girls staffing the Starbucks coffee kiosk, the old man working the bar—would keep the passengers from feeling self-conscious.

And think of the savings.  The wand guy: no longer necessary.  The guy who pats you down: no need.  Now, there may still be a need to check certain people who might be hiding something in a place that will keep the item hidden even with all your clothes off, but that would be handled by a specialist in that booth over there in the corner and I just don’t want to know what is going on in there.

I suppose I’d allow the waitresses at Garfunkel’s to wear aprons to carry their pencil and order pads in, and the cooks, so long as the public can’t see them, would be free to cover up in order to avoid splattering hot grease in places you might prefer not to have it splattered, but no other exception, not even for the airline staff.

Amazing what comes up when you enter "Fly Naked" into Google
courtesy of

I think it’s a smashing idea.  Simple, cost effective, practically fool-proof and not much more ignominious than what they are already putting us through.


  1. Most good solutions are very simple. Of course! Let's fly naked! Most people might want to practice by going to a nude beach some time. Just, you know, to get desensitized to what you might encounter on a plane full of naked people. Otherwise all the gains might be cancelled out by all the therapy and medications for post traumatic stress disorder.

  2. Yes, seeing real people naked is not all it's cracked up to be (oops, unintentional pun).

  3. My mum filled in the ESTA thingy a few years ago and has been here three times with it - never been asked for it once. In fact, the American customs people didn't seem to know anything about it!

  4. We're on the verge of another civil war here.

    Whether that will leave us better off or worse remains to be seen.

  5. Anonymous3:54 AM

    Naked won't cut it. You'll also have to be shackled and gagged, and wear electrodes on wrists and ankles so they can electrocute you if they think you might be thinking impure thoughts.

  6. I always thought those questions were hilarious. But then again, someone might be stupid enough to answer "yes", you never know. And about the naked thing, the thought of sitting down in a place where others have plopped their privates down without a second thought just makes me never want to fly again. Ever.

  7. Brilliant post - coming to you via The Rain in Spain's Valentine's Fest.

    I think you're on to something with the naked thing. Personally, I think we should push for the I'll show you mine/You show me yours policiy. At the very least it might speed thing up.

  8. Expat Mum: I guess it's personal, then.

    Rexxhead: via la revolution!

    Anon: Hmmmm, naked, shacked and gagged...not sure if that was where I was taking this ;)

    Mother T: Okay, maybe we could all be issued with a towel or something. I'm still working the kinks out.

    PicklePits: Great idea! If they got a little of what we are getting, they might not be so enthusiastic about handing it out.

  9. Very funny! Upon going back to the US for the holidays this past year my partner and I couldn't figure out why there was so much hubub about the full body scanners. In fact, he liked the idea of a picture where his jibbly bits might be invisibly held in funny positions by his pants that he wanted to request a copy of photo to satisfy curiosity. Needless to say TSA wasn't quite prepared for that request.

  10. Rachel: I like the idea of the Flying Pasties myself: