Pat Down  – 5 Top Tips for Getting Manually Screened

On certain days while standing at the security line at the airport, I think to myself, ‘Wait, hold on, one second here, buckaroo! I’ve got some time. Why get all in a tizzy rushing through? How about we skip the scanner and opt for the good old manual pat down?’

And so I do.

So often when passing through airport security, we miss that genuine human experience. The line is methodical, wrote and everyone hates it. Shoes off, hands over your head, everything out of the pocket, step into the scanner.

It’s so cold and mechanical, it’s enough to make you long for some sort of interaction, for example the pleasantly awkward experience of being touched by a stranger. It’s always there as an option, but I see few travelers who take advantage of it.

It’s awkward for you, it’s awkward for the screener. No better way to to kick off your travels.

So, without further ado, here are my top 5 tips when getting manually screened.

  1. Make sure you have enough time — It’ll be a bit of a wait since they always have to look for someone willing to do it. Sit back, watch the banter between agents, and get ready!
  2. Ask early — Try and catch a TSA professional and let them know you want to opt out of having your body bombarded by radiation.
  3. Make eye contact — So they’re going to go through all of your belongings and touch you, remember, eye contact adds a certain spark.
  4. Pleasant small talk — It doesn’t have to be awkward. Start the small talk with some observational banter, ‘Busy day today, huh?’, ‘Careful, that’s my bum knee.’, ‘These pants are 100% supima cotton.’
  5. I don’t have 5 tips — I just wanted to make this sound catchy.

So next time while waiting in line at the airport, take a step out of the ordinary and get manually screened. You won’t be sorry.

Unless you have something to be sorry about.

A dead squirrel


Occasionally I’m reminded of it in subtle ways.

On the rare day when I drive my daughter to daycare, it’s a minute long ride. We go there. I drop her off. Collect my kiss. It’s done.

When we bike, we feel the wind and see the sun rearing up over the houses. I shout at her to push me up the hill. We coast down the other side and I drag my hand out signaling a left turn. I drop her off. Collect my kiss. It’s done.

But if we walk – if we walk – we pick some flowers for mom, we look at a bird, we shout at the bus. We contemplate a dead squirrel in the road. We feel the air. We take off our jackets.  We take everything in.

Our ability to observe is inversely proportional to the speed at which we move. I think I may have written about this before. I think it’s fairly obvious. But this applies to many things. It’s not about stopping to smell the roses, which is quaint and nice, but not necessarily necessary. It’s more pragmatic.

The New York Times had an important opinion piece on the importance of time to fritter. Again, it’s not about stopping to smell the roses. It’s about giving yourself time to observe, time to let the cogs move, a second to breathe.

This also isn’t about saying that cars are horrible! Burn cars! Or ‘I’m so cool because I walk everywhere. Look at me.’ But it’s just about being aware of how we take things in.


“You waste years by not being able to waste hours,” said an observant Amos Tversky (Quoted in the article mentioned above. Mind you, I’m not so well read that I actually know who that is – though I do now because I just looked him up. He is very interesting.).


Dinosaur, My Mantra

“Does a dinosaur stomp her feet on the floor and shout I want to hear one book more?”¹

Singing a song. Reading a book. Over and over and over. So much so that in unexpected moments the words form involuntarily on my lips at work, on my bike, while cutting onions. Each night we find meaning teased out in repetition completely unrelated to actual words.

“You sit on my cold feet and I’ll sit on your cold feet and you sit on my cold feet and I’ll sit on your cold feet.”

For two years and three months. And it continues. Another night, the rocking chair creaks, the bodies relax. We sit together in praise of the consistent, the repetitive, the good.

“Do not think about tomorrow. Let tomorrow come and go. Tonight you’ve got a nice warm boxcar, safe from all this wind and snow.”³

Each night we look at the same books.

Each night we sing the same songs.

Mostly we stick to the agenda with the occasional gentle deviation.

But everything is changing always. Every second there is more of her building bones, teeth, hair, skin, guts and stuff. Each and every cell needs to hear these stories, listen to these songs, learn to rock.

These tiny mantras and all of these things are necessary; for in a state of constant change, we need anchors and guideposts to carry us. Each cell added to the pile needs to be brought into line so every fiber of her being will know how a dinosaur says good night.

“Nein, das ist auch nicht meine Mami.”*

Where I’m at Now

I always thought it was an exaggeration – the way people talked about the way your life changes when you have a child. One second, you’re fine; next second, an emotional mess.

I remember the first time it happened while on parental leave. In that first month, everyone is tired, but the kid sleeps so much that you actually find yourself with a decent amount of free time – provided you occasionally get bored of staring at your child while they sleep.

I took those spare moments to pull up classic films I’d never seen – among them ‘Paris, Texas’ from Wim Wenders. I won’t bore you with a synopsis, but at one point a long-absent father tries to meet his estranged son after school.