Calm, cool, collected – junk unviolated

By » Wed, April 18 2012
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Take it off, baby. (img by Gary Markstein)

Guy is asked by the Brit version of the TSA to take his pants off. Except they call them “trousers” over there. Guy calmly and authoritatively refuses, remains polite, and gets to keep his trouserpants on.

“Sir, your trousers.”


“Sir, please take your trousers off.”

A pause.



The security official clearly was not expecting that response.

He begins to look like he doesn’t know what to do, bless him.

“You have no power to require me to do that. You also haven’t also given any good reason. I am sure any genuine security concerns you have can be addressed in other ways. You do not need to invade my privacy in this manner.”

Whether the results would have been the same in the US with the TSA is unknown, but the guy did a lot of things right, and managed to keep the outcome of the encounter mostly positive.

The key is to be calm. Dude remained calm and authoritative throughout his experience, and it worked out in his favor. But “be calm” is easy to say and hard to do. Here are some things you can do to keep your cool and clinch yourself a better outcome.

Don’t be surprised. This sounds like silly piece of advice, but it’s invaluable to maintaining positive demeanor and personal rapport. If you’re surprised, you may get angry or scared and lose control of the situation or make matters worse. So if you’re going to the airport, know that you’re probably going to be scanned. Assume you’re going to be yanked for “special screening,” so when it happens, you’re in a balanced state of mind. Hell, just plan to opt out of the body scanner; you’ll be prepared, and it just may save you some cancer.

Be human. Organizations like the TSA, no matter how evil we think them, are made up of humans. Most people who work for TSA are not sociopaths or power-hungry fucks looking for cheap kicks touching your junk. They’re just people looking for a paycheck, and the best thing you can do is establish rapport on a human level. I’ve worked in retail, tech support, and physical security, and there is a common thread: the fastest way to get yourself demoted from human to herd-animal, especially in the eyes of low-wage unskilled labor, is to be a jerk. If you start treating security/police/TSA as something other than a fellow human, they’ll instinctively do the same with you. You want rapport with them as people, not roles as persecutor/persecuted. Making a TSA screener’s life miserable for a few minutes won’t change anything. Better to remind them that you’re a reasonable human – Maybe they’ll start thinking about their jobs differently.

Know your rights. There’s a reason I left this to last. In a way, it’s the most important thing, but it doesn’t mean much if you get surprised or forget to be human. Yelling “I know my rights, shame on you!” at a TSA screener isn’t going to get you anywhere other than a special search room and maybe a later flight. It’ll maybe get you some media attention and outrage from fellow passengers, but TSA and USG don’t appear to give much of a shit about that, and fellow passengers will think you’re a nutjob instead of a rational human exercising your rights. Knowing your rights as they apply to the situation and calmly making sure that your rights are respected is another story. If you haven’t, go read the Bill of Rights. Then read up on how your rights are being applied in the national security context. Know what’s going on. Tell your friends.

The only way things are going to change is if we get a critical mass of reasonable humans protesting intelligently instead of being jerks.

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