Something’s Broken Between TSA and Baby Boomers

We baby boomers travel a lot, don’t we?!? More than our parents ever did. That was only a positive until our active lifestyle started taking its toll on our limbs and organs and joints. And one man who feels the difference is BoomerCafé co-founder and publisher David Henderson. He’s got a message for the people who often make traveling a lot tougher than it has to be.

David Henderson

If you are a baby boomer and anything like me, chances are you are carrying around a spare part or two. In my case, it’s a right knee replacement … about eleven ounces of titanium. And that doesn’t go down well with the people at the Transportation Security Administration, a.k.a. airport security.

In the U.S. — a country which does not embrace profiling at airports even though most of the bad guys in recent years have been easy to fit into a profile — we are being subjected to increased and more invasive TSA inspections at airports when we have joint replacements. But that’s just in the U.S.

Leaving Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport recently — unquestionably the most security-conscious airport in the world, and probably the most efficient — my right knee of course beeped as I walked through security. A polite young woman took my passport and boarding pass, and asked me to take a seat in a row of chairs lined up against a wall.

Within a couple of minutes, another woman approached me to ask a precise set of questions, including where had I been in Israel and what was the purpose of my visit. She seemed to know the answers already and looked me straight in the eye as she listened to my responses. She then thanked me, and told me I could go.

There was no pat-down, intrusive or otherwise … no metal-detecting wand … no swabbing for explosives … no rude TSA treatment.

America gets the TSA rub-down.

Something similar happened in Munich’s airport last year. I walked through the upright metal detector and informed the inspector that I had a right knee replacement. He looked me straight in the face and immediately asked me for the name of the company that made the knee prosthetic. I replied, “BioMet.” He smiled, thanked me, and said I was free to go.

What happened at Tel Aviv and Munich… as well as other international airports where security is intense… is called, intelligence. The inspectors use profiling and are trained to ask precise questions. If a person flinches in a response, then there’s another level of screening. I didn’t fit the profile of a bad guy… and I didn’t flinch.

Incidentally, passengers are not asked to remove shoes … whether in Tel Aviv, Munich, Frankfurt or most other major world airports.

Americans from all sides of the aisle are raising questions about Homeland Security’s newest level of airport screening. It is becoming more rude, more invasive of privacy, and more of a hassle while, at the same time, demonstrating less of an intelligent approach.

When a veteran flight attendant and cancer survivor who has flown for more than 30 years is forced by TSA to reveal her prosthetic breast, things have gone too far.

Not only are people over age fifty being singled out simply because of age-caused joint replacements, but young children are being singled out, and airline pilots are up in arms. I mean, are we really afraid that someone who’s about to take the stick of the airplane and in whose lives we put our hands is going to sneak something dangerous through security?!? We all should be outraged.

Long lines at New Orleans airport.

Even Glenn Beck said recently, “How is it the freest country in the history of the world is now subjecting their citizens to panty pat-downs?”

Actually, the TSA procedure is no longer a “pat-down.” It’s a firm rub-down by TSA agents who refuse to use fresh gloves for each passenger.

At the same time, much of the rest of the world … in countries that have been confronting terror attacks far longer than here in the U.S. … there is a more intelligent approach to airport security. They profile and look for people who actually could be a threat. They are constantly on-guard, watching for danger, and not pre-occupied over whether you’ve taken your laptop out of its case, or whether your tube of toothpaste exceeds the regs.

We have become a process-oriented country while much of the rest of the civilized world is focusing on critical thinking and intelligence in their approach to staying safe. As a result, the baby boomer with spare parts is one of those victims being singled out for the roughest treatment by TSA.

And here’s an epilogue: my colleague and co-founder of BoomerCafé, Greg Dobbs, just made a quick trip to Australia, so quick that he didn’t even carry a suitcase, just a laptop carry-on. And when I sent him this story, here’s what he told me in response:

“Leaving Australia, I was able to take all the toothpaste I wanted through security; I mean, I had a big fat tube of the stuff that would have failed the test in the U.S. but guess what. No one complained. And joy of joys: I didn’t have to take off my shoes!!!”

Sure, we’re probably somewhat safer because of airport searches. But Greg’s note is more testimony that TSA has taken things too far.


  1. Well said!

    The security of those who fly in this country is indeed important, and is in fact a real life or death situation. At some point the US government will have to act seriously about the matter, using common sense and implementing the lessons learned by those that have gained the painful experience of fighting this scourge on civilization. No lighters but matches are ok? Removing shoes? No ink jet printers? What happens if a bomb, heaven forbid, is placed in a brief case? No brief cases? Really?

    TSA, think don't just react, and look to those that have been dealing with this "cancer on society" and be professional for a change–our lives depend on it!

  2. All my original body parts are still intact & working just fine, no need for any spare parts just yet. lol But, I feel your pain. You are absolutely correct … flying has become so invasive & such a friggin drag that I try my best to avoid it. I prefer to not travel any further than I can drive to. To visit my parents in Arizona: I drive. Even visiting my good buddy up in Seattle: I drive. These are places I used to fly to. It's just become easier to drive.

    When I MUST fly, I have a good friend with his own jet and I try to mooch off his generosity by hitchhiking along with him as often as possible. A totally different experience. No TSA, no hassles. Just get on board & fly away. That's the way commercial flying used to be. Unless and until it returns to that, I'll be staying home more, driving more … and mooching off my buddy as much as he'll put up with.

  3. Thank you for this thoughtful and well written article about the new TSA debacle. I've linked to it on the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook.

    How has our government veered so far into left field on this issue? When we loose our freedoms and act through fear, the terrorists have won. You are so right about targeting suspicious individuals rather than little old grandmas with hip replacements.

  4. As America continues to age, pretty soon we'll have a separate line for all of those with artificial joints. My husband and I have an airport routine (he has a titanium hip; I'm still organic): he loads everything off on me, and I get the crap thru the scanner while he waltzes thru, sets off the alarm, gets frisked and released, and awaits the arrival of shoes, wallet, hat, carryon, etc.

    Signed, his wife the Sherpa.

  5. Great article about some of the issues surrounding the new policies of the TSA. I wonder how much safer we really are with new body scanners and invasive procedures. Thanks for sharing your insight!

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  6. I liked the video clip on the news this morning showing passengers getting patted down. There was an older gentleman, in shirt and slacks, grey-haired and glasses, just raising his arms like "OK, go ahead." and watching as the TSA guy patted him around the pants, etc. Then he tried to lower his arms, but didn't think they were finished with him and he re-raised them like, "You want more?" They waved him off.

  7. Another option is to take the Amtrak train.Recently, my BF and I traveled from San Francisco to Washington, DC (via Chicago) by train.It takes longer, but it's a very scenic trip.They serve meals in civilized community dining cars.

    My BF who works in aviation says, "These days taking the train is the only way to fly."

  8. I'm put through the degrading body scanner each time I return from Las Vegas. Imagine my surprise when I got home from my last trip and discovered that I had forgotten to remove my pepper spray from my purse – which went right through the x-ray scanner undetected. I was practically armed and dangerous! And there were signs all over the place warning penalty is years in jail if your carry-on has stuff you're not allowed to have. YIKES! Actually, I've never had to use the pepper spray and sometimes I wonder if it even works. Maybe it's empty inside and I've just been carrying it all over town with a false sense of security, thinking 'Yeah pffft whatever. I have pepper spray in my purse. So don't mess with me!'

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