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Just a Thought - Scan of the Beholder


- May 31st, 2005

Vern Seward takes a moment away from Mac commentary to look at another area of technology (and privacy).

"Hurry Babe, we're gonna be late for our flight."

I grabbed my keys and did a quick scan around my living room to insure that I wasn't leaving anything obvious. I was positive that I would find that I left something behind when me and Carol arrived in Hawaii, but it never hurts to look, especially since I know that Carol would be another few minutes getting ready.

The wall says it's nearly 3:30 PM on August 4, 2012, our flight leaves in an hour. Calling to her again is futile, but I need to get her moving a bit quicker. "If we miss this flight there won't be another one until tomorrow, and we'll have to fly stand-by."

From somewhere beyond the opposite side of the living room, Carol yells her reply, "I'll be ready in a minute! Keep your shirt on!"

I smile. Carol and I have been married for 9 years, and I don't mind that she takes her time to dress for a trip. Last night's packing, however, took all of 5 hours to cram 2 large suitcases full of her clothes and accessories. I had finished my packing in 45 minutes.

Even so, I won't complain, she always looks great.

Now, with the new scanners at the airports, Carol had made an extra effort to look especially good...naked; in preparation for our Hawaiian vacation, Carol had spent extra time at the gym, and ran 5 miles everyday instead of her usual 3 miles. She tanned, and waxed herself until she could have ignited lust in a 90 year old blind quadriplegic while dressed in a hooded down parka, loose fitting fatigues, and mukluks.

Of course, what she was wearing would make no difference to the new airport scanners; these new devices could easily peer through layers of clothing as easily as if they were made of clear plastic.

When they were first installed there was such a public uproar, especially here in the States, that many wondered if the airports would be forced to abandon them, or, at the very least, use them only on a selected few passengers, and even only then with the passenger's consent. People were so afraid that someone would see them as bare as the second they were born

The scanners, back-scatter scanners they are called because the device looks for x-ray energy reflected from selected materials instead of the more powerful x-rays that go through the body and reveal what's inside, can detect a variety of items that may be on or even just under the skin. The resulting topographical image can be very detailed, revealing hair, and skin imperfection with astonishing clarity.

"Sweety, please! We're gonna be late!"

"Bob, I'm ready! Quit your yelling!"

Indeed, she is ready, and she looks like a cross between a fitness trainer and a model for Vicky Sue (Victoria Secrets), except that she is dressed to the nines. I look like I wrestle snakes for a living, but she likes the way I dress, she says it suits my personality. If I didn't know her better I'd say she likes the way I dress because it contrasts her attire so well; I become sort of like a frumpy backdrop to a living portrait of Venus De Milo. Whatever, she's with me and that's what matters.

We get to the airport a half hour before the flight is scheduled to take off. In the old days, before the back-scatter scanners, you had to arrive at least an hour and a half before your flight was due to leave in order to go through all of the security checks, and scans. Now, with the new back-scatter scanners, and luggage scanners that seek out not only objects that appear lethal, but compounds in sufficient quantities that, when combined, could create an explosive device, the process of detecting would-be hijackers, terrorists, and other miscreants has become streamlined and efficient. Sure, we must endure a moment of embarrassment, but it's a small price to pay for relative freedom and safety.

As we step up to the back-scatter scanner, Carol adjusts hers clothing so as to give the operator the best possible view. She is not shy; I believe that, in a past life, she was a strip-tease artist, or maybe she was Swedish.

Ahead of us, a woman who looks old enough to be Eve's mother is causing a ruckus; she is refusing to go through the scanner, and she won't let any of the security people frisk her.

"You better not lay a hand on me, boy," she growls at the nearest guard who attempted to guide her to another area so as not to hold up the line. "I'm not going anywhere!" She waves her wooden cane ominously and glares at the guards through thick glasses. "I don't need to be escorted no where. All I want is to be sure that a woman is looking at me on the other side of this things," she raps the scanner portal with her cane. " and not some pervert who gets off watching old ladies!"

"Madam," said one brave guard who apparently was the senior guard on duty, "all of our scanner operators have gone through extensive training in discretion. I assure you that your privacy will be strictly maintained, no matter who is sitting at the controls of our scanners."

The old lady points her cane at the senior guard and narrowed her eye to little more than slits with pupils. "Son, do I look like I run a brothel?"

"Uh, no ma'am."

"Then why did you call me a madam?"

"Ahh, it's, ahh, well..."

"It's obvious you are brainless; you can't speak and they put you in charge!. Just answer one question truthfully, soon boy, and you can get through this without getting your knuckles rapped."

The senior guard reflexively rubbed his knuckles and eyed the cane suspiciously. "And your question, ma'am?"

"Is there a woman at the control of this thing right now?"

The guard spoke into a communication device, waited until he got a reply, smiled, and said, "Yes ma'am. There is a woman operator currently running this device."

At that announcement nearly all of the female passengers left the other lines lined up behind me and Carol.

Carol, on the other hand, looked very disappointed. My guess is that she wanted to give some poor guy watching the monitor a heart attack. I guess it never occurred to her that the person studying her might be a woman.

The old woman smiled and said, "that's all I wanted to know. Let's get this party started!"

She walked up to the scanner, stood with her arms out stretched as she had been instructed to do, then ambled away towards her awaiting flight,

I was next. I had long since gotten over the embarrassment of standing before some unseen person naked, and knowing that the operator was a woman brought to mind the old Seinfeld 'Shrinkage' episode, but I was never really big on modesty either. I guess Carol is rubbing off on me.

I stepped up and stood in the scanner portal for 30 seconds; I didn't feel or hear anything from the device. The green light blinked on, and I moved off to wait for Carol. I assume the female operator was too busy looking for explosives to bother to find humor in my nakedness, and would likely be equally unimpressed with Carol.

But when Carol stood in the portal the light took a full minute to change, and it turned red when it did come on. A guard escorted Carol to a room. I was told to wait outside, that it would not take long.

Sure enough, moments later, Carol emerged from the room, and she had an odd smile on her face.

"Well," I asked her? "What happened?

Still smiling, Carol hands me a slip of paper. On it is a name and a phone number.

Puzzled, I hand the note back to Carol. "From the guard," I inquire?

She snickers as she balls the note up and deposits it in a waste can that we were passing. "From the operator."

"But the name on the paper was Harold..."

"Yep!" Then she glances back at all of the women who now stood in the line that we were in.

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

You can send your comments directly to me, or you can also post your comments below.

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