Biff America: Go ahead – have a look |

Biff America: Go ahead – have a look

“Quit your damn bellyaching, I’ve had worse than that on the end of my tongue.”

My father was born before empathy was invented. The quote above was one he would use when my siblings or I complained about injuries, illnesses and even emotional hurts. I heard those words in reference to imaginary illness and skinned knees all the way to a ruptured appendix. My Dad’s attitude might have been a health hazard for his children had my Mum not been both cautious and attentive to her children’s needs.

In retrospect I believe, had my old man been a single parent, he would have been more sympathetic. But knowing our needs would be met by my mother, he had the luxury of imparting his personal philosophy of silent suffering. He was also, on occasion, known to say “Stop your crying or I’ll really give you something to cry about.”

If I had the opportunity I would offer a dose of my Dad’s philosophy to Brian Sodergren of Ashburn VA. Brian is one of the organizers of a movement protesting the new airport body scans being used at airport across the country. Sodergren, and others like him, assert that the x-ray body scan (which shows the traveler’s body through his or her clothing on a computer screen in an adjacent room) is a virtual strip and body cavity search.

Get over yourself.

Sodergren’s website urges travelers to refuse the body scan and insist on the hands-on pat down which takes 44 times longer (four minutes compared to 10 seconds). The purpose of the protest is to clog up the security lines during the upcoming holiday season.

According to airport security experts, to body-scan 100 passengers takes 15 minutes – to do a hands on pat-down on the same number takes 6 hours. So you can imagine if the flying public does, in fact, buy into this protest airport gridlock will ensue.

I’ll be uncharacteristically frank here: I don’t look nearly as good naked today as I did 20 years ago; I know this to be true because I have pictures to back up it up. But if I am selected for one of the body scans I’ll march in there proudly as if my pectorals didn’t look like two fried eggs hanging on nails.

I’ll do this for two reasons – if that’s what it takes to for my fellow travelers and me to fly safely and conveniently as possible it is a small price to pay. And secondly, why would I care if some guy or gal I’ll never see or know sees me nearly naked? He/she is a professional, so I’m sure seeing some middle aged visage complete with wrinkles, veins and “Slippery When Wet” tattoo won’t give them a thrill or ruin his lunch.

Now granted, I wish they could have seen me 20 years ago (and I might bring a picture to show them for comparison purposes), but as far as inconveniences goes a body-scan falls far short of a body cavity search.

I know this to be true because I’ve had both.

Certainly a fair question to ask is are body-scans necessary and the best way to thwart airline terrorism? I could not begin to answer that question. But I do know those policy makers who assess risk and establish preventive measures evidently feel the current security measures are needed. If any of us feels differently, we can opt out and drive to our destinations.

If Americans are inclined to raise their voices in protest there is plenty to be ticked-off about. How about the fact millions of Americans can’t afford health care or health insurance and that most of us (even with insurance) are one serious illness away from bankruptcy? How about the fact that many in Congress feel the best way out of this recession is to extend tax cuts to the wealthy? Or how about people who don’t pick up after their pets?

And those are just the things that I’m ticked-off about. Some of you might not agree that the examples I’ve given are anger-worthy; for all I know you perhaps are not offended by dog waste. But I hope we can all agree that in the whole scheme of things a full-body-scan is a small price to pay for not getting blown out of the sky by a terrorist’s bomb.

As far as the invasive indignity of a stranger seeing me through my clothing? Well, I’m happy to provide them a little comic relief as well as some 20-year-old photographs.

Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8 and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or from

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