101 Pat-Downs: An Undercover Look at Airport Security and the TSA
Two million people fly commercially every day in the United States, and every single passenger must interact with members of airport security. Why do travelers put up with long lines and invasive screenings? Why do Transportation Security Administration officers (TSOs) put up with the disrespect and anger directed at them?
Shawna Malvini Redden asked these questions for years—interviewing passenger and security officers alike, taking note of everything from carry-on bananas to passengers who fumed when their water bottles were confiscated. Malvini Redden encountered a range of passengers: the entitled business travelers; the parents with toddlers; the hot mess, travels-once-a-year, can’t-figure-out-how-to-get-through-the-security-checkpoint-without-crying flier. The answers, Malvini Redden admitted, were far more complex than she anticipated.
101 Pat-Downs is the story of Malvini Redden’s research journey, part confessional, part investigative research, and part light-hearted social commentary. In it she illuminates common experiences in airport security checkpoints specifically focused on emotion and identity, presenting the inside scoop on airport security interactions via her experiences and those of passengers and TSOs.
Along the way Malvini Redden introduces common characters of airport security, humanizing the stereotypically gruff TSO and explaining in a social-science framework why so many passengers feel nervous inside TSA checkpoints. Ultimately, Malvini Redden shows how people navigate communication in complex interpersonal situations and offers research-driven suggestions for improving interactions for passengers and TSOs alike.
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