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On Opt-Out Day
OK, this is it. Time to go over the rivers and through the woods.
And if you haven't left already, good luck.
As the Associated Press writes:
"More than 40 million people plan to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA, with just more than 1.6 million flying -- a 3.5 percent increase from last year."
In the middle of all that, there's a huge winter storm over parts of the western U.S. and there's the fuss over new security procedures at the nation's airports, marked by full-body scans or their alternative -- full-body pat-downs.
On Morning Edition, NPR's Martin Kaste updated listeners on the National Opt-Out Day campaign:
On Opt-Out Day
As we've previously reported, that's the Internet effort to get fliers to declare they "opt-out" and won't get into one of the body scanners -- choosing instead to have a pat-down and face the prospect of a touching of "junk."
The idea is that if enough people choose to "opt-out," then lines will get long at checkpoints and the government will get the message that lots of folks don't like what's going on. Of course, long lines may just make a lot of folks very angry at the opt-outers. So watch for stories about any backlash.
And speaking of stories: If you have tales to tell about your travels today, please do. Add them to the comment thread on this post -- or to the other travel-related posts we'll be putting on the blog as the day continues. We'll be scanning for stories from NPR correspondents and other media outlets all day, so check back if you're interested.
We'll be updating this post, so hit your "refresh" button to see our latest additions (and for now, at least, we'll keep them in chronological order).
Update at 9:30 a.m. ET: You can also contact us via Facebook.
Update at 9:45 a.m. ET. Good contributions are coming in. So far, most folks say, things are fine at the airports:
-- On Facebook -- "Wes Lyons. Just left Nashville and the security check was fast and no one was opting out of the full body scan. I noted that more people got through the body scanners than the regular line because people kept setting off the buzzer with metal."
-- On Facebook -- "Christa R Ansbergs. Flying out of JFK yesterday my security theatre experience contained no porn-o-scans or grope-a-grams. Though they did search my bag thoroughly to find my spare batteries (but did not take them). The line overall was no worse than a normal ..."
-- On Facebook -- "Joanna Chulick Corrigan. Sailed thru ohare security like it was any other day. People were polite; TSA agents were smiling and telling you whete to go. Didn't have to go thru xray but saw it in action. Didnt see any people opting out. Got here three hours early for nothing but that's a good thing!"
-- In our comment thread -- "Monica Medina (Monicastangled). I traveled last night from San Diego to Chicago. The TSA screening staff were friendly, the full body scan was so quick, I didn't notice. I wasn't fondled or groped by them. They did examine in great detail my tote bag which for some reason they found more suspicious than me, but after finding nothing wrong with it, they smiled and wished me a happy Thanksgiving. You could say my tote bag was groped, but not me. Very uneventful. So what's the big deal?"
And this, also on Facebook, from my friend Jessica Strelitz:
"More media + TSA agents than passengers at my gate + made it through security at DCA faster than ever. I wish they over-educated the public about how to navigate an airport more often."
Update at 10:15 a.m. ET. We shouldn't overlook the many more folks who are driving to their destinations today (and wish the best of luck to those trying to make their way through the bad weather out west). This just came in to our Facebook page:
-- "Sara Holland. Left at 5am and almost to destination! Smooth traveling on the roads from CT to PA!"
Update at 10:30 a.m. ET. From reporters at some of the busiest airports:
-- Chicago Tribune: "Although security lines were long at O'Hare this morning, there was no indication of (an Opt-Out) protest, however loosely organized."
-- Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "If Tuesday was any indication of what to expect, Wednesday travelers alarmed by the recent outcry over new, tougher security measures at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport may be pleasantly surprised."
-- The New York Times' City Room blog: At New York's La Guardia, "we had a regular old-fashioned scanner -- uninvasive, non-rights-violating, completely unembarrassing and privacy-respecting."
Update at 10:35 a.m. ET. Another report on our Facebook page:
-- "Jennifer Roberts. Started my drive front Santa Barbara to LAX at 3am and after parking and the ride from the shuttle arrived at 5am to a mad house at LAX. Security was quick and even took a group of us upstairs where we found additional security set up. We made it through in about 10 minutes and I had plenty of time to reach my 6:10am flight. Very impressed with TSA this morning."
Update at 10:55 a.m. ET. More from the roads, this time about the difficulties out west -- where things are tough (via Facebook):
-- "Kathy Hunt. Many roads in SE Idaho are closed due to weather, hopefully they will reopen today so travellers can make it over the rivers and through the woods and over the mountain passes to Thanksgiving dinner."
Update at 11 a.m. ET. A reminder, from our comments thread, that a sense of humor can help:
-- "Raichael Nelson (RaichaelJayneNelson) wrote: I wear pretty lingerie when flying. If I'm getting scanned at least I'm at my best."
Update at 11:20 a.m. ET. On Twitter, users are marking posts about airport security with this: #TSATime. It looks like lots of "easy and quick" comments.
Update at 11:55 a.m. ET. NPR's Cheryl Corley, who's been at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, sends along this report:
"If there was a dream day to travel, this seems to be the day in Chicago. Airport officials say they expect 189,000 passengers to pass through O'Hare today. The lines are moving quickly. There don't seem to be any delays and everyone is in a good mood. Of all the folks I've talked to, there have been no objections to the full-body scanners. Most believe the machines are necessary, quick and easy -- and prefer them to a pat-down."
Update at 12:45 p.m. ET. From Atlanta, Georgia Public Broadcasting news director Susanna Capelouto tells us that:
"The lines at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport are shorter than expected. The TSA has all lanes open, there are 32 in the main terminal and 11 more in the North and South terminals. Security wait times have been under 10 minutes most of the morning.
"Travelers we talked to came extra early to the airport because they had heard about possibly long lines. Buffy Hunter was going to visit her mom in Pittsburgh and came 3 hours early. 'I didn't want to miss my flight,' she said. She had plenty of time left.
"TSA officials say they have seen no impact of any protest in the lines. Outside, at least 2 protesters handed out flyers urging people to opt out of the boddy scans."
Speaking of the Transportation Security Administration, its TSA Blog is live-blogging the official wait times at major airports. A few examples:
-- Seattle: "Below normal levels."
-- Northwest and Rocky Mountain regions: "At or below normal levels."
-- Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airportl: "No waits."
Update at 1:35 p.m. ET. We've now summed up the story so far here: