The Insider’s TSA Dictionary

by Lisa Simeone on December 18, 2012


This blogger has worked for the TSA for many years. So he has the inside scoop.

He’s decided to share his insider knowledge with the general public at his blog called Taking Sense Away.

You can have a ball perusing his many and varied posts — one is better than the next — for instance, “Confession #4: In Memory of Snow Globes Lost (and of All the Idiotic TSA Rules I Refused to Follow)” and an entire series called “Plots We Imagine the TSA Protected Us From.”

But a particular favorite of mine is “The Insider’s TSA Dictionary.”

Here you’ll learn about lots of nifty shorthand TSA agents use to communicate with each other without us peons knowing what they’re saying. The list is long, and fascinating. I couldn’t help but notice that there are many different ways of signaling that an attractive woman is about to step up — fresh meat for the male screeners.

But how could this be?! cry the wishful and gullible. The TSA is here to protect us! I’m sure it’s only a few bad apples who behave this way.

Yeah. That’s why there are so many different terms for the same thing. Because only a few bad apples sat around thinking them up. And because they have so much respect for us.

But that’s okay. Enjoy your fantasies, folks. The TSA is Keeping You Safe in the global War on Terror.

A sampling:

Alfalfa: TSA malespeak for an attractive female passenger.

Code Red: Officer malespeak. Denotes an attractive female passenger wearing red.

Engage!: Flirt with attractive passenger! Pretend to be doing something meaningful with a passenger while bickering with a passenger who has angered you!

Fanny Pack, Lane 2: Code for an attractive female passenger.

Hotel Bravo: Code for an attractive female passenger.

“I sure could go for a Twinkie, right now”: Code for an attractive female passenger.

Xray Xray Xray!: Code for an attractive female passenger, general.

Yellow Alert: Code for an attractive female passenger, yellow clothing.

ZYXWVUTSRQPONMLKJIHGFEDCBA: The letters which may be involved in TSA malespeak code for an attractive female passenger

Of course, there are other categories as well:

Government Accountability Office: The TSA’s worst nightmare.

“More radiation sitting on your flight than you get from these machines”: Mindlessly repeated information parroted by TSA agents when attempting to convince passengers who are wary of the radiation in backscatter scanners to opt back in. If you then ask the officer “where did you study radiology?” or, “I’m sorry, can you please convert the radiation dose emitted by this machine from Sieverts to Rems for me?“ they will almost never have any idea what you are talking about.

Opt out: A smart passenger.

Permanent Emergency (book): A soul-destroying book by former TSA chief Kip Hawley that ostensibly attempts to score some sort of future political points by portraying Hawley as the head of some kind of exciting and dangerous front line counter-terrorist group, instead of just airport security like it really is.

Pre Check: Pay-per-circumvent security.

Retaliatory wait time: What happens when a TSA officer doesn’t like your attitude. There are all sorts of ways a TSA officer can subtly make you wait longer to get through security, citing imaginary alarms, going “above the SOP” for “a more thorough screening,” pretending that something in your bag or on your full body image needs to be resolved— the punitive possibilities are endless, and there are many tricks in the screener’s bag.

TSO (Transportation Security Officer): An airport-mall-cop who is either 1. just there for the paycheck and the benefits or 2. Just there for the paycheck, the benefits, and the unearned level of authority conferred upon him, her, or it.

Two Striper: These are the people with two stripes on their shoulder boards. Oftentimes they will pretend that they are supervisors when you ask for a supervisor because TSA is chronically understaffed due to the strains of staffing hundreds of mostly-useless full body scanners and sending out teams of roving BDOs (see: Airport Wizards).

This guy is a gem. Go on over to his website and show him some love. You can also submit a proposed entry to the dictionary there.

(Photo: greeblie/Flickr Creative Commons)

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