The last time I flew United, I threw a fit. I never check my bags unless I'm gone for a week or more (and I'm never gone for a week or more), so I'd been really pissed off to have my carry-on taken from me in a flash as I attempted to board and be told there was no more space in the overheads for it. I didn't even have a moment to remove my camera or the stuff I'd brought to entertain myself on the flight it happened so fast; they apparently felt the flight was in danger of being late.
Then, when I got to my seat, my overhead was empty! I let the flight attendant hear about it and pointed out that other people who came after me were still bringing their stuff on board. One lady walking by attempted to say that her stuff was smaller and I told her coldly, "It doesn't matter. The overhead above my seat is empty and has plenty of space for my stuff or anyone else's stuff and it's none of your business."
Yes, I was that guy that day, but I was also totally right. (And keep in mind, my version of throwing a fit is pointedly and firmly telling the flight attendant exactly how wrong the situation was; I wasn't exactly about to trigger a Steven Slater evacuation.)
Later, the flight attendant presented us with $100 certificates for future flights, which was very much appreciated and very much appropriate. Luckily, my camera wasn't damaged or stolen, so it had all worked out well.
For Thanksgiving, I used by certificate to fly to Chicago to see my mom, and it was a whole new ballgame. The flight did eventually fill up, but they managed to accommodate all the carry-ons (even during Thanksgiving week) and it was smooth, er, sailing.
But I did act up a bit again...
I happened to be flying on Wednesday and Friday, the former of which was the day travelers were being encouraged to opt out of the body scans to protest them and disrupt travel. Incredibly, New York's LaGuardia Airport isn't using body scans at all that I saw, so I didn't have to decide if I'd do the pat-down. But on the way back, when I was putting my stuff on the belt at O'Hare, a TSA guy spotted me a mile away, made eye contact and asked if I had on a belt, too. "No," I replied, putting all my stuff on the conveyor. He then asked me to do the body scan; I felt I was being profiled as a single male traveler...it certainly didn't seem random. And I had all the time in the world so I said, "I'd rather not. You can pat me down instead if you like."
He spoke into his walkie-talkie device and also called out (loudly) to others, "Male opt-out! Male opt-out!" I think they might be trained to do this to embarrass opt-outs (it didn't). His superior or a co-worker told him he didn't have to do that, but instead just has to call for assistance and explain that it's an opt-out into his device. He then escorted me around the metal detector before realizing that was a big oops and had me go through it. Great training...even I knew this was not right.
I was handed over to a (cute!) young guy and his older superior and had to stand on a mat with the conveyor in sight so I could watch my stuff as I was patted down. I was asked if I had any medical conditions or anything else I needed to volunteer first, which I didn't. I had to put my arms, palms up, straight out to my side, and the guy doing the hands-on part would tell me each and every thing he was about to do (after being coached by the superior). "I'm going to put my hands on you, but for the sensitive areas I will use the backs of my hands. Okay, first, I'm going to pat down your arms..." etc.
He patted down my extremities, using the backs of his hands to lightly pat down my butt area and not getting really anywhere near my genitals when going up my inseam. The most annoying part was when he had to feel inside the waistband of my jeans because I don't do well with latex and his gloves caused hives later on. Then he was all done.
Of course, being an opt-out, they decided to physically check through my carry-on. Later, the guy doing that claimed it was because I should have put my Ziploc bag filled with my toiletries out on the belt, which is not something they asked for and which I've never done and never been stopped for not doing.
It wasn't a huge inconvenience, but I learned that almost no one else is opting out (I bet all those crazy teabaggers don't think twice about the Constitutional mockery this process is), that being patted down is probably way less intrusive for men since there are no boobs to check under (not sure if they would do a boob check on obese men with breasts?) and that I'd still rather go through this than let them take naked pictures of me (sorta) that they just absolutely promise won't be saved or used improperly.
It's hard to take the TSA seriously when they're recruiting off pizza boxes, you know?
Is what they're doing making America safer? I doubt it. But it's definitely a good way to feel us out on just how much of our liberty we're willing to give up freely.