101 Pat-Downs

An Undercover Look at Airport Security and the TSA

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Pub Date 01 Jun 2021 | Archive Date 01 Jun 2021

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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.

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...

Advance Praise

“As a road warrior myself, I appreciated Shawna Malvini Redden’s lively 101 Pat-Downs and its keen observations about our current form of security theatre and how people on either side of that power dynamic react to and evolve because of it. I appreciated Malvini Redden’s focus on the fact that we have rights when we fly, and we can take actions to protect and report violations of them.”—Elisa Camahort Page, coauthor of Road Map for Revolutionaries: Resistance, Activism, and Advocacy for All

“An exemplar of in-depth organizational research and a must-read for all frequent travelers, this book provides a behind-the-scenes picture of one of America’s most despised government agencies—the Transportation Security Administration.”—Sarah J. Tracy, author of Qualitative Research Methods: Collecting Evidence, Crafting Analysis, Communicating Impact

“As a road warrior myself, I appreciated Shawna Malvini Redden’s lively 101 Pat-Downs and its keen observations about our current form of security theatre and how people on either side of that power...

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ISBN 9781640123625
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Average rating from 9 members

Featured Reviews

Enlightening. As someone who had their first flight literally weeks before 9/11 (ATL to MCO in late July 2001) and who has experienced TSA quite frequently in *cruise* terminals (rather than airline terminals, which are the focus here), I can truly say that I absolutely enjoyed this book and that the author's general observations tend to ring true with my own. Where she goes off to examine the actual communication channels in more "research" mode... well, that was the very subject of her PhD dissertation, and thus the impetus for this very research. :) The description of this book claims in part that it is "the story of Malvini Redden’s research journey, part confessional, part investigative research, and part light-hearted social commentary". I would say that this is a spot-on summation right there. There is quite a bit here, much that even infrequent air travelers like myself will see from even our experiences. (Though many claim I am more observant than many, so perhaps the observations Malvini Redden shares here won't be *as* obvious to others?) The approach here is much more conversational and much less "ivory tower", and I seem to remember this book having a shorter bibliography that others - which is perfectly fine for a more first-person, personal investigation/ memoir style book. In other words, exactly this type of book. Overall a very good book to put in the hands of first time flyers and maybe even to have on hand for those situations where someone is being a major PITA through security at the airport - find a convenient way to offer them this book once you're both through the line. :) Ultimately, this was truly a fun and informative read, and thus is very much recommended.

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This is a 3.5 star book for me, but I'm rounding up because the drop from 4 to 3.5 is really based on my personal taste. This book is an adaptation of the author's dissertation based on a qualitative study regarding the TSA and fliers' experiences. Much of the material is pulled from the early 2010s, which is when I assume the author was gathering data. There are some updates regarding policy changes, but I do wish there were more updated observations and interviews as well. I don't think I learned anything new from this book other that new ways in which both TSOs and passengers can make the day more difficult for each other. That said, it was an interesting read. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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As someone who doesn't like flying, it is a big plus knowing how things work behind the scenes. I loved the idea of this book and I quite enjoyed it. However, I felt like it was a little outdated and it lacked visuals.

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Flying and everything that goes with it including security, hot and sweaty lines, fear of doing something wrong or the idea of missing a flight can be stressful. As a frequent flyer (pre covid) I can relate to so much of this book. Since 9/11 everything has changed and this date is now the defining moment. The author did her dissertation on traveler and TSO experiences alike. She discusses stats such as terrorist plots and moves on to her findings by observing and interviewing. One interviewee said she feels like a potential security risk rather than a customer. I completely understand and sometimes almost feel a sense of paranoia and fear rather than ease when in contact with TSOs (equivalent as I don't fly to/within the US). Most of us follow the rules but some flout them such as pushing into lines and ducking under the tape. Emotions can run high in airports and typically calm people can erupt like volcanoes. The melt-downs I have seen are astonishing! It is crucial to keep in mind that the agents are there to serve a purpose and are doing their jobs, though some admit to sneaky ways of dealing with particularly difficult flyers. Emotional labour is defined (interesting concept and so true!). The author provides many travel tips such as wearing comfortable clothes, being courteous to seemingly "robotic" agents and how to opt out of advanced imaging. She discusses different types of travelers and what we can do to make experiences more efficient and less painful. Some of the procedures are now a bit outdated or different as so much has happened in the past few years but the basics remain the same...stay calm, cool and collected. A smile and understanding can make all the difference. Agents are there to do a job smoothly and are not after you personally. Who knows what kind of day they are having? Who wants to pat people down? No wonder they can seem emotionless. Flyers and non-flyers alike would benefit from this book. My sincere thank you to University of Nebrasks Press and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this fascinating look at human behaviour and what/why policies are in place. There are reasons for them.

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I received this book from the publisher through Netgalley for review and all thoughts and opinions are my own. Whether a passenger or a TSA agent, this book is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at airport security. Want to know what to do before you fly? Need to know your rights and how to cope with pat down searches? This book will help. Filled with insights based upon observational research and interviews, the author plumbed the depths of what we now know of airport security measures since 9/11. She gives details of the types of flyers as well as prudent tips for infrequent passengers. Wear socks! Just sayin'. With the transition to federal officers, we have become accustomed to long lines and worn thin nerves. You do have some options. She has some insightful advice for the traveler. Noteworthy: the author has some specific advice for transgender and gender neutral persons as well as insight into racial issues that will be extremely helpful and cause less stress at the checkpoint. Also, I would read this book with an open mind, not focusing on the ugly points of both passengers and agents but on the good stories of kindness and generosity of spirit found in most human interaction.

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At first, I would like to thank Netgalley and Univnebpress for allowing me to review this book. Keep in mind that my review, however, is my true opinion on this book. “101 Pat-Downs - An Undercover Look at Airport Security and the TSA” by Shawna Malvini Redden is a book all about airport security. If you love flying, or if you dislike flying, this book is just right for you. In fact, two million people fly commercially every day in the United States. Therefore, it is important that the security is on point. All of the passengers have different purposes, but they are all welcome on the airplane. But they all have to go through security, and why is that? The book explores this topic. Shawna Malvini Redden has done an incredible job when researching for this book. It is very professional, and you can tell, that there is a lot of information and knowledge behind the book. The book furthermore explains how 9/11 changed the security in airports, and how this has affected the security. In the book, you will be given advice for the security in an airport, and you will get to know all of the small details of this process. If you have difficulties when flying or have angst for this type of act, this book will give you some guidance to calm yourself down. You will, in this book, learn how to be comfortable at the airport and the airplane, and to make it a comfortable event. The language in the book is engaging, and makes it interesting to go through the book. “101 Pat-Downs - An Undercover Look at Airport Security and the TSA” is a very interesting book, and I will recommend it for anyone, who loves flying, but also those who dislike flying. This book might calm your nerves.

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101 Pat-Downs by Shawna Malvini Redden is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late May. This book is chaptered around 15 confounding concepts and preconceptions about the TSA. Malvini Redden has an easy, dry sense of humor that very often comes from observational research on informal tips for both uninitiated and seasoned air travelers, TSA officers' interactions, compliance with protocols, being the brunt target for passenger's anger towards rules that they didn't create, but are tasked to enforce; otherwise, they encounter much ennui, the same process, the same set of responses.

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An amusing and fascinating read. Makes me miss flying and travelling! Many thanks to the publisher, author, and NetGalley for the ARC.

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A must-read for anyone who flies, whether occasionally or regularly. Although the book is focussed on the TSA in the US, it is relevant for any country’s airport security protocols. For a work of academic scholarship, it is remarkably accessible and engaging. It has made me much more aware of the issues involved in security and screening at airports, and, I hope, more tolerant of those who have to enforce the rules. Enlightening and insightful.

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