Not many people have touched me the way Mark Broren, supervisory officer of the Transportation Security Administration, touched me.
He was a consummate professional with blue latex gloves. He politely told me everything he was going to do. And then he did it, unapologetically.
This was his job: To give me the police-state work-over so often described as "groping," "state-mandated molestation" and touching "my junk."
I was on my way to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, which is not known as a Mecca for terrorists or drug lords, but for resorts, sport fishing and time shares.
I've now celebrated my last three birthdays at a Cabo beach restaurant called "The Office," where they grab your head and force shots of tequila down your throat if someone tells them it's your birthday. Yet even this assault didn't compare to what TSA did to me at the Denver International Airport.
I have endured onslaughts of Mexico's ubiquitous trinket peddlers and time-share hucksters. I once even sat through a time-share seminar where the salesman raised his voice and impeded my exit when I refused to sign the papers: "Why do you need a day to think about it? What are you going to know tomorrow that I didn't already tell you today?"
Even this was more bearable than being probed like a criminal suspect in front of my family. "Mommy, what are they doing to daddy?"
I'd been randomly selected for the TSA's now infamous naked-picture machine.
Now, I'm not as modest, as say, a deeply religious mother. If I were to go through a naked-picture machine, I'd want a copy so I could publish it.
A TSA officer told me only one officer would see the image, and that the machine posed no radiation risk whatsoever. I informed him of an ongoing medical debate about the risks these machines pose, but he didn't want to hear it.
"We have an opt-out," he cried, and shuffled me to Officer Broren.
I have no reason to think anyone at the TSA recognized me as the guy who wrote a column in The Sunday Wall Street Journal that began, "When will Americans declare the Transportation Security Administration a terrorist organization?"
I was worried they might, and then give me an extra hour or two of a publicly funded massage. But the TSA doesn't seem to know anything about the people it is screening. Obviously, singling out Arab-looking people is wrong. So the TSA singles out everybody.
The TSA is an important government agency, but it has grown into "a bloated, poorly focused and top-heavy bureaucracy." This is what U.S. Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican and incoming chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, wrote in the Orlando Sentinel.
"TSA has grown from 16,500 screeners to an army approaching 67,000 personnel," he wrote in a Dec. 26 guest column. "In Washington, D.C., TSA administrative staff this year includes 3,680 individuals making an average salary of $105,000 per year. Another 8,000-plus administrative positions have been created across the country. This was never the intent of Congress when the TSA was established."
Mica, who had a hand in establishing the TSA, complains that all of its security measures have come after a terrorist attack: Removing shoes followed the shoe bomber. No liquids followed a liquid-bomb plot. Pat-downs followed the underwear bomber.
And now our deficit-spending government is wasting millions of dollars checking our shorts. Instead of providing security, it is managing an increasingly stupid bureaucracy.
Mica proposes the TSA hire private companies to more efficiently handle passenger-screening efforts.
"Rather than operate a huge screening force and human-resources operation, TSA must refocus and direct its mission to develop and implement the best security protocols...while balancing the needs of travelers and?????? commerce," Mica wrote. "TSA would better invest its time and efforts by focusing on individuals who pose threats, elevating intelligence and setting standards that address current security risks."
Like more than 99% of travelers passing through the TSA's checkpoints, I am not an individual who poses a threat.
After officer Broren had his way with my body, he started fingering though my carry-on bag, containing pens, pads, cameras, recording equipment, a laptop, thumb drives, my iPod, an Amazon Kindle and wires for all this stuff.
My bag had already passed inspection in the TSA's X-ray machine, but since I was an "opt-out," every little device and wire had to be swabbed and tested for explosive residue, a process that took much longer than the pat-down.
But I didn't complain. Broren was just doing his job. He did it well. And America was safe--from me.
(Al's Emporium, written by Dow Jones Newswires columnist Al Lewis, offers commentary and analysis on a wide range of business subjects through an unconventional perspective. The column is published each Tuesday and Thursday at 9 a.m. ET. Contact Al at firstname.lastname@example.org or tellittoal.com)