Image: Pat Downs
Pat Downs of Little Rock, Ark., posted on her Facebook page: "I am Pat Downs and I do not appreciate people not wanting me in their airports!"
By contributor
updated 11/23/2010 7:37:25 PM ET 2010-11-24T00:37:25

It was bound to happen. A quiet backlash is brewing amongst the people who love Pat Downs, enjoy Pat Downs and, gadzooks, have even become parents because of loving encounters with Pat Downs.

Talk about invasive procedures.

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“I absolutely adore my Pat Downs,” says Jim Downs, who in a 1972 act of holy matrimony turned his beloved fiancee into something an increasing number of fidgety travelers denounce with venom.

He turned a perfectly respectable Pat Reed into Pat Downs.

Slideshow: Airport Body Searches (on this page)

“I turned on the news the other day and saw scrolling across the bottom, ‘People Angry About Pat Downs at the Airport,’ and I thought, ‘I don’t remember angering anyone at the airport,’” says Pat Downs, an Avenel, Md., secretary.

News reports late Monday indicated the government intends to reduce the number of pat-downs, something that ought to make a number of confused and frightened Pat Downses flee for the border.

Thanks to the TSA’s intimate security measures, pat-downs have overnight become a national punching bag. They do pat-down skits on "Saturday Night Live." Cable news channels air experts debating the efficacy of pat-downs at the airport. And at coffee shops, taverns, and hair salons across the nation, the topic of pat-downs has become a conversational lightning rod.

Video: Passengers pressed to boycott TSA screenings (on this page)

Well, let’s clear the air.

Pat Downs everywhere
First of all, there are Pat Downs in nearly every town in America. Pat Downs delivers your mail in Toledo. She teaches piano in Spokane. You could be sitting right next to a genuine Pat Downs on a bus and never even know it.

They’re just like the rest of us.

Slideshow: Holiday Travel (on this page)
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“I put on my Facebook page the other night, ‘I am Pat Downs and I do not appreciate people not wanting me in their airports!’” says Pat Downs, a 48-year-old systems administrator for a Little Rock, Ark., general contractor.

She said the onslaught of news stories about pat-downs has put a focus on a name that for years had been unburdened by any snickering notoriety.

“A friend of mine, I’ve known him for years, never made any connection about my name until he saw ‘Pat Downs’ in a headline,” she says. “Now, he thinks it’s hilarious.”

Others, like 33-year-old Pat Downs of Toledo, Ohio, was so enamored with the name’s connotations he almost let it dictate his career.

“Honest, I almost went into law enforcement because I wanted to be known everywhere I went as Officer Pat Downs,” he says. “Instead I became a mailman for the U.S. Postal Service.”

Now he’s postman Pat Downs, something that goes far beyond the normal job description.

Whenever he wants to avoid hearing predictable jokes, he simply introduces himself as Patrick Downs so most people fail to making the obvious connection.

Pat Downs on pat-downs
Of course, some of those who love their Pat Downs will hasten to inform others that they are getting their "pat downs" from the real thing.

Story: Why travelers hate new TSA screenings

“I’m a mechanic and I heard the guys talking about pat-downs and I told them I know everything there is to know about Pat Downs,” says Jim Downs, 68. “She’s the mother of my two children. I’ve loved her since the day we met. When people say they hate pat-downs, I tell them they’ve never met my Pat Downs. I’m a lucky man to have Pat Downs in my life.”

As for the crux of the debate, Pat Downs it seems are, like the rest of us, divided on pat-downs.

“I disagree with the procedure,” says the Toledo Pat Downs. “I know these guys have a job to do and are only getting paid about $12 an hour. I’m sure they’re not thrilled about it either. But I don’t think they should be able to use the front of their hands or come that close to the private parts. I wouldn’t want them doing that to my daughter.”

Story: TSA workers face verbal abuse from travelers

Little Rock Pat Downs, however, disagrees. “I don’t really see the problem,” she says. “It’s done in public and not in a private area behind closed doors. If it prevents anyone from getting on a plane with a bomb, then I’m for it. It makes me feel safer. We’ve already had one underwear bomber so it’s not like this is something someone just dreamed up.”

So let’s hope that clears up some misconceptions and restores some civility to a debate about what we have to expect from Pat Downs — “a delicious barbecue chicken for one thing,” according to Jim Downs. “She’s a great cook, but that chicken’s outstanding.”

And then there’s this: Of all the Pat Downs surveyed for this story, not a one of them confessed to an urge to spend a long day going from one garage sale to another to browse over tables of stuff you no longer want.

In short, Pat Downs don’t want anything to do with your junk.

© 2013  Reprints

Video: Air pressure: TSA braces for security bottleneck

  1. Transcript of: Air pressure: TSA braces for security bottleneck

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Turning to domestic news of this season now. The pressure is on. Tomorrow is the final travel day before Thanksgiving . That means the roads will be crowded, yes, but also the skies. Crowded as it is, every icon on this map is an aircraft going somewhere. And this Thanksgiving travel season passengers are confronted with new security procedures at a lot of airports, including those full body scans and full body pat-downs. Tomorrow also may include some slowdowns. And we get more tonight from NBC 's Pete Williams . Pete , good evening.

    PETE WILLIAMS reporting: Brian , TSA says air travel is up about 3 percent from what it was last year, but the big test does come tomorrow with calls for passengers to opt out of those full body scanners and demand pat-downs, which could clog up the system. It's a simple case of arithmetic. It takes about 30 seconds on average to go through a full body scanner, but a pat-down can take two or three minutes. Multiply that by the high volume of passengers and it could seriously slow down screening. That's what those calling for a national opt-out day so they could pressure TSA to back off the new rules.

    Mr. JAMES BABB (National Opt-Out Day Advocate): The groping line might get longer, but the X-ray line should be wide open. So what we want to do is put them in a position where they must accommodate travelers that refuse to be abused.

    P. WILLIAMS: Homeland Security officials urge passengers to get to the airport early; but some fliers are pushing back, calling opt-out day an act of selfishness.

    Mr. KENT SCHEIDEGGER It 's all well and good to exercise your right to free speech , but I think it is just cruel to exercise it in a way and on a day that's going to maximize the harm to innocent people.

    P. WILLIAMS: Some are opting out for other reasons, like this family, taking the train from New York to Harrisburg , Pennsylvania , concerned about how their autistic son would react to a pat-down.

    Ms. SANDY SZUMILOSKI (Mother): We just thought the pat -- is just -- it would be a nightmare, especially because kiddos like him don't like to be touched often.

    P. WILLIAMS: For now, the man in charge of the Transportation Security Administration says he has no plans to back off the new procedures, which he calls essential to keep something like an underwear bomb off airplanes. But he says the pat-downs might be modified to make them less intrusive if testing shows they can be just as effective.

    Mr. JOHN PISTOLE (Transportation Security Administration Administrator): I can't give a timeframe other than to say we're doing this with all due haste and urgency because we know there's a lot of concerns, but we also know the terrorists are trying to kill us.

    P. WILLIAMS: Of the 36 million passengers who've flown since the new rules went into effect, about 2,000 have filed complaints. But a new Gallup Poll out tonight says 71 percent of frequent fliers think the loss of privacy is

    worth it to prevent terrorism. Brian: Pete Williams at Reagan National Airport in Washington again tonight.


Data: Where are the scanners?

Photos: Airport Body Searches

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  1. (Terry "Aislin" Mosher / The Montreal Gazette, Canada, Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Terry "Aislin" Mosher / The Montreal Gazette, Canada,
    Above: Slideshow (6) Airport Body Searches
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    Slideshow (6) Holiday Travel


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