How to waste an hour at Tampa Airport TPA

Tell security you don’t want to go through their cancer machine. It may not waste an hour, but it will definitely use up some time.

After my easy run through security at LaGuardia where there were no full body scanners at the Delta terminal, I was surprised to see one at  Tampa Airport.  Intrigued as I was to try it out, I had decided early on when they first appeared in airports that I would rather not expose myself to more radiation, and opt for the pat down.

Full body scanner

The American Nuclear Society advises:

We live in a radioactive world – humans always have. Radiation is part of our natural environment. We are exposed to radiation from materials in the earth itself, from naturally occurring radon in the air, from outer space, and from inside our own bodies (as a result of the food and water we consume). This radiation is measured in units called millirems (mrems). The average dose per person from all sources is about 620 mrems per year. It is not, however, uncommon for any of us to receive less or more than that in a given year (largely due to medical procedures we may undergo). International Standards allow exposure to as much as 5,000 mrems a year for those who work with and around radioactive material.

There is a dose chart on their website that lists activities with the amount of radiation exposure associated with each. I have heard experts say we should not worry about the amount of radiation from full body scanners and that, after all, we get radiation simply from flying in a plane. That was news to me. I learned from the dose chart that we are exposed to 0.5 mrem per hour in the air when we fly. We get twice that amount when we view a TV or computer screen which uses CRT technology. We get 16 mrem per year if we live in a state that borders the Gulf or Atlantic coasts, 63 mrem if we live in the Colorado Plateau area, and 30 mrem anywhere else in the continental U.S. The numbers go way up with xrays and CT scans.

BANANAS HAVE RADIATION? (by Elembis/WikiCommons)

While I could not find my answer to how much radiation one receives in a full body scanner from the American Nuclear Society website, I got a chuckle when I googled my question. I typed: ‘How much radiation is in‘ and before I could finish the question, several suggestions popped up, one of which was ‘How much radiation is in a banana.’ All of a sudden, I needed to know. You can click on this explanation from Wikipedia and then please explain it to me, because I don’t have the patience to figure it out.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced in March that it would retest every full-body X-ray scanner that emits ionizing radiation — 247 machines at 38 airports — after maintenance records on some of the devices showed radiation levels 10 times higher than expected. The TSA says that the records reflect math mistakes and that all the machines are safe. I don’t know if the retesting has been completed, but just the fact that ‘math mistakes’ were involved make me not trust anything they say. Even though it appears that the radiation exposure in a full body scanner is minuscule, I’ll choose the pat down. Maybe it will be fun.

Once I announced to the screener at Tampa Airport that I would not go through the scanner, he had to make a call to find someone to give me a pat down. Evidently, not many people opt to be groped.  After I waited a few moments, a female patter-downer arrived and apologized repeatedly while she explained the process every step of the way. In reality, it was no big deal. She used the back of her hand lightly over my clothing. I thought, “This is what everyone is making a huge fuss about?” and enjoyed my time with her.

TAMPA AIRPORT (by Dustin Coates/WikiCommons)

Getting back to wasting an hour at TPA – It’s a nice, clean-looking airport with many shops and restaurants. I strongly suggest travelers spend their waiting time in the Landside Building where there is much more activity.   An hour or more can definitely be spent in this area.  Click Here for map.

TAMPA AIRPORT LANDSIDE BUILDING (by James G Howes/WikiCommons)

Food available: Baja Fresh/Brioche Doree/Zia’s, Burger King, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, TGI Friday’s, and Starbucks. Shops: Author’s Bookstore, Bijoux Terner (fashion and travel accessories), Brookstone (gadgets), Cole’s Hair Cuts, Destination Time, DogEWorks, Florida Shop, Harley Davidson, InMotion Entertainment, Mindworks (toys), Pacific Outfitters, Port of Call, Ron Jon Surf Shop, News Central, Sports Scene, Sunglass International, and Talie (jewelry). There is also a Marriott Hotel with several restaurants and the following shops: Monocle Bookstore, Top T’s Clothing & Accessories, Nathan’s Accessories (travel toys/games, cosmetics), Shalimar’s (jewelry), Kid’s Store & Flowers (strange combo), Tampa Gifts & News, UPS, and SunTrust Bank.

Delta is housed in the Airside E section of the airport where there is not much to do and the food selection is abysmal. I ended up getting a disgusting slice of pizza, which was really six pieces, sold as one slice. I threw out 90 percent of it.

Restaurants in Airside E are: DaVinci’s Cafe (“the home of disgusting pizza”), Starbucks, Casa Bacardi, and The Great American Bagel. The shops are: Tampa Bay, Bijoux Terner, I-Tech, and there’s a Duty-Free Shop.

My flight back home on Delta was good, and eventful only in that the stewards never announced when it was time to put seats forward and tray tables up upon entry into LaGuardia airspace. They never came around to check either. When we landed, many passengers still had their seats back and tables down. However, all was well. It was a smooth landing, we got home safe and the trip was a success

August 3, 2011

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