Someone noticed that box cutters could be used as a weapon, and that airplanes could be used as a weapon. We can’t undo that. But do they think that any of the security theater has an impact on real safety. How stupid are they? Or more to the point: how stupid do they think we are?
A trip to LA. No problem at the Buffalo Airport: my wife and I go through the automatic check-in, show our boarding passes and ID at the security check point, go through X-ray, and board the plane. In Cleveland, we switch planes. Before the doors close, someone comes to our row and says he has a ticket for my seat. Happens all the time: obviously, he is mistaken. I pull out my boarding pass — no, wait, it’s my wife’s boarding pass. The other one must be… also my wife’s boarding pass. I look back at the last two boarding passes, and they too are identical. So, I’ve managed to get through security in Buffalo (obviously, my ID and the ticket did not match), as well as board two planes, basically without a valid ticket. The US Air flight attendant: “Oh, sometimes this sort of thing happens. Don’t worry about it.”
On the return flight, I’m going through the security maze at LAX, and get pulled aside. I am used to this. I am clearly a flight risk. I think bad thoughts sometimes. I look to the right and can’t see my laptop. I start toward it and the TSA agent tells me to stop. I explain that I came in with a laptop, and it is not there now. She says, of course it is, right behind your bag. I feel dumb. I still can’t see it, because to do so I would have to leave my zone of permission, but I trust that it is there. “Why are you so paranoid?” she asks, accusingly.
I stand in the same spot for about five minutes. They have no space to search me. She makes a lame attempt at conversation, “One way ticket, huh?”
“Nope,” I say, “returning whence I came.” (No, I don’t use the word whence, at least not with TSA agents, but you get the idea.)
“What do you mean? You are on a one-way flight.”
“No,” I assure her, “my wife and I,” (I gesture to my wife who is very patiently waiting on the other side of security), “are returning home. We flew here just a couple of days ago, on round-trip tickets.”
I debated telling her the truth, but quickly thought the better of it. If they learned that I had evaded their crack security (or is that security on crack?) in the first direction, no doubt they would consider me even more dangerous this time around.
The agent darts over and asks someone how she (my wife) got through. This is an absolutely idiotic question. They have no idea who she is; after all, she cleared security ten minutes ago, flagless.
Eventually, they put me into the search, where I am poked and prodded (why yes! those are my testicles!) by a latex-gloved professional poker & prodder. If they wore all latex, and carried whips, this whole process would be a lot more amusing, and a lot less humiliating and annoying. The whole search takes another fifteen minutes since my prodder, I kid you not, has run out of fresh latex gloves and has to go and find another one. I while away the time thinking up witty remarks that, if uttered, would put me on the “do not fly” list. When I grow bored with that, I think of all the ways I could hide bladed instruments in my carry-on — as part of the computer, in the extendible metal handle of the roll-aboard, as part of a razor, in a car seat — not to mention how easily I could conceal a taser, baton, or aerosol. I watch a security person punch in the code at the door, a code that anyone with acceptable vision now knows. (Next time you are at the airport, see how long it takes you to learn the code simply by sitting next to a door on the jetway.)
And I think. If I were a terrorist, I think I would buy a round-trip ticket. I think I would charge it on my American Express card. If they scribbled an S on my boarding pass, I think I would probably choose not to fly that day. I wouldn’t board at LAX, I’d board in Albany or any of a dozen airports where the screeners would rather do anything in the world but actually pay attention to their X-ray machines. Or, I would shoot the plane out of the sky with a shoulder-launched missile. Or, I would fly a private plane into a large airport (say, JFK), park at an FBO, and walk across the tarmac to a restricted area. I’m not a criminal mastermind; any half-wit like myself realizes that this is what is necessary if you want to attack another plane. Yet we support this crap in our airline terminals.
I’ve said it before, America. Suck it up. Walk it off.