I’ve just been to a horrible place. A place where sad-faced humans plod along in long lines like zombies; where smug authoritarians bark out commands; where the zombies do just as they’re told, fearing the consequences if they don’t.
Yes, my friends, I’ve just been to the airport.
It was bad enough when we only had to take off our shoes, jackets, coats and hats. And had to take out our computers and our little bottles of shampoo and tiny tubes of toothpaste so the men in women in uniform could make sure we weren’t smuggling anything on the plane that wasn’t allowed according to federal rules and regulations.
Now, as I have just learned, we must also take off our belts (no exceptions; doesn’t matter if they’re made of metal, leather, or flamingo feathers) and take our wallets out of our pockets — because the new high-tech machines demand we have nothing on us when they take a picture of our naked bodies.
The other day when the TSA guy told me I couldn’t walk through the metal detector until I put my wallet in a little round tray so it could go through the x-ray machine, I asked him, “What do you think is in this wallet that might do harm to people on an airplane?” Call me curious.
With the new high-tech machine – which he pointed to – you can’t have a wallet in your pocket or a belt on your pants. “But nobody is going through the new machine. We’re all going through the old metal detector machine.”
Yes, he said, but what happens if the old metal detector machine breaks? Then you’re going to have to go through the new high-tech machine. Yeah, and if I had wheels I’d be a trolley car.
When I got through security, a pilot for a major airline – who was also disgusted since he practically had to get undressed before they let him through security – started a conversation with me about how ridiculous the system is. “You know what TSA stands for?” he asked me. Figuring it wasn’t what I thought, I said no, what? “Thousands Standing Around,” he said.
Look, I’m all for security. We’re all for security. And I know the TSA folks mean well. But, come one, don’t they remind you of Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife on the old Andy Griffith TV show? Barney would go after old ladies jaywalking with the same vigor he would go after a serial killer, if one ever stumbled into Mayberry. Same with the TSA people. An 85 year old grandma from Des Moines gets the full pat down if they find a knitting needle in her bag. Does this make sense? And why do I think a 22 year old man from Yemen would have an easier time getting through security, even if he was singing the al-qaeda national anthem as he walked through either the old metal detector or the new high-tech machine that wasn’t working the day I went to the airport.
There’s got to be a better way, but don’t count on the TSA to come up with it. A better system might mean fewer TSA agents, and we couldn’t have that, now could we?
So here are a few ideas I came up with – not all involve security, but they would all make traveling a little easier – for me, which is who I care about most:
1. Give the pilots a tamper-proof ID card and then let them walk right on through the security checkpoint no matter how much conditioner they’re carrying aboard. Think about it: THESE GUYS ARE FLYING A JET PLANE FILLED WITH FUEL. THEY CAN FLY IT INTO THE GROUND IF THAT’S WHAT THEY WANT TO DO. Who cares how much conditioner – or toothpaste, or shampoo, or deodorant – they’re taking on the plane.
2. If you’re a frequent flier – if the airline knows your name, address, phone number, place of employment, and all that – you should be able to pass through security with a minimum of hassle; you should not have to wait in the long zombie line. This will reduce congestion. Memo to TSA and airlines: Come up with an idea. It can’t be that complicated.
3. Since there is no smoking allowed on planes, it only makes sense that there should be no babies allowed on planes. Okay, not all planes. But some flights should be baby-free. They cry and annoy me.
4. Airline agents in the gate area should be prohibited — by federal law punishable by time in the Big House — from telling passengers to get ON the plane. My name isn’t Evel Knievel. Tell me to get IN the plane. (I thank my pal, the late George Carlin for that one.)
5. Make it illegal for flight attendants to say, “This is a VERY full flight.” There are no degrees of full. A flight is either full or it isn’t. If they’re that sloppy with the language, how can I be sure they’re going to get my drink order right?
Okay, that’s all I have time for right now. I have to go to the airport. And if any TSA person is reading this, I don’t know who got into my computer to write such hateful stuff.