7.17.2006

Bring it Back: Non-Homicidal Rage-Inducing Trips to Airports...

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Please place all of your patience, sanity, and shoes into the plastic containers...

In honor of my departure on Tuesday for a brief sojurn to the midwest, I have decided to do a little bit of a travel theme for the next couple of days...

Let's face it, a trip to the airport is something that has never been joyous. At least for me, anyway. It involves a lot of walking, a lot of waiting, and if you're unlucky enough, running and more waiting when you realize that your flight has either changed gates at the last minute, has been delayed, or there was a snafu with the ticketing. All three scenarios have happened to me in the past, and although I never required an injecting of thorazine to help relax my grip around the neck of some hapless airline agent, I've at least imagined the scenario enough times for it to become theraputic in instances where my young children have been assigned seats three rows apart from me, or when I- a 6' tall behemoth of a woman who already has a slight disdain for flying- have been placed in the very back row of an over-booked jet.

Be all that as it may, I think it's safe to assume that flying in the last five years has become even more of a hair-raising experience, due to the advent of tighter security measures. Ones which, in my opinion, do nothing more than create an illusion of safety rather than safety itself. Of course, if the goal was to create a buereaucratic agency that functions like the American government itself- bloated, slow, expensive, and incredibly inefficient and ineffective- then the feds had an incredible success with implementing the Transportation Safety Administration.

Perhaps the most faithful adherent to the aforementioned adjectives that I've been subjected to is Port Columbus International Airport, where after you finish checking in at the ticket counter, you have to turn right back around with all of your baggage (and if you're travelling with children fresh from a trip with grandparents who have increased the weight of said baggage by about 100 pounds, give or take an ounce, this is REALLY fun) and manually feed your suitcases through a giant MRI machine before they will check it for you. Joyful in and of itself before you proceed to the security checkpoint where the regular ritual of shoe removal, laptop opening, I.D./ticket juggling- and if you're lucky- a totally random search of every speck of your belongings and person ensues.

The ultimate nightmare is if you make a wrong turn while trying to get to a connecting flight (in one of the world's largest airports, for instance) and have to go BACK through security a second time. Trust me when I say that this is the one time in which I begin to wonder if there is the existence of a higher being, because I have no idea what else holds my murderous desires at bay. It is also perhaps a miracle that American airports have not become terrorist training grounds in and of themselves. If it takes desperation and rage to breed terrorists, a trip to the Middle East might not actually be necessary.

Regardless of whether or not what happens at airports now has benefitted travellers in the longrun (I just won't go there right now), I feel the need to lament on what used to make these trips more bearable. Such as the warm, happy feeling of seeing your loved one step right off the jetway, and the safe reassurance you used to be able to feel whenever you could see them walk onto the plane and then stay to watch it taxi the runway. It definitely would have been a help when travelling alone with children to be able to have those extra hands available as well. Although, to be fair, my mom was able to get a special pass to accompany me to the gate the last time I did this. So the reigns are being loosened a little in some instances.

But then you have the over-priced food, broken air conditioning (yes, I'm talking about YOU, Dallas/Ft. Worth), crowded trams, the absence of those really handy moving walkways when you REALLY need one, etc etc.

At least this time, I will be travelling alone. I will have only my baggage to worry about and plenty of reading material and my iPod to keep me entertained. No strollers, child-sized carry on, and kid's shoes to feed through the conveyor belt.

Seattle-Tacoma International will be hard-pressed to make a terrorist out of me, at least this time.

11 comments:

  1. I am scheduling a flight to Lebanon for a little R and R...I hear Beirut is lovely this time of year.

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  2. Be all that as it may, I think it's safe to assume that flying in the last five years has become even more of a hair-raising experience, due to the advent of tighter security measures. Ones which, in my opinion, do nothing more than create an illusion of safety rather than safety itself.

    As a former airline employee, I know of many of the holes that used to exist pre-9/11. One of the most disturbing gaps was the many different ways you can get onto the tarmac without proper identification or authorization. The safety precautions that are in place today, in response to the terrorist attacks, are insufficient to plug all of those holes.

    That said, I cannot think of a single precuation that has been taken that doesn't help. So I dunno if I'd characterize it as a false sense of security, because airports are more secure. It's just incomplete.

    Frankly, it'll never be 100% - but anyone with half a brain knows that it can never be 100%. You can make a weapon out of anything in a pinch. Confiscating nail clippers doesn't remove all potential weapons from aircraft. Nothing will ever take the place of observant passengers who are alert and able to subdue a threat.

    It'd also help to defuse the hot tempers that make people want to crash an aircraft into a building. Says something about the human condition that people actually need to be tempered to not do acts like that. I'm going to laugh a lot if/when we find examples of terrorism outside of our species, but it will make me feel a little better about ourselves.

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  3. I agree, flying is terrible, except the planes go so fast. I do think, though, that Transportation Safety Admin. employees are much better than the rent-a-butts who did the security screening before TSA took over. They were rarely even half awake, they were rude, disinterested, and slack. I agree that almost all of what the TSA insists on for airport screening is intended to create the appearance of security, rather than the actuality. Still, the grunts actually doing the work do a much better job of working the rules that they didn't write than the private security staff they replaced.

    Have a pleasant journey.

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  4. It's a shame I can't be standing at the gate with my teen girl cowboy hat and ridiculous bejeweled copper shades when you step off the gangplank : )

    Hope your travels are memorable in a good way - I'm holding out that you get an extra baglet of pretzels!

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  5. You know how I feel about D/FW. That place is evil incarnate.

    However, traveling alone after traveling with kids sounds pretty nice, even with all the hassle. Have a great time!

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  6. Greg- I think you nailed it on the head when you said we will never be 100% safe. I just have a hope that eventually things will be condensed a little more to help things run a little more quickly/smoothly. The thing that makes me feel like things are an illusion is reading the stories of people who slip through the cracks. Or of babies who have the unfortunate coindicence of sharing the name of someone on the no-fly list and all the fun that ensues after that.

    Chris- You know I'd so be all over that shit! hahahahah

    Mike- good point about the private folks vs the fed employees. I will say that the security process has improved in some areas over the last couple years. But airports in general still piss me off. LOL

    Matt- Enjoy your Beirut holiday. I hear the night life there is pretty boomin! ;)

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  7. I'm flying on Wednesday, with two kids AND a MIL (not sure if that will will be a help or hindrance, strike that, pain in the ass.) The few plane trips I've made without kids since I've had them have been like a trip to the spa in comparison! Have a great trip! Wish you a speedy trip through security! Oh, and I really want to take my knitting with me on the plane, but don't think I can. You know, my little double-point wooden needles would be confiscated because they're as dangerous as a ball-point pen. But you can't take the pens away because people would riot!

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  8. Our airports will never be safe while we live with the constant threat of Bears!

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  9. Okay, two words for ya: strip search. Been there, 4 years ago, I will never forget my grandfather's funeral. I made a mental note to NEVER wear a button fly to the airport. At least there wasn't a cavity search. No one say anything!

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  10. Some people are rather partial to my home airport near the city of Pittsburgh. I can't say I have had one bad experience there... just sayin'...

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