Odds are, if you’re traveling back to wherever you came from for the holidays, you’re flying.
Harnessing the power of flight is arguably one of the best things the human race has ever accomplished. We can fly across the country in as little as six hours, a trip that would have taken days or weeks in the past.
It’s an amazing experience. You can skirt along the cloud tops at 500 miles an hour, never looking up from the movie you illegally downloaded the night before.
Unfortunately, to get to that point, you must pass through the gauntlet of airport security provided by the Transportation Security Administration.
Leave it to bureaucracy to destroy a beautiful gift.
I just flew to New Orleans last weekend for a music festival. The festival was amazing, and I had a great time. I could sum up the worst parts of my trips with various tales of airport security.
I always get to the airport way too early, to try to "beat security lines." This has led to mixed results, but luckily, on this trip I was bouncing between a few smaller airports so I didn’t actually have to wait a long time to feel the warm, inner-glow that comes from a TSA agent groping my inner thigh.
What’s up with that, anyway?
Not only does my carry-on bag travel down a conveyor through what looks like flux capacitor, but now I’m getting x-rayed, patted down, my hands are being tested for explosive residue and the whole time my belongings are just hanging out in the open.
I wouldn’t even mind if the TSA was any good at the jobs they attempt to do.
In 2015, the Department of Homeland Security started sending undercover agents through TSA security checkpoints with fake weapons. From the records they released, they performed 70 of these tests throughout airports across the country.
TSA agents failed to detect the fake weapons in 67 of those tests, a sky-high failure rate.
I, for one, find it hard to believe that someone with the minimum requirements of a GED, one year “security experience," and U.S. citizenship may not be fully qualified to run high-tech equipment like full-body x-ray machines.
I met Nicole McConnell, a woman who had just landed in Phoenix from Virginia, and asked about her thoughts on the full-body scanners.
"It's a little eerie, it almost feels invasive," McConnell said.
At least while I’m getting fondled and watching the soda I forgot I had in my backpack be thrown into the trash after being wiped for explosives, I have plenty of time to think about the $7 billion we spend on the TSA every year.
That’s almost enough to buy the Chicago Cubs six times over, and at least they won the World Series.
You’re also paying about $2.50 on every ticket you buy for the privilege of going through airport security.
I barely remember flying before 9/11. I remember being able to meet family at the gate as they got off the plane. In a sense, we were naïve. In another sense though, we were much more free in our travels.
"I remember being a little kid and being able to go into the cockpit," McConnell said "You can't do that anymore,"
There’s no question that 9/11 changed everything about airport travel and security. Even though he’s dead, I still have to curse Osama bin Laden every time I hear, “Could you step over here for extra screening? Your roll of pennies looks like a shotgun shell.” Full disclosure, that didn't happen to me on this trip; It actually happened when I was around 11 years old, which is actually more ridiculous.
We were scared, and we wanted security. It makes us feel safer, I guess. However, doesn’t that kind of fall apart when the entity you’re depending on for security fails basic checks 95 percent of the time? Is it worth being treated like human cattle as you’re poked and prodded for suspicious devices?
I would gladly give up airport screenings for something that could be more impactful, like more Federal Air Marshalls.
Usually, when I write a column, I do so with the idea that I have an opinion on something that has the potential to change. Maybe I could persuade a few people to also have an idea, write about things I believe in, and maybe things change for the better.
This isn’t one of those columns. This is life now. You’ll never get to meet grandma at the gate again, unless you take a 90-minute detour through security.
So, you know, happy holidays. Enjoy your flights.
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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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