Friday, 12 August 2005

The joys of air travel - The Report

Yesterday morning, my lovely bride dropped me off at the C terminal of DFW International. I entered, and made my way to the seats by the door. I proceeded to divest myself of all metallic objects, putting them in the side pocket of my carry-on, the only piece of luggage I had. I wore a t-shirt, cargo shorts, and sandals, my outfit designed to minimize my setting off the metal detector.

I then proceeded to the self-serve kiosks to get my boarding pass. As noted, I had reserved the ticket on Wednesday night. I was able to pay for it Thursday morning before leaving the house, but didn’t get the confirmation e-mail before we needed to get on the road. My credit card couldn’t be read by the kiosk, so I proceeded to the service desk to see a ticket agent.

Surprisingly, there was no line, and after navigating the maze of crowd-control stanchions, I walked right up to the next available agent. I showed him my driver’s license, explained the kiosk wasn’t reading my credit card, and I needed my boarding pass. He noted the kiosks seemed to do that quite a bit, punched up my flight info, printed the boarding pass, and off I went to yield myself to a full body cavity search.

Shockingly, I did not set off the metal detector. Apparently, this is now a bad thing. I was asked to step in to the next line inside the security area, and the TSA agent requested my boarding pass, which I handed over. He then informed me I had been flagged “for additional security procedures.” Of course I was, I remarked.

After all, I had booked a one-way ticket to the party capital of the South—if not the entire United States—the night before, and paid for it that morning. Would it not be tragic if I managed to get past the flight attendants, any number of large, American males who wouldn’t allow the aircraft they’re on to be hijacked, the hijack-proof door mandated by the airlines since 9/11, and the two flight crew members, hijack the MD-80, and crash it in to Bourbon Street? Where would the populace spend their hard-earned money to travel to so they could get just as liquored up as they could at home? Perhaps worse yet, what if I flew the plane in to the SuperDome, denying the Saints a venue in which to lose to any number of possible opponents? Can you tell I so miss living there? Note to the flying populace: the code for additional security checks is apparently “SSSS” and is noted in the upper left and lower right of your airport-printed boarding pass.

The TSA agent asked me to point out my bag coming off the x-ray conveyor, which I did, and he handed me off to another agent. Agent #2 walked me up to the GE EntryScan, a device slightly larger and taller than a phone booth. Upon entering, you stand on the footprints, and four separate air jets blast a squirt of air on you. You stand there for a few seconds until you see the green lights, declaring your person explosive- and hazardous powder-free, and you’re free to step forward, and out of the booth. Agent #2 then asked me to have a seat while he searched my bag.

I slurped down the last of my Chick-Fil-A sweet tea, which was all that was left of my breakfast, and we made idle chat while he dug through the bag and ran the testing-for-explosives wand around. He noted the thinline NIV copy of the Bible that goes with me when I travel—usually in my computer backpack, which I did not have this time—remarking, “Good book. I’m in the process of reading it completely through for the ninth time.” A couple of minutes later, he was finished, after checking my iPod and Canon S500. He repacked the bag nearly exactly as he found it, zipped up the three compartments, and handed it over, thanking me for my patience.

This was by far the most pleasant “additional security screening” I’ve endured to date.

My gate was just across the way from the security checkpoint, so I settled in to a chair, reached in to the right-side cargo pocket of my shorts, and pulled out my mobile phone. Yep, I had forgotten to take it out, and it had not set off the metal detector.

So much for airport security.

posted on August 12, 2005 10:22 PM




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