I, like many people, traveled by airplane during my spring break this year.
I took two flights: one from Chicago-O'Hare to Pittsburgh and then the return flight from Pittsburgh to Chicago.
Overall, the travel part of my trip (taken with my dad) was uneventful. No delays or lost luggage or faulty rental cars or messed-up hotel reservations. No, all of the service providers that my dad and I dealt with were generally quick, professional and gave great value for money. This included two airlines, a rental car company, a hotel and a mobility equipment rental company.
There was one entity, though, that colored each travel experience, making it unpleasant, tense and nerve-wracking.
This entity was, as you might have guessed, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
You can choose your airline, rental car provider and hotel. You cannot pick to NOT deal with the TSA. If you want to fly inside or from the USA, you have to go through a TSA checkpoint at the airport.
I have had bad experiences before with the TSA and this trip was no different. The web is resplendent with TSA horror stories; just Google-search "TSA sucks" and see what you come up with.
At O'Hare, I had no trouble apart from having to remove my shoes and jacket (as I suspected I would have to). My dad was a different story.
He went through the checkpoint in a wheelchair. Apparently, this marks the person as an immediate threat and subject to additional search. They made my dad remove his shoes and belt, two things that are not easy for him (or anyone) to do while seated. He then was made to walk through the metal detector, trying to keep his pants up.
I guess they didn't realize that he was in a wheelchair for a reason. It was embarassing, demeaning and (seeing as they have hand-held metal detectors) seemingly unnecessary.
On our return trip, it was I who had problems with the TSA. My dad was taken into a side examination room where he didn't have to walk, holding his pants and trying to walk. That was the good part.
The confusing part came when I removed my shoes (not my jacket: apparently jackets are only dangerous when one departs from O'Hare, not when one arrives there), put my bag on the conveyor belt and walked through the metal detector.
I went to retrieve my bag and, well, reassemble myself, when a TSA screener picked up my bag, looked at me like Dirty Harry and turned the contents out on the table in front of him.
Now, just for the sake of completeness, I will recount the exact contents of the bag: A book, some crossword puzzles from the newspaper, a file folder containing documents pertaining to our trip, a package of Juicy Fruit gum and three sealed, bottled beverages (Diet Dr. Pepper and two bottles of spring water). Pretty dull stuff, right?
The TSA Charles Bronson wannabe gathered the bottles up, shook his head at me like one would at a dog who pissed on the carpet, put them behind his counter and shoved the contents of the bag back toward me. I gathered up my legal carry-on items and left the area before I said something stupid (which can be almost anything around TSA screeners).
Apparently, my non-alcoholic, non-combustible liquids were off limits. I was interested in why this was, so I went to the TSA website to their list entitled, "Prohibited Items." No, nothing even close there. Thankfully, I packed my nunchucks, cattleprods, starter pistols and cricket bats in my checked baggage.
I then checked the list entitled, "Food and Beverages." There, I found a stock photo of a burger and fries and nothing more than a vague statement about items purchased inside the airport terminal.
I came to the conclusion that my items were taken unfairly or at least without adequate explanation. Well, I am not sure what I expected. Power-tripping, government-backed, uniformed thugs are never good at putting things into words.
So, to conclude, I have something to say to the TSA agents who made our trip and then to the TSA more generally.
To the handicapped-hassling, beverage-confiscating, jackbooted, pushy, unhelpful, inhumane government stooges in Chicago and Pittsburgh, I hope your day was made by embarassing a handicapped man in public and taking items that may not have been illegal. I also hope you fucking rot in the lowest level of hell.
To the TSA generally, I say you are no more than security theater. You are not there to protect people. You are there to make people think that they are protected. The real failure of airport security on 9/11 (where all of this TSA shit started) was that it worked too well and the hijackers just gamed the system.
The TSA serves the purpose of eye-wash, the visible portion of a security apparatus whose scope and remit we cannot begin to understand. The TSA is a bloated, inefficent, unwieldly government bureaucracy that serves its own interests first and the interests of the people a distant second. The only thing that they protect are their positions and salaries, each person from the airport screeners to the Secretary of Homeland Security engaging not in security but bureaucratic empire-building.
So, TSA, you do not make me feel safer. You do not convince me that you could stop the ever-evolving terrorist threat to our transport system. You do nothing but use your power to inconvienece and hassle people.
In other words, you are no different from any other branch of the government.
I want my dad's dignity back. I want my fucking pop back. I want my privacy back.
Don't bother trying, though. I know you are capable of no such things.
"Check the Box Sunday"
4 weeks ago