Monday, July 29, 2002

A day (or two) at the airport

George McGovern writes Flying the Unfriendly Skies:

[W]hat terrifies me at the airports now is not the terrorists or drunks. It is the fear that I won't be able to get through all the checkpoints, or that my car will be seized for parking within a mile of the airport, or that I will have forgotten my identity card, or that I'll forget one of my shoes while my toes are being examined for explosives, or that my foot odor will offend some examiner and get me arrested as a public nuisance.
I do not fly all that often (well, other than a ride on my motorcycle). Indeed, I haven't flown for well over a decade. But last month I put my daughter on an airliner for a trip to Colorado to see her dearest friend in the known universe. Oy, the little Nazis they have working security, made more so by the stark contrast with the dear souls working the check-in counters (unlike McGovern's experience). What they saw was a dad putting his daughter on an airliner, entrusting her life (and his sanity) to them. What the little boot clicker at the security checkpoint saw was a big bald man, armed with a wallet and set of car keys (and nothing else): "Take off your shoes!"

She made the experience all the more wonderful by groaning in exasperation, standing with feet shoulder-width apart, and lecturing us all, "People, people! Listen up! ..." And she gave instructions on how to approach and be properly processed. I looked around -- in vain -- for where these instructions might be printed. I suppose we should have known the proper method of approach instinctively, like breathing.

No doubt she, the lady running the security check-in point, feels a certain sense of job security. She is, after all, now a Federall employee, with the glorious benefit of being protected by Civil Service. She is, in short, fire-proof. No wonder she was rude; no motivation to be otherwise.

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