Everybody panic!

Warning: this is my little rant about the death of common sense – sorry, need to vent. We travelled internationally on Dec. 24th. As you may remember, that idiot Islamic extremist tried to explode his underwear a day or two later while en-route to the U.S. In spite of the fact that everyone acknowledged he acted alone and it was an isolated incident, the people in charge of the much-reviled TSA and/or Homeland Security (led by Janet Napolitano, who I used to like) did what government does best… jumped around, flailed its arms and screamed ‘Yaaaaaa – we’re fucked!!!’ Because they had to be perceived as doing something besides screaming and flailing, they also implemented a bunch of needless and idiotic new restrictions on airline flight into the U.S., such as:

  • no carry-on luggage, except women’s purses
  • no carry-0n by males, other than camera cases and notebook computers NOT in a case
  • pat-down searches
  • extra screening of checked luggage

So on the new years day return trip we had to check the same bags we carried on the first flight… in anticipation of a huge mess we arrived at the airport 3½ hours early, and weren’t disappointed. We flew U.S. Airways and were somewhat relieved to see there were only 30 or so people ahead of us in the check-in queue. However there were alternately just one or two agents working the counter, and it was quickly apparent the line was barely moving. It took us an hour and a half to finally get there, and then another 15 minutes to get our boarding passes and tag our bags. The women had purses, and Scott and I carried just our camera bags. My pockets were stuffed with iPod, PDA, etc. as I know how baggage handlers love shiny things. At other counters, equally-miserable travellers were required to re-pack their luggage on the fly.

After getting our boarding passes we lined up at the x-ray station so our checked bags could be screened – other hapless folks who had not planned quite as well as us were further divesting themselves of carry-on bags. Like the guy ahead of us who had to empty a slim computer bag containing a notebook and a bunch of loose papers – he checked the empty bag, and carried the armload of computer & papers. His comment to the screener was ‘Well, that’s convenient’ – I doubt I would have had similar restraint.

We then proceeded to the security checkpoint. In addition to the usual screening, we had a full-body pat-down and our undies were felt up, plus the bottoms of our sock feet inspected. Not far from us a little girl was crying because the security people took something away from her – don’t know what, but clearly she was a terror threat. However, a little boy of seven or eight breezed right through with a bulging backpack almost as big as he was. He was asian, as were the screeners – coincidence? Then it was off to the customs/immigration checkpoint where our passports were stamped and we were finally cleared to the gates. We barely had time to grab a sandwich before our flight boarded.

You may have noticed the checked bags were sent through before we cleared customs. This has never happened to me before, and I’m sure it was an unplanned side-effect of the new process to make us all ’safer’. In fairness, the airline and airport employees in this whole goat-rope were pleasant and cordial (likely because they were Canadians!) while many of the passengers were not. I guess my point is that if the terrorists’ goal is to disrupt air travel, then they won. Oh, and I hope that bastard burned his genitalia to a crisp.

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