I made it! No thanks to the TSA.

2003-10-20 20:04

TSA. Transportation Safety Administration. Imagine people who have been tasked with making everyone feel safe. They can’t do a damn thing about the real problem. This is partially because it’s already been done; everyone knows that you don’t cooperate with hijackers now. That solves it. If we’d known that, 9-11 would have been the day a few people got killed – maybe even one whole plane.

Instead, they focus on stupid stuff. I mean stupid. I don’t mean a little questionable. I don’t mean non-obvious. I mean stupid.

They informed me that a “2 phillips screwdriver bit was not allowed to be in my unchecked baggage. This is stupid.

What’s really scary is the massive, widespread, total incompetence.

Person #1: You have to take this to the business desk and mail it to yourself.
Person #2: The business desk isn’t open. Just have the airline hold it for you.
Person #3: The airline can’t hold it, sorry.
Person #4: Just have them give you a box and send it as a second piece of checked baggage.
Person #5: Sure, here’s a box. We’re not responsible if it’s damaged. (To understand the hilarity of this, try to understand that we’re talking about a small and mostly indestructible plastic case holding a couple of small bits of high quality steel.)
Person #6: Oh, no, they’re not supposed to have given you a box. I guess it’s nice that they did, but it’s against policy.

I don’t think more than two of these people can have been correct. Certainly, the policy is all random. They do all sorts of things which are well past “stupid” into “imbecilic”. Because of the guy with the shoe bombs, they metal-detect shoes. Were the bombs metallic? No. But they metal-detect shoes. And then they make you take them off, and they metal-detect your feet, in case you have a DEADLY REPLACEMENT ANKLE!

Furthermore, the chances are that more people will die of disease spread by their requirement that you pace back and forth through the security area with no shoes (after standing in line and working up a good sweat) than will be saved by the hypothetical one-in-a-billion possibility that any of this will catch someone.

They’re very aggressive about checking ID. The people who did 9-11? They had ID. This wouldn’t even have slowed them down.

They finally relented and said you could bring nail clippers, given that you could BUY THEM INSIDE THE AIRPORT.

But they still sell wine and alcohol in glass bottles. On the plane. And give you tin cans.

A tin can is a hell of a lot more dangerous than my #2 Philips bit. Crinkle it until it cracks, tear carefully, and you have an edge you can cut yourself with.

Idiocy.

It’s all about trying to make us feel good. Frankly, I felt better when I could kiss my spouse goodbye before I got on the plane, and when I could make it through the airport at 5AM in under an hour. I was no more in danger then than I am today. Indeed, today, I’m in a great deal more danger, because if someone does get a weapon onto an airplane, he’s gonna be the only guy with a weapon.

I’d rather we all have our pocket knives, and spent those billions of dollars on something productive. Between the cost of uniformed goons and the huge time-wastage… Wow.

Finally, there’s one other issue: There is no appeal. There is no authority, no chain of command, no anything. Any TSA agent can do anything. There’s no one to complain to, no one to ask about detailed policy. The policy about screwdriver tips was not in evidence anywhere in the airport that I looked, and I did spend some time looking. It’s a violation of law to “interfere” with the TSA. These people have a great deal of power, because they can deny you the ability to travel, and there are NO checks and balances.

I just wonder what happens if my wallet gets stolen while I’m in Hawaii. How am I supposed to get home? I only have one photo ID. I can’t get a new one here, either.

Competent people would have thought of this and posted a clear policy. We don’t have competent people; we have Big Government at it’s monumentally inefficient finest.

Special thanks to the nameless United clerk who, policy or no, let me check my screwdriver bits as baggage. Special non-thanks to the United people who said they couldn’t just hold it for me for a week. And special recognition of the total ego-involvement of the TSA person who, when I asked about a rule, said “You’re not security, we are.” That rule, to them, justifies everything. This makes them dangerous in a once-free society.

Peter Seebach

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