Friday, February 17, 2012

The Only Good Thing About Airports Is...

A nun gets a pat-down at a security checkpoint


...All right, hold on... I'm still thinking.  There must be something more than just getting to go someplace you want to go, but it's all I'm coming up with, sorry to say.  No, wait: there's also meeting people you care about who are arriving and waiting for their luggage, or dropping people at the curb who you're pleased are leaving - but why then would you be doing them the favor or schlepping through traffic to take them there in the first place?  I'd say let's stick with the first two, since they're usually pleasant experiences.

An elderly cousin back East passed away a couple of weeks ago.  That's two family members and three close friends in the past five months, if you're keeping track. While I mourned his death (and will think of him often) I wasn't in a position to fly back there as some of my family did. I'll be meeting them at baggage claim in a handful of hours, and hearing tales of what was probably an entertaining memorial, knowing that branch of my family.  I do wish I could have been there, but it wasn't in the cards.

Decades of experience with this more than moderate airport drive has taught me to leave plenty of time for traffic and the unexpected, so I'll be at San Francisco International well ahead of schedule, and that'll allow me time to wander around, people watch and look longingly at the international departure check-in area - where I'll be in about a week, "if the good Lord's a-willin' and the creek don't rise," as a friend used to say.

Back to airports, though - travel since all of the security changes a decade ago just isn't all that pleasant an experience. Most anyone reading this remembers accompanying friends and family out to the boarding gate, having a little more visiting time and then saying the farewells.  I miss that, don't you?

It's discouraging to have to consider what some screener's going to think about what you're about to put into your suitcase, wondering if your carefully packed clothing and toiletries are going to be pawed through before you see them again, after they've been carried away on the conveyor belt behind the check-in counter.

I'd like to see scanning equipment that could view the contents of every suitcase, briefcase, purse and carry-on item as you walked through some sort of gate, without having to stop, open bags up, empty your pockets and take off your shoes.  Who's with me on this? If it caught something that shouldn't be on the plane then they would stop you somehow; maybe with a flying tackle, I don't know. Some kind of scanning reader that did no health damage and covered an area from the floor to 10 feet off the ground, so nothing would get by, unless some exceptionally tall person was walking through it carrying a small parcel raised over their head, and that might warrant a questioning.

It's baffling to me how so many people blithely carry prohibited items up to the security check points and then bitch to high heaven when said belongings are denied passage.  If airports nationwide sold off the pocket knives and other "weapons" alone by lot in auctions once a month it would probably raise enough revenue to make a measurable dent in the National Debt, but who knows where all of this stuff goes.  I'd like to think that the oversize or excess shampoo, liquid soap, toothpaste and the likes make their way somehow to homeless shelters where they could be put to use, but that's probably a rare occurrence, too.

Flying in an extremely dry environment like a plane calls for being hydrated before boarding, but now you have to buy it beyond the checkpoints, and paying three to five times the regular price for it.

It's just a screwy system that shows no sign of being righted within my lifetime, but so it goes. I mean no malice or disrespect to the people who do security work for a living, because that's what it is: a living. It certainly has taken the shine off of air travel for many - me included - but there we are, in our socks, shuffling through the oversize doorways one at a time.

Some of us will be doing it sooner than others, but it's definitely not a part of the journey I'm looking forward to.

1 comment:

ChristianPFC said...

I have not heard of inspection of checked baggage in Europe. I especially like (irony) the line "may have been forced to break the locks of your bag". I couldn't make this up if my life depended on it!