Life is good when you’re pre-checked
January 16, 2014
I realize that I have spent an inordinate amount of time complaining in my last several columns. While life has been quite interesting over the last several months, too many of my recent columns have had a distinct whiney tone to them, and that's not really how I feel. Life is good, and it has been extra good to me lately.
Over the years I've written volumes complaining about the TSA and their ridiculous and insulting behavior while they routinely violate our rights every time we take a commercial flight. I realize now that I have been focusing on the warrantless and unreasonable search and seizure that they subject us to regularly and have failed to notice the humor performed by this collection of clowns in the circus of American airports.
Wait … did that sound harsh? My point is that if you stand back and look at it objectively, the spectacle of our preflight routine is really pretty funny. Think about it; we queue up in long lines looking bored and bothered as we wait to present our "papers" to the official who will decide if we get to proceed on the ride.
When we finally reach the front of the line, we approach the podium where a uniformed agent closely examines our driver's license for an activity that does not involve driving! When I get in my car to drive, no one checks to see if my license to operate a motor vehicle is valid and current. That's kind of funny … but wait, it get's better!
After the agent at the podium gives you back your boarding pass and driver's license you instantly go from the bored slow moving environment of the line to the frenzied and rushed world of the screening area. Suddenly, everyone is in a big hurry to strip off their belt and shoes, take their computer out of its bag and remove everything from their pockets. No one wants to be that person who uses four TSA totes and holds up the line.
One time I forgot to take off my jacket and held up the line while I embarrassedly went back for a fourth tote to put my coat in. Everyone else in line sighed, shook their heads and looked at each other with that disapproving, "Check out the rookie" expression on their faces … I was so humiliated.
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The pressure to perform in the screening area is overwhelming for some people. I've seen seasoned business travelers crack under the stress and absent-mindedly attempt to pass four ounces of shampoo through screening. Their shame is hard to witness.
The real humor often occurs on the "other" side of the TSA checkpoint … the promised land of the terminal gate areas! This is probably the only place in our society where you can see Americans of every social economic class walking shoeless with their boarding passes in their mouths, shirts partially tucked into their beltless pants as they try to carry their computers, purses, books, coats, backpacks and briefcases to the nearest bench to reassemble themselves.
It's a uniquely 21st-century American scene and it is, indeed, a comic sight if you just relax and laugh at the absurdity of it all.
You may wonder why a nonconformist like me would suddenly stop swimming upstream and give in to the TSA, the most obvious example of our lost freedoms … the answer is that I didn't give up the fight. Believe it or not the TSA finally gave up their fight against me!
I can't explain it, and I really don't care why it happened, but the TSA has quit requiring me disrobe, open my bag or even take off my coat! It's true! I've passed through TSA checkpoints three times in the last six days and I have been sent to the "pre-check" line.
I'm told that passengers are randomly sent to the pre-check line but it seems odd that I've been sent there three times in a row! I think these guys have heard of me and they finally realize who they are dealing with!
I'd like to think that but I really don't care. I'm traveling with my boss today and I felt imminently superior as I strolled unmolested through security and he was subjected to the pressure packed screening process … it was awesome!
I may never get pre-checked again but I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts. Like I said … life is good!
Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist.