It has been quite a while. I’ve been out of town on my one year anniversary. It seems like just yesterday I was dreading the first dance and now we are here, so far ahead yet not too far at all. I’ll be discussing the vacation in a series of posts. Mostly because I suspect that this will go somewhat long. The general theme will be from negative to positive as I talk about the TSA, PAX, and the Vacation itself.
A bit of early spoiler is that the cruise was fantastic. But we’ll get to that when we do. First the TSA, which is not coincidentally the first part of the trip.
Since September 11th, a date close approaching once again, the TSA has been slowly expanding their grasp on airport security. You can learn more about this organization over at Wikipedia. However if you have access to the news you probably know a good deal. Be it Adam Savage getting on a plane with foot long razor blades, fake breasts removed, urinary bladder bursts, or manipulation of lines to get folks to pass through the new back scatter machines.
It is, at its heart, a business that is profiteering from the paranoia and passiveness of Americans. The gamble is that most American’s only fly once or twice a year, with this in mind they are unlikely to fight back against increasingly tight restrictions. With each passing year a new toy is passed without study and more people are subjected to systems that have in no way increased their safety. Each time some crazy person tries to sneak something on a plane they will add a new layer of complication that will only weaken the effectiveness of what they do.
A metal detector and an x-ray for bags would have stopped the 9/11 hijackers had blades not been allowed on planes. Further an understanding that not all people value life would have stopped the hijackers from holding the planes. It was the belief that all people wish to live that kept those passengers in their seats, not the blades in the hijackers hands.
There will never be another US airplane hijacking, not one that succeeds as those did 10 years ago. The next fool to try and take a plane will be beaten and likely killed, terrorism only works if you have the element of surprise or an element of anonymity. Once these are lost you are not likely to succeed or last long at all.
The San Jose Airport is, as of now, one of two airports that I use. It takes me to SeaTac and allows me to visit my in-laws. This airport has a few small (roughly the size of a sheet of paper) signs that say the X-Ray machines are not necessary and you can just use the metal detector. However the TSA agents that are there not only point people to the machines they also get grumpy if you decide to take the metal detector.
This grumpy response confuses me, because it seems to assume that I have something to hide. Perhaps the 25 years of being an American citizen have helped to foster some sort of super terrorist. Dear god…has Al Qaeda snuck into the wombs!
Regardless I took my first and last back scatter. I stood there in the same position a criminal would take on the ground, hands behind my head, legs spread, motionless. They snapped me and some random guy with likely no more qualifications than a Wal-Mart employee made sure I didn’t have C4 in my testicles.
Turns out I didn’t, which is good.
I feel no love for the TSA, they have not since the day they founded made me any more safe. They have not even given me the feeling of being safe. What they have done is help bolster an amazingly misguided fear amidst 300 million people.
The day I see the name of this organization on the budget cuts list I’ll be supremely pleased and that money could go towards something better, education, environmental preservation, or even mass transit. Any of these things would reduce our chances of terrorism more than the TSA.
Also note that if anyone honestly wanted to do something terrible on a plane that they would. If a 25 year old American born male with no criminal record is likely to be a terrorist, how is a TSA agent a surefire bet?
Now compare the idiocy I experienced at San Jose with SeaTac. I was dreading the flight back because of how much these people annoy me. I put my bags on the conveyor, walked up to the section where the metal detector and backscatter machines were situated. Standing behind the metal detector was the gate keeper for this row. He smiled at me, likely noticing my nervous demeanor and he waved his hand over to the metal detector. I walked through, no alarm went off, he told me “Have a great day sir!” and I said “Thanks and you too!”
I grabbed my bags, put on my shoes, and waited for Liz. The entire sequence of events took a matter of seconds, I was treated like a human and put through an entirely respectable check. If that was all that the TSA was I’d be happy to have them around and that man that I dealt with in SeaTac was a shining example of the only kind of person that the TSA should hire.
No sneers, no misguidance, he saw an American and he treated them as such. Hell, he saw a human and treated them as such.
To be frank, I seem to recall always going through a metal detector. So I suppose what I’m asking for is a return to the system that would have worked fine. Certain events are once in a lifetime, box cutter evangelists are a thing of the past.
So yes, my vacation started very poorly in San Jose. As I took an unnecessary smack of radiation to the organs. But the trip back is indicative of how the trip evolved. More to come.