They stand there, dozens of them. Watching, waiting. Picking their noses, scratching their arses and doing patdowns that sometimes come dangerously close to being gateside prostate exams. They’re the men and women of the Transportation Security Administration, and it’s their job to look at us naked and prevent underpants loaded with C-4 from blowing us up.
For the most powerful nation in the history of the world, I have to say that from the perspective of a Scot, America has completely lost its mind when it comes to flying. We’re like a wealthy person of privilege who freaks out when Whole Foods is out of almond milk. I want to grab the U.S. government by its collective shirtfront and shout, “Get a grip! Pan Am 103 blew up over my country and we didn’t start running our old ladies through the Rape Scanner and confiscating snow globes!”
Sure, September 11 left its mark on everyone, but our spend-happy government responded by creating the TSA behemoth and staffing it with wannabe cops, class bullies, angry ex-soldiers and lazy layabouts. And while I’m sure there are some TSA workers who are dedicated and professional, I’ve yet to encounter them. The ones on duty when I fly are inevitably under-trained, under-motivated and underperforming. I fly every two days, often internationally, and the incompetencies and inconsistencies that occur from airport to airport are mind numbing.
Being from Scotland, my natural paranoia is tuned to a much lower pitch than that of the average American, so I find myself utterly perplexed by the futility of the process. How many times must you check a boarding pass? Why do you need to check my computer but not my iPad? Do you really think the 91-year-old man with the oxygen tank and the walker is a potential al Qaeda member? Can me playing Tetris on my phone really bring down a 60-ton airliner? Nobody seems to know.
At any given time, there are more TSA staffers sitting around doing nothing than there are working. Next time you travel, look. I was going through Portland about four weeks ago and at 5 a.m. the line to clear security snaked through the outside doorway. I politely called over this friendly, elderly gent and asked him where everyone was. “My colleagues,” he said, “are listening to a pep talk by our manager.” Excuse me? Have your pep talk on your time, not mine!
There is no common sense or judgment in airport security. There is only one country in the world where you need to remove your shoes, throw away your shampoo, and be photographed in a position that many porn stars would find degrading, just to get on a damned airplane. Nobody else is as screwed up as America. It’s a sad indictment of this country—my adopted country. In a world crying out for leaders, we’ve become pussies.
My biggest fear about air travel? Not being flown into the new Freedom tower by a terrorist or blown to hell by some fanatic carrying explosives in his prosthetic leg. It’s being placed on a “no fly” list because of writing things like this.
To hell with it. It needed to be said. The TSA is probably too incompetent to even be reading this blog.