My recent travels have had me thinking about all the ways flying has devolved since my first big adventure, when I went to Cambridge, England, way back in 1993. Back then, there was still a tiny little hint of the old-school elegance to the whole thing, but not anymore. Flying these days is about as much fun as a do-it-yourself appendectomy with only a twelve-pack of 3.2% Utah beer to use for both anesthetic and disinfectant.
The airlines are as much to blame as anything for the grueling unpleasantness that is modern air travel, but the negative experience begins well before you ever set foot on a plane. I have certain, shall we say, strongly held opinions about post-9/11 airport security protocols. The short version is, I hate all that TSA nonsense with a white-hot passion.
I despise the inconvenience and the indignity of it, I don’t believe taking off my shoes or trashing my half-full water bottle really makes us safer, and I resent the implication that everyone who wants to travel is guilty until they prove themselves innocent, i.e., demonstrate that they’re not a terrorist. People are always fretting about the sanctity of the First and Second Amendments, but no one ever mentions the Fourth, which among other things guarantees that individual citizens can’t be molested by authority without probable cause. (If you disagree, please don’t start throwing case law at me; I’m not up on all of that, and I’m sure the TSA procedures are fully justified by some SCOTUS decision or other. Doesn’t mean I have to agree with it, even as I’m grudgingly exposing a roomful of people to my foot odor to demonstrate my lack of insane malevolence, or having my frickin’ ponytail frisked because the little bit of metal in the elastic triggered some overly sensitive detection device.)
I think it’s all ridiculous and more than a little cowardly, not at all in keeping with the America I grew up believing in, and I wish we’d all come to our collective senses, screw our courage to the sticking place, and roll back the screening process to pre-2001 levels. Not that I really expect that will ever happen when so many people are convinced that it’s actually accomplishing some good. But hey, I can hope, right? And I can speak out about it.
The problem is, whenever I start talking about this subject, I tend to get a bit worked up and a little wild-eyed, and then I’m all too easily dismissed as just another old man yelling at a cloud. So how about if I present my arguments in the form of a humorous video clip?
That pretty much covers all my thinking on the subject. But if that’s not enough to convince you we’ve meekly submitted to an ineffective and absurd Gilliam-esque bureaucracy, here’s an international (and very NSFW!) perspective offered by the Australian comedian Jim Jefferies:
Incidentally, the UK airports I passed through have similar screening procedures as here, but the British equivalent of the TSA was better organized, more efficient, and — most notably — far more courteous than the American version. While I still thought the situation was absurd, it was a lot easier to stomach when I was being treated with a modicum of respect…