Every time I hear that a friend is going on a business trip I get confused and have to ask a very simple question: why fly?
Amazing, cheap technology puts people anywhere in the world on top of your desk. Is it really necessary to go through the out of town business ritual? Apparently it is, because no matter how unpleasant the experience we still put up with being humiliated, profiled, and marginalized just so we can be within touching distance of a person we could just as easily talk to face to face on our laptops.
Why fly? Is being humiliated fun?
I was sitting in the Atlanta airport on Monday morning waiting for a flight and watching the ritual of businesspeople pressing the flesh. Bags in tow, passengers strolled up and down the terminal with jobs to do that for some reason or other required an in-person appearance. Knowing what these people went through before being stuffed into a flimsy metal tube shoulder to shoulder with other unfortunates who, more often than not, would be coughing and hacking I had to ask myself:
Unless it’s life, death, or vacation, why fly?
The cost of an air ticket would pay for a very nice meal for two in most big cities. Maitre’d. Fine wines. Foie gras. Fancy desserts. Expensive restaurants treat you well. It’s what they are good at. You leave with a pleasant memory.
Air travel costs more.
Airlines treat you like cattle.
It does not leave a pleasant memory.
Airport security makes the experience even worse.
If it’s not life or death, Rome or Paris, why fly?
The next time you are standing in your stocking feet while something embarrassingly personal is on display in your TSA 3-1-1 zip-lock bag awaiting the screener, ask yourself: is this as good as a block of foie gras and a nice Chardonnay?
Not in my world, it isn’t.
Humiliated and profiled: what air travel is all about.
Paying hundreds of dollars for an airline ticket doesn’t make you important. These days it hardly makes you a customer. “Victim” is the word that springs to mind.
The horrendous experience of modern air travel isn’t all the airlines’ fault. The sardine can approach to making a buck certainly is, but we have a much better target than the big carriers:
Most people can handle being stuffed together for a few hours. Standing in an overcrowded space without shoes or belt and missing your flight because the screening line was impossibly long is an entirely different problem.
The cowardly, radical Muslim fondness for killing innocents by blowing things up is why we have Homeland Security instructions on the sorts of things you can and can’t bring on a plane:
Declare larger liquids. Medications, baby formula and food, and breast milk are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding three ounces and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint. Officers may need to open these items to conduct additional screening.1
Standing in line while people watch you declare that your breast milk will not bring down a jetliner has to be a humbling experience. As a man I will never find out, but “humiliating” is the word that keeps coming to mind.
It’s all because of Islam.
President admits terrorists are Muslims.
Barack Obama likes to recite the party line on religious tolerance, reminding us:
We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam.2
“One another” doesn’t include Islamic extremists. Even Obama knows where terrorists come from:
They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world — including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology.3
A billion is a big number so even a tiny fraction still means lots of terrorists, certainly enough to cause problems at the check-in line.
That’s bad news for foolishly intrepid business travelers who could save the company a buck and teleconference from the privacy of their offices.
It wasn’t good news for me, either.
Why fly? O’Hare nightmare: humiliated and almost left behind.
A nightmare is what I found at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport last Friday after a long hiatus from flying.
The scene that greeted me as I tried to squeeze my way inside the terminal to stand with a sea of people waiting to be screened by the TSA was not something anyone could be prepared for. Snatches of conversation around me made it obvious that even seasoned business travelers didn’t know what to make of what was happening.
The line snaked endlessly. People were angry. Desperate passengers were cutting in front of the more patient. Travelers were missing their flights and were nowhere close to the TSA stations that only allowed you to get into the screening line. A deserted bag was discovered. With no one attached to it, space was cleared. I overheard a TSA employee use the words “deserted bag” and “bomb squad.”
The line stopped.
The TSA pre-screener told us there was nowhere to put anyone. The screening line was jammed tight.
After finally having the opportunity to remove my shoes, belt, display my most personal effects for all to see, and walk on a floor that hundreds of people’s feet had already visited, I got through the line and made my flight with minutes to spare.
Lucky for me I never expect things to go well and doubled the recommended pre-arrival time.
It was barely enough.
Did I feel humiliated? Only as I was removing my belt, hoping that my pants stayed up and my socks matched. Marginalized? While waiting, I fantasized about what a cow must feel like standing in line before it transitions from living thing to food.
Yes. That’s the problem.
Profiled? Now we are all terrorists.
Air travel makes you powerless. Waiting to be electronically and god forbid, physically searched doesn’t help.
Standing in line being profiled as a possible terrorist because Democrats want everything to be fair is a uniquely American take on security. They prefer the one big happy family approach to America, even when parts of that happy family are obviously very different and resemble terrorists we have seen on the news.
By not profiling Muslims and other at-risk travelers, we profile everyone.
Democrats should be forbidden to complain about airport delays because their egalitarian approach to security helped create them. That didn’t stop several members of Congress from sending a letter to the TSA about delays at New Jersey’s Newark Airport:
Continued service issues jeopardize the competitiveness of the airport and therefore the jobs and economic impact that the airport brings to New Jersey. We would like to know what assurances you can provide us that sufficient resources will be allocated to quickly and efficiently expand the Agency’s staff at Newark Airport. Please inform our offices on what more can be done to ensure the efficient movement of passengers through security checkpoints while maintaining the exceptional safety record at the airport, and how our offices can be helpful in accomplishing this goal.4
How can we speed things up? We could take a hint from Israel’s El Al airline:
El Al also permits what is termed “profiling,” in which passengers may be singled out for further questioning based on their nationality, ethnicity, religion, appearance, or other descriptive characteristics, but these are not the only bases on which a passenger may be questioned.5
America? We went in the opposite direction. An alphabet soup list of liberal congressional caucuses sent a demand list to Attorney General Holder:
It is critical that the revised [Department of Justice] guidance prohibit profiling based on race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity. It must also eliminate loopholes for border and national security, apply to state and local law enforcement agencies that partner with the federal government or receive federal finding, and cover surveillance activities.6
That, my friends, is one of the big reasons we wait in long lines at airport security checkpoints. I saw a few people in the Atlanta and O’Hare terminals that looked a lot more like terrorists than the elderly woman standing next to me in the screening line. They were easy to spot. We aren’t supposed to admit that. This is America, where everything is equal and we all get punished for the deeds of a few.
Epilogue: TSA people are really nice. Thank them.
Given the bad press surrounding airport security delays I expected TSA personnel to be tense, contrary, and even hostile. Not so. They were accommodating and helpful. I watched them interact with travelers. They seldom failed to deliver a smile even at the height of the insanity at O’Hare. They were good with kids. Was this an anomaly? I don’t think so. TSA screeners know the consequences of a screw up. They do the best they can and probably sympathize with the anguished wails of those watching the minutes tick away as they miss their boarding time.
Liberal politics that puts misguided principle over human life doesn’t make their job easier.
Don’t blame TSA employees while you wait in line. They aren’t the ones who decided that profiling air travelers was a politically incorrect way to keep the skies safe. Instead, say a prayer that every Democrat who came out against profiling at airports misses their summer vacation flight. They might just change their tune on profiling in the name of keeping America even safer.