Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Nightmare that is Airport Security......

Let me go on record here by saying that I believe fervently in the necessity for heightened airport security. Thanks to the damn terrorists and the alarming number of psychotic people out there, the variety of ways in which travelers can be harmed has grown exponentially. Not to mention the fact that they are assisted by well-meaning news reports illustrating the latest and greatest means of terrorizing air travelers. I can just picture a terrorist with the remote control in his (because they are all men, you know) hand, surfing the channels and landing on CNN. He listens for a moment while the cheery anchor lists the different ways terror can be accomplished on an airplane, and he says to himself, "Huh. Hadn't thought of THAT one."

That being said, I think airport security procedures fall into two distinct categories.

Category 1: Overly vigilant but sadly necessary.

Category 2: Ridiculous and logic-defying.

I got to experience both on an up-close and personal level yesterday on our flight back from Jamaica.

Apparently I fail miserably at choosing winning lottery numbers, but my passport number has some secret code embedded which says I must be pulled out of the line AS WE ARE BOARDING THE AIRCRAFT, having already passed safely through security, and subjected to additional screening.

I didn't complain. I just said jokingly to Hubby as he went on his merry way, "Save me a seat." I suffered silently the additional pat down. A thorough pat down. I thought I was through, but they also had to search both bags I was carrying. The nice lady (and she was VERY nice, as was every single person we met in Jamaica) took every. single. item. out of my laptop case. Have I mentioned how much crap I carry in there? Nintendo DS, GPS for the bicycle, headphones, MP3 player, and several flash drives, along with every conceivable cord known to man for charging all of the above. I had to remove the laptop from the case and OPEN IT. I seriously thought I was going to have to boot it up and show her my wallpaper. (Imagine how embarrassing THAT would have been, since my computer wallpaper sports NOT a picture of my own offspring, but a picture of a member of the UGA gymnastics team. I can't help it - it is an awesome picture of her sitting on her haunches as she waited to mount the bars, and I took it myself from a significant distance.)

Where was I?

Oh yeah. The additional security screening.

There was a kid behind me (looked like a high school student but was wearing several pieces of clothing with the logo of the University of Iowa on them, and I realize that proves absolutely nothing) complaining about the indignity of the experience, since, according to his whiny voice, "Everyone else in my group just sailed right on through." He groused, "Why does this happen to me?" I snapped at him, "Luck of the draw." He continued to complain, and I couldn't help myself. I said to him, "If this is the worst thing that ever happens to you in your whole life, you've had a pretty good life." Then he remembered that he failed his final exam last week, and he mercifully shut up.

The nice lady inspecting my bags then asked that I direct my attention to what she was doing, because it is required that I OBSERVE her inspecting my bags.

That represents Category 1: Overly vigilant but sadly necessary. I have no idea how I would have procured a bomb, a knife, a gun, or anything else in the airport after I had already been through one security screening (and pat down), but I guess some terrorists are clever enough to accomplish it. While it was a tad aggravating, the plane did NOT leave without me, and the overhead bins weren't full when I was finally allowed to board the plane. I continued to smile throughout the entire ordeal, determined NOT to behave as my mother would have, and it didn't last nearly as long as the ten hours it felt like while it was happening.

Then there's Category 2: Ridiculous and logic-defying.

When we arrived at the Customs area of the Atlanta airport, we joined approximately 800 of our closest friends. I'm sure they didn't schedule all international flights to land at the same time. Probably. The lines snaked around and snaked around, so I pulled out my Kindle and continued reading the book I had started on the plane. I'm surprised I wasn't accosted for violating some kind of security rule against reading while in line. Never mind the two people I saw/heard talking on their cell phones, oblivious of (or ignoring?) the signs posted everywhere that using cell phones and cameras in that area was forbidden.

We made it through Customs after about 35 minutes, then we proceeded to Baggage Claim.

Here's the ridiculous and logic-defying part: After we claimed our checked bag, we had to walk about 100 yards, around a corner, and CHECK IT AGAIN. Never mind that Atlanta was our final destination. All checked bags on international flights have to be claimed in Customs, rechecked, and then claimed AGAIN at Baggage Claim upstairs. Apparently that rule is unique to the airports in Atlanta and Memphis. (Memphis?)

AND WE HAD TO GO THROUGH SECURITY AGAIN. TO GET OUT OF THE AIRPORT.  Complete with removing the shoes, taking the laptop out of the case, emptying the pockets, and (in Hubby's case) a full-body scan with one of those nifty machines that everybody has been raising hell about.


Usually I can determine why a certain rule is necessary, but this one has me stumped. If I made it through security at the originating airport (with an additional screening and pat down, I remind you), and I have been within the confined of the airport for the entire journey from the plane to Customs, how in the world could I have procured anything dangerous or illegal? Hell, how could I have procured anything LEGAL?

Once we were on the ground in Atlanta, it took as much time to get out of the airport as it took for the ENTIRE FLIGHT BACK FROM JAMAICA.

Combine all these events with the fact that Hubby's blood sugar was probably tanking, and you would be correct if you guessed that he was quite the grumpy traveler by the time we got to our car.

I'm making a list of things we will do differently the next time we travel out of the country. But I've got to give Hubby time to forget this one first.


Kelly said...

You were screened to get OUT of the airport?? How odd...and stupid!

brent said...

The same thing happened to me New Years Day at ATL. As soon as our flight from Mexico arrived we were forced to walk towards customs but when we got there it was all shut down due to a SECURITY THREAT! We were told it was not safe by the officers and that we must walk another mile to the dead end hallway!We stayed an hour like that not being able to go to the restrooms except one person at a time back down the mile hallway! Then the threat was called off and we spent an hour going through all the checkpoints you did! Terrorist aren't a problem it's our goverments scare tactics!