Traveler Part 3

In the Army, the grunts are the people on the ground that carry out the mission and try to do the best possible job within their leader supplied parameters. That is the context in which we should view the TSA officers who screen us before we are able to board a commercial aircraft.

If the grunts fail, the failure is most always a leadership failure. Inevitably, however, it is the low paid grunt doing the best that he or she can within the given bounds who gets the blame. Unfortunately, it is the same manner of blame that is meted out by talking heads, most of them self-labeled conservatives, when they gleefully lambaste all government workers who are doing the best they can within the parameters laid out for them by the government’s leadership. The leadership that was elected by the people who are doing the complaining. Is that not a paradox? Sadly, very few of the mouthy class take out their ire on the leaders who make the rules by which the grunts must operate. Oh, not to worry, the leadership joins the talkers in blaming their failures on the grunts in the middle who are trying to adhere to their oft inane direction. The system is dysfunctional and we are part of the reason. Our anger should be directed at those who are most responsible for it.

Sorry, I did not mean to digress off into something other than my traveling woes. It is just that the opportunities to exploit my attention deficit disorder continue to present themselves.

The TSA officer checked our passports and our boarding passes. He examined our passports with his flashlight. I am sure he must have been looking for a mark of some sort that would only show up with his light. I have no clue. The thought occurred to me that my passport was already checked by the person who gave me my boarding pass. Would it not make sense to have the TSA officer check the passports for problems before issuing a boarding pass? Better yet, might it not be a good idea if when you purchased a ticket online that your passport information was cleared through TSA before the purchase? And, if there was a problem you might need to call to book your flight? I do recall providing personal information “required by the TSA” at ticket purchase time. I am certain that there is some regulation or policy that prevents addressing potential problems before one turns up at the airport.

Remove your jacket and place it in a bin. Put your cap in the bin. Empty your pockets and place all of that in a bin. Send your hand carried bags through the scanner. Remove your laptop computer from its case and put it in a bin by itself, but no need to remove the Kindle. Remove your shoes and place them in a bin. Now step through the metal detector. Beeeep. Step back. Remove your belt and place it in a bin. Now step back through please. No beep this time, fortunately. I did not know what I would do if the metal plate that is holding pieces of my foot together caused the machine to beep. Remove your foot and place it in the bin?

I shuffled to the end of the conveyer holding my pants up with one hand while trying to locate my belt in all of the stuff that is now piled together at the end. First secure the britches. Then try to locate the shoes and put them on. Must consider slip on shoes next time. Strange, they did not separately scan the pair of shoes that I had to remove from my 4 pound overweight suitcase and place into the carryon bag. Put the computer back in the bag. Grab the carry on. Fortunately, I was able to avoid the guy with the rubber gloves. He did have his eye on me though, I could tell. Phew, re-dressed and headed for the gate.

I do not know what the measure of success is for the TSA. If it is the number of terrorists captured during the screening process then as far as I know, that is zero. We do know that there have been no terror related air catastrophes since the agency was formed and but one originating in the United States that really counted before that. What we do not know is if TSA is the deterrent that we can credit for the lack of air terror since 911. That is not measurable although the lack of events will always be used to insinuate that the agency is a success. We also know that some wannabe bombers, although fortunately unsuccessful, have made it through the screening process and onto airplanes. That is measurable failure. The shoe bomber is why we have to remove our shoes and walk around on a dirty air terminal floor in our sock feet. We still do not know what we have to give up because of the underwear bomber, except for potentially X-rated full body scans. Or, maybe we can just remove our drawers and drop them into a bin too.

If the TSA continues along the same path using the same methods, with enough determination more killers will eventually get through.

© 2011