Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Another trip through LAX security

I'm sitting at LAX this morning, waiting for my flight home to Atlanta.

Loyal readers of The Wisdom will recall that about a year ago there was an incident here that I call "the LAX meltdown" (I'm Blackberrying this in, so you'll need to search for that post if you're not familiar). The meltdown was prompted by the TSA hassling me about my shoes.

Well, it happened again this morning (shoe hassles, not a meltdown).

As I'm coming through security, the guy in front of me goes through with his shoes on, and the machine goes off. He takes his shoes off and goes again.

Then it's my turn.

TSA Moron 1: "Sir, you might want to remove your shoes."

Me: "These shoes are fine. I came through Atlanta in them." (In fact, my super-fly Steve Madden sneaks are my standard airport shoe, because I know they won't set off the machine)

TSA Moron 2: "It doesn't matter if they set off the machine. That's not what we're looking for."

Me: (pondering the appropriate reaction for a responsible U.S. citizen fed up with the ridiculousness of airport security but who also doesn't have his wife along to drag him away from the TSA area and who wants to get home today ...)

TSA Moron 2: "You don't have to remove your shoes ..."

Me: "But if I don't, you'll search me ... (takes off shoes)"

Now, I'm a pretty smart boy, and I know what's happening here. The fact that the TSA mentioned that I might want to remove my shoes (prompted by the guy in front of me setting off the machine) means that I become "suspicious" if I decline to do so. Fair enough. But what pisses me off is that they won't tell you that. They are programmed to defend their actions without reason. The TSA attitude is "We're protecting you, dammit. Don't question how we do it."

So it was the exchanges I had after going through the machine that really got me.

Me (to TSA Moron 1): "You know, I came through Atlanta in these shoes, and they didn't make me take them off."

TSA Moron 1: "Every city is different."

TSA Moron 3 (over where you pick up your bags): "Sir, the supervisor can answer any questions you have."

Me: "I doubt it."

Me: "Look, I appreciate what you guys are trying to do, but this stuff is ridiculous."

TSA Moron 3: "The rules vary by city, just like with police departments."

Me: "But you're a federal agency! The rules should be the same everywhere!"

TSA Moron 3: "No, they vary by city."

Me: (grabbing my shoes off the conveyor) "That's ridiculous."

I walk over to a chair to put my shoes back on, and I overhear TSA Moron 3 chatting with TSA Moron 2:

TSA Moron 3: "I mean, in some cities, I don't have to wear a helmet on my motorcycle, but in others I do. That's no different."

From my chair, I say in a semi-shout: "But you're a federal agency!"

He didn't hear me, and I honestly don't think he understands why federal rules are different than state or local rules.

And this is the guy keeping us "safe."

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