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Posted on Monday, November 29th, 2004

Dave!At first, my lovely experience with the new TSA screening rituals was ripe for Anonymous Letter #002. Since these "letters" are graphical, the text doesn't register as text, and search engines will gleefully pass it by (thus leaving such rants for you, my dear reader, and not for casual internet searchers).

But I am so f#@%ing pissed off right now I truly don't give a crap what happens.

To preface: my flight out of Minneapolis was delayed for an hour while they changed the tires on the plane (which gives me staggering new levels of confidence in NWA's regularly-scheduled maintenance, but I digress). You would think, since Northwest Airlines pretty much OWNS the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, that they would expedite such a delayed plane with all expediency so that people with connecting flights might have a prayer of actually making them. But no. What's the best thing to do to a plane already delayed for an hour and fifteen minutes? WHY, DELAY IT ON THE RUNWAY FOR ANOTHER HOUR OF COURSE!! Talk about f#@%ing stupid.

But what do I care, I make it to Seattle with a full hour-and-a-half to spare, which is a good thing considering I have to exit security, claim my luggage, run to the opposite end of the airport to check in with Horizon Air, then make my way back through security. I don't flinch when the underground shuttle gets stuck and we wait for ten minutes for the door to close. Likewise, I don't get upset with my bag is 3rd-to-last off the luggage claim carousel. I've still got an hour to grab my ticket and make my way through security and everything will be okay, right??

Well, given the GROSS f#@%ING INCOMPETENCE OF THE TSA STAFF, maybe not.

And before anybody jumps on my ass, please understand that I am in no way directing my anger toward the TSA individuals working tonight... that's just stupid. The fact that they are badly trained, poorly supervised, and have procedures that are ineffective (at best) and ludicrous (at most) could hardly be said to be their fault. So, if you feel like reading a long rant about everything I perceive to be ASTOUNDINGLY STUPID with my TSA extended inquisition examination (sprinkled with liberal amounts of foul language), then all means click the link below...

  1. When approaching the entrance to security, both lines were jammed because stupid people couldn't find their photo ID and/or boarding pass. DAVE'S ADVICE TO THE TSA: Security is already an annoying bottleneck... don't make it worse by humoring these ass-clowns who can't find their shit. Move them to the side while they look so other people who are prepared can go through.
  2. When I finally made it to the front of my line, the clueless TSA screener decided to select me for extended screening. BUT DIDN"T TELL ME!! Furthermore, since all extended screens must be time-stamped, but he didn't have a watch and had to delay me even further by asking another agent for the time. DAVE'S ADVICE TO THE TSA: When somebody is selected for extended screening, TELL THEM, YOU IDIOTS!! That will make the next steps much more comprehensible. Also, if your job requires you to know the time, buy a watch you schmuck.
  3. Since I had no idea I was selected for extended screening, I went though the metal detector and started to gather my stuff together. Since they took my boarding pass, I stood there waiting for them to give it back. And waited. And waited. Finally the guy says "move along" and I have to ask: "uhhh... can I have my boarding pass?" As soon as he grabs it, he FINALLY notices that I am to undergo extended screening. That's when he tell me... "YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO TOUCH YOUR STUFF!!" DAVE'S ADVICE TO THE TSA: Well, you f#@%ing genius, I DIDN'T KNOW THAT BECAUSE YOU NEVER f#@%ING TOLD ME YOU DUMBASS!! You might take a look at the ticket IMMEDIATELY after it's provided to you and, duh, ACTUALLY TELL THE PERSON BEFORE they go to grab their stuff that it's not allowed.
  4. After the moron finally realizes I have to undergo extended screening, he tells me to step into the screening area. "But what about my stuff?" I ask. "LEAVE IT ON THE BELT!" So I leave it. And then watch other people's stuff zip along the conveyor and smash into my gear, knocking my open bag (with my computer in it) over on its side. "Hey, my stuff is going to fall out!" I cry. "LEAVE IT ON THE BELT!" Now I'm starting to get upset at the thought of my computer falling out and smashing to pieces "Look, can I at least move it to this table here so I can keep an eye on it?" "LEAVE IT ON THE BELT!!! YOU CAN WATCH IT FROM WHERE YOU ARE!!" DAVE'S ADVICE TO THE TSA: But I really can't watch my stuff because other people exiting security are blocking my view... for all I know, they're stealing stuff from my open bag (or putting drugs or weapons inside it). This is a HUGE breakdown in security procedures. If somebody is selected for extended screening, you should immediately move them AND THEIR STUFF to the screening area instead of risking "contamination" by leaving it out in the open where other people can take from it or add to it. Not only that, it would protect you from a lawsuit if my laptop were to have fallen out and been damaged.
  5. I should have known I was in trouble when I noticed that the guy in front of me enjoying his "extended screening experience" was (I shit you not) a Buddhist monk in full dress robes from out of town (probably Thailand or Cambodia) who was having trouble understanding the TSA agent "examining him." The agent brilliantly assumed it's because the monk does not understand English. This stupid assumption was wrong. He did understand and speak English perfectly. The problem is that airports are noisy, and your mumbling is incomprehensible. DAVE'S ADVICE TO THE TSA: If you want people to understand you, SPEAK CLEARLY!! Leave your white-boy thug gangsta imitation at home and USE THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE!! I am a native English speaker, and even I couldn't understand the guy most of the time.
  6. Finally, my stuff is grabbed off the belt and I am moved into the extended screening area vacated by a confused Buddhist monk (who smiles as I pay my respects). And now two people start tearing apart my coat and backpack... poorly. My Booq Bag has at least 15 pockets and pouches. I'd say less than half were examined. Only my exterior coat pockets were opened... the interior pockets and rain-hood pouch were left untouched. The lady examining my laptop for bomb residue was understandably concerned that the computer was IN my backpack rather than taken out and put through the machine separately. I have to explain that I had no idea I wasn't supposed to touch my stuff, and it DID go through separately before I put it back in my bag. I then tell her she can X-ray it again if she wants, but she says "no, that's okay!" DAVE'S ADVICE TO THE TSA: If you are going to put people through the horrible experience of a full search, at least do it right so that they feel as though the inconvenience was worth it! Search all pockets! Don't EVER take the word of the subject about anything! When in doubt, check again! Anything less, and you might as well not do anything at all.
  7. Next comes the full-pat-down search I had blogged about dreading a while back. Apparently the guy "doing me" had never seen a pair of Levi's before, and was totally puzzled as to why his metal detector kept going off... "are you wearing a belt?" Uh, no... those are the rivets on my jeans and the metal button-fly closure. I lift my shirt to show him and get him all excited: "LEAVE YOUR ARMS UP AND AWAY FROM YOUR BODY SIR!!! I AM GOING TO HAVE TO PAT YOU DOWN NOW!!" So there I stand, in full view of other passengers, getting felt up by a dude who looks nothing like Elizabeth Hurley. DAVE'S ADVICE TO THE TSA: The pat-down was thrilling and all, but totally ineffective. What good is it to press on my crotch, really? I mean, the fly on a pair of Levi's jeans is comprised of 4 layers of heavy denim on top of 4 more layers of heavy denim. Seriously, I could easily slip an X-Acto blade in the seams and you would never feel it (and, since the metal button-fly closure explains the metal detector going off, you'd never be the wiser anyway). I hate to say it, but for this to be truly effective, the subject should be forced to remove their clothes and have them sent through the X-ray machine if you are really serious about checking for hidden weapons. Patting somebody down may be fun, but it is completely ineffective for a terrorist who is even a little bit clever.

And there it was, my first "extended screening" was over. I grab my stuff and run to the gate because my flight was to be boarding in 2 minutes. Of course, they ended up being 10 minutes late, but I had no way of knowing that at the time.

So, was the extended screening worth it? Do I feel safer knowing that these random searches are happening? Sadly, the answer is "no" and "no." Not only was it a complete waste of time, it honestly makes me feel less-safe about airport security now that I've seen first-hand just how tragically poor it is. It is unorganized, and nobody seems to know what they are doing. The search is half-assed and woefully inadequate. Agents don't seem well-trained. The "supervisor" didn't "supervise" anything... just sat on her fat ass behind a podium, staring into space. Why didn't she step in when my selection was botched? Why didn't she respond when I was asking about my stuff laying in the open on the belt, obstructed from my view? Does she actually serve any purpose?

My final advice to the TSA? ORGANIZE your operation for efficiency and expediency. TRAIN your agents to be truly informed and effective. REVIEW your lame procedures for handling extended screen victims passengers. EXTEND your search to more than a lame pat-down... hey, it's not like I want to take my clothes off in the middle of an airport for X-ray, but how else can you truly know anything? 9/11 changed the world, and drastic times call for drastic measures so that people can truly feel safe when flying. What you have now is just "for show" and is instilling confidence in nobody... it's just annoying the shit out of them for no good reason.

Categories: Travel 2004Click To It: Permalink


  1. BeenThere... says:

    My last flight I was coming back from my dad’s funeral, carrying an antique clock (from my dad) and camera gear. Of course I was in a great mood and of course they selected me for this extended scan…I too was panicked as my valuable stuff sat there unattend and told “NO TOUCH!!!”…I dread flying, but just plan for the worst…

  2. The Ref, LGC says:

    Just as well I was not with you. I would have let them know my feelings 😉

  3. Dave2 says:

    And then we’d both be in jail… though it would have been nice to have an accomplice, that way you could have just taken my bag with you as you exited, and it would have saved me the agony. Yet another failing in their inability to move the passenger’s stuff WITH the passenger to the screening area.

  4. I understand says:

    I was previously employed as an ‘airport security screener’. Your experience, though very sad, is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the faults of airport security.

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