Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

TSA Anyone?

Quarterly Gratuitous Anti-TSA Rant
©2011 Ross Williams

My wife and I just returned from a week in Florida. We flew from St Lose to Orlando for a torturous weekend with brothers that I dislike and then spent the next week recuperating from it on the other side of the state. We flew back to St Lose from Ft Myers.

We exclusively fly Southwest. Yes, they’re rather no-frills, but they’re cheaper, significantly more reliable and not intent on hoovering every last dollar out of my wallet for fees to cover their institutional ineptitude. The worst part of flying Southwest, frankly, is that their terminal in St Lose, a mile or more away from the main terminal, is the terminal that TSA chose to install their pornoscanners, which our National Savior made sure to buy lots of with stimulus money. Which means that whenever we fly anywhere we have a greater chance of being selected for the pre-flight hand job by people “put back to work” by being given the government job of electronically strip-searching free citizens in a free country.

I’m not sure how I feel about the fact that of the dozen or so times we’ve been in and through the Southwest terminal in St Lose since acquiring the pornoscanners, they’ve never, ever, ever had them turned on. On the one hand, TSA isn’t using the opportunity to compound their anti-constitutional behavior with another form of warrantless search; on the other hand, they spent a few million of my dollars for just this one airport buying two technological solutions to $25 “threats” [and training themselves to use it] ... and they aren’t using them.

Is it too late to get those few million dollars back and spend it on another bridge to an uninhabited Alaskan island that has no roads? At least then we’d have a bridge to show for it.

The bottom line was no handjob in St Lose, though there were enough blue-shirted brownshirts doing nothing who could have accommodated me, and I had selected the one I wanted to molest me as we got in line. I counted 16 [visible] trained apes at the “security” checkpoint – four more had been at the luggage scanner, one of which was actually handling luggage, and another one was undoubtedly sitting in the exit to the “secure” gate area, facing backwards to make sure no one was entering the exit-only.

Two of the 16 were checking boarding passes and photo ids, two were running the two open x-ray conveyors, two were waving people through the two open nazi gate magnetometers, and one was ferrying plastic bins back and forth in between long bouts of waiting for the plastic bins to pile up. The other nine did nothing. They stood here for a while, then they moved purposefully to someplace else – maybe three feet away – to stand some more. One sat in a presumably supervisory chair reading something. Occasionally some of the remaining nine would converse with each other in hushed tones, probably confiding the seriousness of TSA eventually becoming unionized so they couldn’t be worked so hard. One of the nine emerged from a back room and shut the door behind him. It was their break room, apparently; I saw a table with some chairs around it and some vending chip packages and cups on it as he came out.

That makes twenty-one Gestapo-lite that Friday evening in three places, of which nine were actually doing something, with one of the nine being a glorified bellhop, and another of the nine sitting on his ass watching the asses of passengers heading down to baggage claim. And that doesn’t include any others who may have been elsewhere doing some other thing critical to their function of diluting the constitutional rights of their fellow Americans they claim to serve. ...or in their breakroom resting up from the hard work of this tyranny.

The most comical event of the day occurred just before I put my ever-dangerous sneakers into the plastic bin. Some short, young gentleman with a military haircut and bearing, wearing khaki cargo pants and a brown-ish polo shirt bearing the embroidered stitchery of “TSA – Explosives Detection”, came out from between the two x-ray conveyors, peered into the knot of passengers attempting to figure out which of the two lines they should attempt to get in, he shifted his eyes from side to side with a scowl, and then returned from whence he came.

I laughed audibly at this. My wife, who knows that my laughing at any point during this inherently insane and offensive procedure is very suspicious in itself, asked me what was so funny. I pointed to Sergeant York and said, “That’s their explosives expert doing his rounds.” Five minutes later, as we were putting on our shoes after having justified our existence to the satisfaction of TSA gomers with GEDs, he did the same thing a second time. His explosives detection regimen is apparently done in the manner of the wooden bird in a cuckoo clock. The simile is frightening in its accuracy, on both ends.

We landed three hours later in Orlando, after a major thunderstorm had blown through and closed McCoy Airfield [sorry, I still remember it from its days as a US Air Farce base]. The airport had just reopened and we sat on the tarmac for about twenty minutes waiting for one of the empty gates to be assigned to us. Outgoing flights had been cancelled for two hours and hence there was no throng of passengers waiting to get through security. There was, instead, a single passenger attempting to get through security. He was being frisked. Three other brownshirts stood around to ensure that the frisking removed every shred of the gentleman’s dignity and civil rights possible. These were the only people visible in the “security” checkpoint.

A month-long weekend with my parents’ other children, and a few-hour week at a beach-side condo later, and we were back in the grasp of our world-renowned airport security nazis. This time at Southwest Florida Regional Airport ... which is one hell of a lot of syllables just to say “Ft Myers Airport”.

Ft Myers is a small airport, nicely laid out, comfy and clean, the type favored by regional and no-frills airlines. Not at all like Lambert POS in St Lose, which sprawls over a mile in length with little more than a few hundred yards of people conveyors anywhere in it. Ft Myers has three terminal entrances requiring TSA “security”. One for Terminal A, one for Terminals B & C, and one for Terminal D. I don’t know for certain, but I’m going to guess that all three are pretty much like the “security” checkpoint for Terminal D, the one we used.

We flew back to St Lose on a Sunday in the middle of the afternoon. For Florida, this is typically the busy air travel day for visitors and tourists to leave –staying as long as they can before ending their vacations and going back to work. Ft Myers was just about as busy as we were used to seeing it: we entered the back-forth ropey maze as the only passengers in sight, there was one TSA ape checking boarding passes and photo ids, there were two x-ray conveyors open but only one nazi gate magnetometer – three more apes – one more sitting in a presumably supervisory seat, slouching and craning around to pay attention to what was behind him. Once we collected our shoes from the plastic bins we saw what it was he was listening to: a cluster of eight more blue-shirted brownshirts standing in a wad loudly discussing the Tampa Bay Rays, who play in St Petersburg and not in Tampa and certainly not in the bay, making the playoffs.

Thirteen Gestapo-lite in view, four doing something, one supervisor doing a supervisor’s nothing, and eight more yakking about baseball. And I am not including the female TSA agent who appeared to be reporting for her shift and that we followed from the ticket counter to the “security” checkpoint.

We landed in St Lose a few hours later and left the “secured” area, where the lone trained ape sat watching my backside as I went to get the luggage. I fought the urge to moon him.

TSA is a 67,000-strong “work” force, and from the looks of it much of their “work” is to stand around with their thumbs up their asses. Nine of thirteen TSA were idle in Ft Myers, 12 of 21 in St Lose. Over 60% of the on-the-clock agents at any one time ... bupkus. Less than 40% actually doing something.

And I haven’t even broached the subject – this time – about whether the something being done is worth doing and, if so, if it’s effective. No, and no, ... but I’ll wait until I’ve collected more colorful turns of uncomplimentary phrase before I describe that portion of it again.


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