Wednesday, February 01, 2006

An Open Letter to TSA and US travelers

To Whom It May Concern:

It wasn't but in the last several years that I learned truly how to travel efficiently. I have become quite adept at the art of getting to, through and out of an airport in as little time as possible and with as little delay and confusion. This skill does not come easily but only with many many hours of practice and dedication travelling once or twice a month often through multiple airports, airplanes and customs. Thus it has come to my attention recently that many other Americans (in theory we could cover other 'folks' but, not knowing the intracacies of their cultures, I will stick with USA residents) who think they know the workings of the modern post-9/11 airport system are very much mistaken. It is with these very noble intentions in mind that I offer to you some travel tips that you may find useful to pass onto your fellow American travellers. It's my belief that the use of these simple tips will reduce costs for TSA by enhancing the efficiency of the overall system. The tips apply to both TSA and travellers alike.

  1. Travelers: you don't need 8 bags each to go away for a week. I realize you like to have your 'stuff' with you but truly you will enjoy yourself more if you just take your body, some minimum clothing to keep you warm, comfy shoes and a good attitude. You'll probably go buy some trinkets at your vacation destination anyway so you need extra room in your bag. Layer. Pack light. Travel easy.
  2. Checking In: If you're waiting in line for a ticket agent, please know who you are and what your destination is. I know it's easy to forget these things so just have an ID and a receipt handy. Also, e-Checkin is the same thing as checking in for tickets you bought on the Internet... minus the ticket agent. It's ok to use this new technology.
  3. Web Check-in: A long time ago in a galaxy far far away the world wide web came of age. It's time to start using it to check in. Many flights these days let you check-in even if you're checking bags. Then all you have to do is stand in line and give somebody your bag when your tag is generated. Good stuff. Take advantage.
  4. TSA: saying that it is 'suggested' to take your shoes off is the equivalent of telling people that there's a suggested fee for getting an airline ticket. If it's not suggested then just tell folks to take their shoes off, no holds barred. Yes, it's asinine but so are most new TSA rules so just run with it baby!
  5. People who have a lot of stuff on their person: your watch is metal. It will beep in the metal detector. Those keys you use to open the 50 different doors to your boss's file drawer? Well, you didn't need to travel with them. But since you did, they are metal and they will beep in the metal detector. Jewels. I know you like to wear all those jewels but maybe you really don't need them for that 6-hour flight to your cousin's funeral? Take them off for travel. They are metal. They will beep in the metal detector.
  6. Kid with a sombrero: you didn't need that Sombrero. But now that you have it put it in a box and check it. It doesn't fit through the security scanner, it doesn't fit in the overhead. Far be it for me to tell you that you'll regret buying that sombrero sometime 10 years from now, 8 drinks to the wind when your buddy takes a Polaroid. But I digress.
  7. People who checked bags: Bravo for not taking up the overhead space. However there is one more rule you should follow -- the law of physics. Two objects can't exist in the same space at the same time. So when you try to stand on my toes to get a place next to the baggage claim carousel you are smashing them. Please stop. Please move over to the next spot. The idea of the carousel is that the bags are distributed along a circular belt for all to have access to. If you crowd the loading zone you may be injured. I will injure you. Please stay away from me.
  8. Personal Space: Ok, I've moved down the carousel to get away from you. But now your 3 kids, grandparents and 2nd cousins have crowded in. They don't even have bags. Hitting me with the corner of your hard-case Samsonite luggage hurts. I will hit back next time. Please leave me alone.
  9. Guy on the plane eating McDonalds in Row 6: I realize the airlines, most of whom are in Chapter 11, have reduced the lovely airplane conveniences from full meals down to a poor box'ed 'snack'. However if you are going to bring McDonalds on the plane (which I don't blame you for) then please have the flight attendant dispose of it quickly after you are done eating. Otherwise about 2 hrs into the flight when we hit turbulence we'll all be holding airsick bags and the guy in row 34 will be cursing you and wondering why, in addition to being sick, he has to be nauseated by the smell of a rotting Filet-o-Fish.
  10. Airline CEO's: Have you flown lately on one of your own airplanes? I'm talking the full deal: coach class, international, no-premier-status and a shitty middle seat. If you haven't then you really need to get the full experience. It's something to behold. There's an entire airport culture of hurrying to wait. That is, rush to get yourself checked in, rush to get through security, rush through the miles of airport gates to arrive at your departure point. And then wait. Wait for hours to be told you have an additional hour to wait. And then wait to be told to wait. Can you guys do something about this? It's bad enough to be treated as enemy #1 by your own government. But I just paid you guys $450 for a shitty cloth seat and a can of Coke. How about if you tell me to get there 1-hr prior to departure you actually have the courtesy to provide a seat to wait in, some food that's not entirely unsavoury and lunch for less than $25 a person.
  11. TSA Gate Agents: I am not a terrorist. I realize there may be a few in the universe. But please keep in mind that the world population as of 2006 is 6.5 billion. Of those, I would venture to guess that less than .0000001% are terrorists. By those numbers we could basically scan every bag with an electron microscope, check for drugs in your spouse's anus and run animals repeatedly through X-ray machines and still not find a single 'thing' we're looking for. And it really is a 'thing' you're looking for isn't it? Because if it wasn't you'd just arrest or harrass everyone named Mohammed (oh, sorry, you already do) and inconvenience your own citizens to no end. And keep up the good work, too.
  12. Entering and exiting the plane: A few quick suggestions to enhance your boarding/de-planing process, ok? First, if you can't lift your bag higher than your ankle off the ground then how do you intend to lift it, in a narrow space, over the top of some pretty tall seats, up over your head and into a compact plastic compartment that already has other bags competing for limited space? Please just ponder that one the next time you decide not to check your luggage. Take care of your own shit and I'll take care of mine. If you have a cane, are handicapped or generally look feeble we're here to help. Second, when you're leaving the plane please don't stand in the aisle if you have no intention of actually leaving. Get your kids, get your spouse, get your relatives, put the bags in their hands, tell them "Ok, let's go!" and get the fuck off the airplane. The rest of us are waiting and we are capable of carrying ourselves and personal items without delay.
  13. To everyone: I know travel seems overwhelming. I know you think that Shareif Mohammed Achmed Kareshi is going to drive your plane into the Space Needle. And guess what? Somebody with a similar name might do that some day. But for the moment, if you could have the courtesy to move your beast out of the way if you're experiencing a "personal delay", check-in ahead of time, move your own bags quickly and efficiently and realize you are not God's gift to the frequent flyer then all of us will be better off.

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