Savvy Travel Decisions

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AIRPORT CHECK-IN: 

Be kind to yourself and airport security personnel.  Prior to entering airport security, place all of your jewelry, watch, wallet, passport, money clip, and keys in a sealed baggie.  Your items will be more secure in a zipped baggie than thrown loose on a tray.  Wear slip-on shoes.  When requested, remove your shoes and belt.  Preferably, wear belt-less clothing sans any metallic accents.  Loose-fitting clothing usually invites a pat-down or wand exam by an overly zealous TSA security person.  Be sure to wear underwear in case you are asked to strip.   

 

Demonstrate respect and cooperation to the security personnel.  Do not talk unless requested.  Don't be surprised if Security Agents, in checking your documents, become overly friendly and chatty with you - it's a new layer of security.  If you respond to any of the Security Agent's questions, "None of you business," your visit with the friendly Security Agent may be prolonged.  If you spot a friend in the airport terminal, do not, under any circumstances, shout out, “Hi Jack!”

 

New invasive security technology has been developed.  Soon, expect airport security machinery to resemble an X-ray tunnel with portals for feet, legs, body crevices, chest and mouth searches.  The “Underwear Bomber” introduced unforeseen threats.  Ladies: When flying, please wear underwear!  Remember the words of wisdom bestowed by your Mother: “Never, ever wear holey underwear when traveling!”  Security is becoming increasingly invasive, particularly “if you have something to hide.”

 

You wouldn’t think of taking a chest x-ray in your doctor’s office or having an x-ray of your teeth at your dentist’s without having proper protective covering as a precautionary measure against excessive radiation.  Presumably, experts have scientifically analyzed the potential dangers of radiation from x-rays or why would the physicians and dentists be consistently practicing this safeguard?  The protective covering, obviously does not affect the x-ray clarity of your body innards for medical analysis, or they would not be used.  There’s a reason that the physicians’ and dentists’ x-ray technicians stand back out of harm’s way in a protective booth - YOU BET, usually in another room!  As for the new airport body x-ray technology, our (excuse me, YOUR) government bureaucrats assure us that such technology is perfectly safe.  Reassuring isn’t it, considering past breaches of trust?

 

One wonders how often Janet N., her subsequent heads of Homeland Security, and her Homeland Security staff, or our duly elected political leaders, would like to volunteer to be guinea pigs and test out this assertion of safety?  How many years hence will the Press be writing of frequent fliers dying from airport body scanner radiation?

 

The alternative is to be totally humiliated by some “touchy feely” out-of-control attendant touching you from head to toe and everywhere in between! Anywhere other than an airport and you would flatten the perpetrator on the floor!  Do so here and you’ll be sent to jail.  Doubt they’ll even read you your rights!  A SOLUTION: cause a scene by silently beginning to disrobe item by item before the probing inspector and all others to witness.

 

Is it reasonable that everyone must take off their shoes when going through security because of one isolated incident?  If your body can be x-rayed, why can’t your feet? - perhaps a podiatrist should be consulted as it seems they successfully employ x-ray technology on a daily basis??  You, of course, have heard of the toe-nail terrorist? It’s a secret blend of gun powder and toe-jam!

 

You walk into the Airport Terminal where there are thousands, not a hundred passengers, wearing their shoes on and without being searched.  Perhaps a little foot powder afterward plus an extra warm wash of the socks?

 

You can drive your automobile up to the terminal’s front door to let off or pick up passengers, without being searched.  Ditto, stand in line at the ticket counter with no security check.  Really, where does security begin and end? 


The happy airline view of the experience at check-in and etc.

 

THE REALITY

Singapore, 2014 - Crowds of people waiting at the customs for passport control at

Singapore International Changi Airport

iStock.com

binbeter - Copyright

 

The problem is that the conscientious, low-paid airport security personnel are understandably paranoid that they may subject to a test case and a resultant reprimand.  No one, obviously wishes to be responsible for a preventable tragedy, but, come on: how about practicing a little common sense and minimizing rudeness and over overzealous behavior?  Certainly the security process can be made less infuriating without compromising passenger safety.

 

In essence the terrorists have won, as it is we are the ones subjected to inconvenience and paranoid behavior.  It is we have grown accustomed living in fear of the unknown.  It is we who have been asked (?) to sacrifice our freedoms and civil liberties.  Dare subject an Arab or foreign national from a terrorist infested nation to extra scrutiny and the ALCU will immediately cry foul-profiling!  Instead, are the remaining 99% American citizens being singled out for security screening?  Yep! Guess if you choose to fly, you are guilty until proven innocent.  Who ever said justice was blind? 

If you are a frequent flyer either for business or pleasure, it probably would make sense to sign-up for the Global Entry Program.  The program, launched in 2008, allows expedited entry into the United States by low-risk international travelers.  It is in place in 44 U.S. airports.

To qualify for Global Entry, you must complete and submit an online application plus a $100 non-refundable application fee.  You will then be interviewed in person by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBT) officer during which you must answer questions and be subjected to fingerprinting and photographing.  Close to one million enrollees were in the program in 2013. 

Global Entry participants check-in at airport Global Entry kiosks.  At present the program emphasizes entry or re-entry into the United States rather than U.S. domestic travel. 

 

Ever considered a bus or train?  My, what a pleasurable experience flying has become.  The terrorists have, in essence, won because it is YOU that has lost a sense of your self-dignity and freedoms of movement previously enjoyed in this nation of “the free and the brave.”  Public tolerance for invasive security measures is being severely tested.  Stay tuned. 

TSA, a rapidly growing bureaucratic national police force (it's annual budget exceeds $6 billion) began as a well-intentioned counter-balance to the threat of terrorism and specifically airline safety.  It has now morphed into providing security in train stations, bus depots, subways, large gatherings, and even some sporting events.  The balance between the TSA's activities and the American citizens civil liberties is a slippery slope with the pendulum in danger of becoming precariously out of balance. 

 

Grumbling is futile, compromise is required: would you rather be subjected to radiation from the x-rays that may or may not harm you, versus shrapnel and likely death from a fatal bomb placed aboard your flight?

 

Watch what you put in your carry-on luggage.  Never pack more than a three ounce (3.4 oz/100 milliliters) container of perfume, gels, pre-shave, after-shave lotions, body lotion, deodorant, shampoo, facial cream, sunscreen, toothpaste, hairsprays, etc., -liquids,-in short toiletry items that don’t want TSA Security inspectors to arbitrarily confiscate.  Prioritize and don’t exceed 3.4 ounces of whatever items you wish to bring.

 

An additional hoop to jump through: such items not exceeding the specified limit should be placed in a 7-1/2 inch by 8-inch baggie with a slide closure.  Be sure to measure the bag so as to not give TSA any excuse to grab and confiscate!

 

Place medicine and medical purpose items in another baggie. 

When in doubt, best pack all "liquids" such as perfume, cologne, aftershave, deodorant, suntan lotion, even toothpaste, etc. in your baggage checked suitcase. 

 

Here’s an idea: TSA could operate a perfumery with their confiscated items and donate the profits to charity.

 

Must guard against the toothpaste bombers! What’s next? The “Fingernail or Toenail Bomber?”  With the recent incident of the “old man” disguise by a young adult, perhaps the next invasive security step will be a facial scrape of your skin to make certain that “it is really you.”  That’ll teach you to use so much makeup!

 

Somehow, keep an eye on your possessions as you are being frisked, as others have designs on stealing your personal goods even in the so-called “security zones!”

 

Try to watch your valuables as they emerge from the radar screen.  If you are traveling with someone else, assist each other in watching after your possessions.  Retrieve your possessions A.S.A.P.  Check to be certain nothing is missing.  Sad to say, but brazen thieves have stolen goods of others even in security zones!  

 

Protest overly zealous screeners that become too “feely-touchy” by filing a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security Traveler’s Redress Program (http://www.dhs.gov).  Be sure to get name or badge number of the alleged offender.  Believe it or not, you still have some rights as a citizen.  Do not lose sight that “this” is YOUR government. 


 

Luggage manufacturers, in an attempt to simplify and expedite airport check-in baggage procedures recently introduced wearable carry-on bags and clothing.  The shirts, vests, and/or bags have as many as 28 pockets to store one’s carry-on gadgetry such as keys, pens, cell-phone, CD player, books, etc.: one can visualize an airport screener going berserk!  Good idea but impractical based on present screening practices?