Yesterday was a good day when you consider that my wife Karen and I spent seven hours flying, coupled with a one hour layover, traveling from Dallas to Sacramento. As usual, we flew Southwest Airlines. And as usual, we were greeted by one of their curbside baggage staff who shared a smile, some quick stories regarding past travels to New Orleans and a few laughs.
But today, we were flying commercially to Sacramento for the Folsom Jazz Festival. In order to do that, you must pass the scrutiny of TSA. It’s the law. Luckily, our next encounter was with another cheerful employee who stood at a velvet roped entrance. I think it was velvet, but perhaps it was a stainless steel chain. That seems to be a more appropriate ambiance when you consider it was the gateway to the new full body security scanners recently installed at Dallas Love airport. Our TSA ambassador looked carefully at Karen’s Texas drivers license while asking her if she knew her middle name. I smiled and commented that his question really wasn’t that hard. So he smiled back with the humorous challenge that I don’t think he took very seriously. “Okay sir, do you know your California drivers license number?” I rattled it off immediately and then offered to recite my FAA private pilot’s license number as well. The velvet rope was opened, I mean the steel chain was opened and I was allowed to pass. So far, I had encountered two airport employees with excellent work ethic and attitudes. But the ugly reality of statistics was soon to be demonstrated. I informed the gentleman by the scanner that I was exercising my right to “opt out” of the full body radiation tanning booth. The gentleman standing in line behind me did this as well, although I’m not sure whether or not I influenced his decision. So we were led to separate area and asked if we wanted a private screening. I said no, I didn’t mind being patted down in public. So an older gentleman put on his rubber gloves and began his speech regarding what was about to transpire. As he recited his litany of agonizing detail and explanation, I briefly interrupted him, explaining that I have been through the procedure before. Then he looked at me and said the following words verbatim -
“That doesn’t matter. I have to go through this sales pitch because You Opted Out and Are Putting Me Through This”.
Yes, the TSA employee was irritated that I did not want to be subjected to radiation throughout my entire body as part of a government screening process. He was annoyed that he had to take the time to pat me down. I was putting HIM through something unpleasant. The context of the situation brings several words and phrases to mind.
Poor work ethic
To be fair, this gentleman was more respectful for the remainder of the intimate moments we shared in accordance with TSA rules and regulations. But I couldn’t help hearing his words echo. “Because you’re putting me through this”. It reinforced a belief that I’ve held for quite some time. Once you surrender your constitutional rights to a government bureaucracy, including the right of unreasonable search and seizure, the frame of reference regarding your relationship with the government changes. It is no longer serving you. It exists to serve itself. To become larger. To consume more. To demand more. To control more.
And that’s exactly what’s happening in our country right now. Today. And a reasonable person would just have to stop and ask themselves where this will all end, regardless of who wins the presidential election in November. Because what seems somewhat reasonable today would have seemed totally unreasonable just four years ago. I’ll let you make your own projections.
By the way, there was a news crew from a Dallas television station doing a story on the new scanners. A gentleman named Bud approached me just after my TSA pat down. We spent about five minutes in an interview in which I articulated several observations, including
- The TSA has a virtually impossible job screening every single traveler of every single flight in the United States every single day.
- The tremendous money and resources dedicated to this effort are excessive and perhaps there is a smarter way of approaching the problem which involves less political theater and more intelligent profile gathering.
- Perhaps United States citizens who have earned a reputation of lawfulness should be considered innocent and allowed to pass. Perhaps the foreign traveler with no luggage should be questioned. It doesn’t make sense that persons known to the government as low risk are subjected to this screening process. Those include FAA licensed private pilots, such as myself, airline maintenance staff and even off-duty TSA employees.
- I really don’t trust the federal government when it tells me that a technology is safe. The trustworthiness and track record of the bureaucratic machine has not exactly been stellar. The government also told us just a few short years ago that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were financially sound, didn’t it? I also remember San Francisco city officials telling us that the Irwin Memorial Blood Bank was safe in the early 1980’s, just after the AIDs story became front page news.
Unfortunately, most of my observations didn’t make it past the news editor, but they did air this 30 second clip -
Why do I have these views? Why do I express these views? It’s not because I’m concerned for my safety, it’s because I felt bad that “opting out” was putting a TSA employee “through this”. Remember the words of John F. Kennedy – “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Then again, perhaps this isn’t exactly what he meant.