If you add up all my miles from various business trips over the years, I have approximately 2.8 million frequent flyer miles. I'm way behind one guy I read about who has 31 million miles, but I'm ahead of most of the people I meet -- where else? -- on planes.
I say this because I've experienced the TSA (Transportation Safety Administration -- to everyone who is smarter than me and driving instead of flying) a lot. I've had M16's pointed at me by pimply-faced National Guard troops right after 9/11. More recently, I've had gels and liquids confiscated and have probably walked the equivalent of a marathon, barefoot to get through the metal detector.
Along the way I've realized one thing during all these trips to the airport: Airport security is much more interested in giving the appearance of security than trying to make airplane travel actually safe.
For example, on my most recent flight I had my baggie full of gels and liquids out and ready to show anyone who wanted to know the secret for my youthful appearance. A TSA staffer scrutinized the bag. She informed me that she'd have to empty one of my bottles because, she explained, they only allowed gels and liquids in their original containers -- no camping-style plain plastic bottles are allowed. She methodically emptied out my soap from its container. Apparently terrorists have not figured out how to empty shampoo bottles to put something more dangerous inside.
Please don't get me wrong. I want air travel to be as safe as possible. That's why I'd like them to focus more on real threats -- meaning they should focus less on the types of containers we're carrying and more on what is inside.
Remember when we were only allowed three-ounce containers on our carry on bags? Recently that was increased to three-and-a-half ounces, according to a TSA supervisor that I talked to.
Why the increase? Because of complaints by the perfume industry. You can't make this stuff up.
So what security reason is behind making us have our gels and liquids in name-brand containers? Can someone name the security rationale for not picking a fight with the perfume industry? My sense is that we should move the TSA out of the Department of Homeland Security and into the Department of Commerce, because our security apparatus seems much more focused on commerce than safety.
Finally, have you noticed how every few months they have to close down a terminal at an airport because someone runs through a security checkpoint and then disappears? If my travels are any indication, there always seems to be a cast of thousands at security checkpoints. I can't figure out how they could avoid running into a security official.
However, the front of the airport is always jammed packed with officers who make sure cars dropping off and picking up travelers idle for no more than a minute at the frnot curb. Does anyone who works at an airport ever fly?
Here is a radical thought: Let's reassign the parking cops to security checkpoints -- a place where they can actually do some good -- by stopping people from running into the airport and leave people alone who are trying to pick up a loved one.