Sunday 04 Dec 2016

Fun at the Airport
Matt Seinberg

I remember traveling as a kid for the first time with my parents on a trip to Florida to visit my grandmother on an airplane. Going to the airport for the first time and seeing the planes land and take off was quite exciting when you are young.

There were no metal detectors to go through and anyone could go to the gates at anytime without showing a ticket, only some id. Tickets, what tickets? I don't think anyone uses tickets anymore, but the more generic E-ticket that we all print out at home.

The Transportation Security Administration did not exist to protect the airport and harass travelers. Security was basic, as the biggest threat to air travel was the occasional political wacko that wanted to hijack a plane to Cuba. I always wondered where Cuba was and why they wanted to go there. When I got older, I got all the answers and again wondered why anyone would want to go to, or back to Cuba and live on an island ruled by a Communist dictator that could make anyone disappear at anytime for any reason.

I don't think delays were nearly as bad in the 1970's as they are today. Back then, the big airlines were Eastern, Pan Am, Delta, National, United, American and TWA. Today, we have a larger Delta, JetBlue, United, American, Continental, US Airways, Spirit and Southwest. I'm sure there are many more regional carriers, but those don't need to mentioning, as most issues apply to them as well.

Flight delays today are unbelievable today. The biggest reason is air congestion due to more planes going to more destinations than ever before. Airports have gotten larger over the years and many have reached capacity for their acreage. I don't pity the people that live near an airport and complain about the noise. They chose to move there and knew what they were getting into. So don't complain when the airport wants to expand and take over whatever land they can get their wheels on to improve service, or so they claim.

Service has gone so downhill in the airline industry that it's not funny anymore. Most airlines now charge to check your baggage and none serve free, full service meals anymore, except and maybe, in first class. If you're lucky, you'll get a snack of peanuts or pretzels and something to drink. How many of us now pack a meal to bring with us on the plane?

The biggest indignation, now, is the new security measures at major airports. When I went to Chicago in October, these were not yet in place at either Kennedy or O'Hare airports. The TSA installed their new body scanner machines and gave the option of a full body pat down for those people who did not want to go through the scanner.

Travelers have to make a choice and make it quickly. Do you want all your body parts exposed (as a ghostly image) to some TSA screener, in remote room, or be touched by a stranger in ways that are usually reserved for criminals? The TSA presumes us guilty of terrorism until a court decides we're innocent. What about our young children? Is the TSA afraid that we are going to hide explosives on them because they look so young and innocent?

I certainly don't want some stranger touching my private parts in ways that even my wife won't do, especially if it's a man. Let a good-looking woman do it and maybe I'll say yes. I wonder, I hope, Jennifer Love Hewitt joined the TSA yet as a screener; then I'm good to go. I'll opt for the body scanner and let them see all my junk as an X-ray image.

How does the TSA select screeners? What kind of tests do they have to take and what's the passing score? Is there a psychological evaluation involved that determines if they are stable enough to look at all those human like images for hours at a time without going crazy? Does the TSA screen out the crazies, perverts and predators; do they somehow get through?

If you don't ponder such ideas, as they pat you down, if you let your mind go blank or just float away to a happy place, then good for you. I like my personal space and don't want my family and me to feel violated by some stranger that we'll probably never see again. I wonder what these people do when they go home to their families. Do they complain about the obese person they had to frisk? Do they gloat about the hot chick they touched? It's the women and men that don't talk about it that worry me the most. I'd bet they live alone, eat lots of frozen food and "watch" Internet porn on more than a daily basis.

Please, call me cynical. I miss the good old days of air travel. I'm sad for what it has turned into, a day of stress and anguish. Sure, it's great when we finally arrive at our destination, but then it will start all over again when it's over.

My advice is simple. Follow the rules, take the relaxant of your choice, put a brave face on for your family and get it over as quickly as you can. Smile at the TSA screeners and hope for the best. It certainly can't get any worse than it is now, or can it.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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