Thursday, February 16, 2006

Playing with TSA

where TSA means Transport Security Administration; the people who screen travellers in US airports.

This happened a couple of months ago but I remembered it now so now is when I write of it.

I was on my way back from Dallas to Phoenix[^] via El Paso. As noted in that post the return flight was very late. By the time we left Dallas I'd given up all hope of a smoke in El Paso.

Now you have to understand that our finance people, to whom I submit expense reports, are insane. How else explain that they require that little bit of the boarding pass that we passengers get to keep? Submit an expense report without the boarding stubs and you get to argue for hours about whether you really took the trip. Somehow the hotel bill doesn't count; they want that damned stub. Yeah, I can see myself telling the boss that I'm going to Baguio for a month, not going, faking a hotel bill and getting away with it!

Most airlines accept the boarding pass at the gate, tear off the stub and hand it back to you. Southwest Airlines don't. If you want the boarding stub it's up to you to tear it off before boarding.

So, on that trip last December I tore off the boarding stub before hearing that the plane to take us from El Paso to Phoenix was still on the ground at Albuquerque. If I had to wait that long I was going to have a smoke or three, which I did.

Coming back through security you have to show the boarding pass and photo ID. I've done this so often it's automatic. Take my Arizona drivers license out of the wallet, put everything else including the wallet in the laptop case, take off my shoes and expose the embarassment of holey socks and breeze through security. Not this time! You see, I only had three quarters of a boarding pass. The young lady at screening was not satisfied. She asked me where the rest of the pass was. I pointed at my laptop case just then passing through the xray machine.

Ok, she'd meet me half way; she wanted to see the stub. A mischevious devil made me grap the stub for the Dallas to El Paso leg of the trip. I held both parts of a ticket that never existed up and she, seeing three quarters of a boarding pass in my left hand and one quarter in my right nodded me through.

Now there's useful security for you!

I've written a few times in the past of how I'd accept security checks as part of the price of getting to the destination in one piece; I'm no longer so sure. The first nail in the coffin of that acceptance was the April 14 2005 imposition of a ban on cigarette lighters. We've had just the one incident, in all the years of air travel, where some idiot tried to blow his feet off and take out a plane in the process. Geeze, he was even trying to light the fuses with matches! You can still carry matches!

Maybe tomorrow I'll pull out my Victorian drivers license instead of my Arizona one and see if that works. It's still valid.

I suppose I should be careful; some time ago someone working for TSA commented on some of the things I had to say about TSA - if I keep this up my name will hit the 'hassle for the hell of it' list :-)

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