Part of my line of work involves traveling about once per month, and my destinations are distant enough that I just about have to fly there. Setting aside for the moment the often-unpleasant experience of flying economy for long distances, I would rather mention another domestic problem.
See, I am not the world’s most submissive coyote when it comes to not just air travel but a number of other interactions. So sometimes there is friction. But I discovered something last week when flying out of Houston Intercontinental Airport.
Apparently the TSA this airport has started the new procedure of requiring would-be passengers to give them their name when the traveler gives them the usual documents (boarding pass and ID). It’s funny because the person covers up the ID and gives you a blank stare – probably the only one they’re good at – while you state the obvious. And then when you show the TSA that you passed kindergarten, they let you through to be strip-searched or groped.
But I was unaware of this new procedure, so I did what any reasonable person would do, something the TSA cannot stand: I asked, “Why?”
It is an odd question of theirs, considering my name and photograph are prominently displayed on my driver’s license and I bear a remarkable resemblance to myself. So I asked, “Why do you ask? It’s right there on my ID.”
Apparently that was the wrong response. I dared to Ask a Question, rather than Submit and Obey. The old, sunken-eyed blueshirt I had to deal with didn’t care for it. Shocked at my willingness to challenge their rule, she jabbed a finger toward the side and shouted, “Go stand over there! I don’t have time to deal with people like you,” as she radioed her supervisor. I waited a few minutes, so I kept asking her about the procedure, which prompted her to plead for her supervisor again.
Eventually he came. He explained that it was something they only did at this airport, and those who weren’t willing to comply could stand outside until they cooled off and were willing to Obey. I asked him who had come up with the policy, and why they had implemented it. Aside from saying it was standard operating procedure, he said he couldn’t tell me why.
In other words, there is no reason. This should be no surprise to anyone.
After a couple minutes I did give my name. It was displayed for anyone to see, so it was not exactly a secret. I will give them information they already have. Besides, I wanted to go home.
And of course later I politely declined the scanner, so they politely groped me. I have to get the full experience, after all.
They probably don’t want me to come back. I can’t say I particularly want to return, either.