“I guess it would be nice, if I could see a full scan of your body.” – George Michael, TSA. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
On Friday morning, I flew on an airplane, and it was amazing. And there’s no reason Congress can’t make every flight exactly that amazing, as well.
“Amazing” is not how you’re supposed to feel about flying on airplanes. Flights aresupposed to be day-long humiliations, preceded by a tedious and intrusive two-hour prologue of TSA scans and killing time at the gate, often followed by sundry delays and missed connections, and culminating in a physically and emotionally wrenching voyage featuring a screaming, virus-ridden infant, not-completely-unfrozen ravioli and “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.” Business Insider’s Henry Blodget is probably the master of the airplane-memoir-as-survivalist-tract genre, if you’re into that kind of thing.
A lot of that could be solved by people just getting over it and developing a sense of perspective, but one part of the process really is horrible and unnecessary: the TSA scans. Let us count the indignities:
• The wait to get to the metal detector itself can take anywhere from five minutes to an hour. You have basically no idea how long.
• If you’re silly enough to have brought along more than 3 ounces of toothpaste, shampoo, liquor, water or some other liquid on your flight, you’re going to have to either toss it or start the whole process over again. If, say, a friend or family member gives you a bottle of bourbon that consequently has sentimental value, you’re going to have to pay $29 or whatever to check your bag or else watch a TSA inspector pour out the memories before your very eyes.
• At the end of the security line wait, you have to take off your shoes, jacket and belt, empty your pockets, pull your laptop and/or liquids (3 ounces or less!) out of your carry-on bag, and arrange all those into separate bins (one for the laptop alone, of course!). I usually expedite this process while waiting in line — taking off my belt and emptying my pockets and putting the contents into my carry-on bag, taking out my laptop and holding it separately, and unlacing my shoes, though on at least one occasion this has ended with me tripping on my shoelaces, with hijinks ensuing.
• Once you’ve managed all that, you get to go through a metal detector or, better yet, a body scanner — for looking under your clothes. While the infamously invasive Rapiscan scanner was phased out over inadequate privacy protections, body scanners generally aren’t going anywhere.
• Usually that’s it, but sometimes you’re randomly selected for a pat-down. And if they find something they don’t like in your luggage or on your person, you could get even more than that. Hooray!
• Once that’s all done and you’ve stumbled from the end of security to the nearest bench, you get to put your belt, shoes and jacket back on, refill your pockets, and put your laptop and liquids back in your carry-on. Now you just have to wait because you, like a responsible traveler, allotted a fair amount of time in case security took a while.