Wednesday, October 5, 2016

And now for something you'll really like: a TSA story

Air travel has inspired complaints, horror stories, and epic tales of woe beyond number.  Getting through TSA screening is foremost among them, so I thought I’d entertain you with the small city airport version of it.

We have three flights a day.  They all go to Seattle.  It’s a short flight, around forty minutes.  Once there the world awaits, but what’s it like at our end?  

The most popular flight leaves at 6:00 a.m. sharp – assuming the last flight in (midnight) made it.  Getting to the airport at least an hour before take off is important.  It may be only you and seventy-three others getting on the one and only plane, but the staff checking you in is also the staff manning the gate and loading the plane.  There’s a lot to do in a short time.  Alaska, our airline, runs on time, so people who have tried a last minute dash to the airport have found themselves missing the flight, even as they watched passengers waiting to board.  

We’ve got self check-in kiosks, but no one uses them.  It’s easier to go through an agent at the counter, and you have to do that anyway if checking bags, which brings up another oddity.  You can check bags through to almost any place in the world, but checked luggage is inspected by hand because we don’t have the room or volume to warrant a big X-ray machine.  They’re very nice about it.  What ever way you packed is mostly the way you will find it when you open up.  Inside will be a card letting you know that TSA has rifled through everything, have a nice day, and you passed.  They do have a regular metal detection gizmo to walk through.  Out of every plane load there are always a half dozen or so who have to be told about how the system works, not counting the elderly who have learned how to act confused and incompetent.  I think they entertain themselves that way.  Rodeo belt buckles or a couple of pounds of jewelry always slow things down.  Pat downs are routine.  It’s a casual affair, but everyone (who got there early enough) gets through.  It helps that our TSA agents are a friendly low key group with a good sense of humor.  Once at a small airport in Wyoming I watched a cowboy swear he had nothing left to declare, except for a pocket full of rifle ammunition he didn’t think counted.  But I digress.

A short walk across the tarmac and it’s off to Seattle.  Coffee and juice are served in the morning.  Wine and beer are served in the afternoon.  Not much time for either.  I figure I can leave home, park, check in, get through security, fly to Seattle, and board my connecting flight in less time than Seattleites starting from their own city for the same flight.


Oh yeah, parking is close and free.


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