A Tale of Travel, the TSA, Tuna, and Terrorists

 

When you re-enter the United States on a Monday evening after a short vacation, it is better for your blood pressure to assume the TSA will only have four people working despite having thirty+ empty booths available for more staff.

You will be less stressed if you don’t ponder why your government hasn’t prepared for flights the airport must have known were landing, which might have clued someone into the predictable length of the incredibly long line that will then form in front of those four agents.

You will also feel happier if you don’t ever look at your watch or think about how you will have to go through security again before getting to your connection, which you can’t miss if you want to sleep in your own bed that night.

This is especially true if it takes you almost two hours to move through that long line when there is so little staff squinting at the visa stamps in various passports looking for … something.

You must remember it isn’t the TSA that is your enemy in that moment but the people who hate you for simply being an American, the people who have attacked the country of your birth in the past for absolutely no fathomable reason, the people you are glad may be kept out by people who must be more competent than they appear to be.

It is the fault of terrorists, after all, that you will have to walk barefoot on dirty tiles to go through x-ray machines that will take pictures of your innards before you get onto your next airplane. It is their fault you cannot carry the rum you bought at duty free in your book bag but have to check it before you get on your next flight. It is their fault the four agents are scanning each face intently as the line slowly, slowly, slowly moves forward.

Finally, when you are once more in the Land of the Free and running as fast as you can to get to the right terminal, you will be hungry because your ticket was cheap, and the airline you chose did not even hand out pretzels as you crossed the ocean.

For your own sake, do not bemoan the fact that you could have gotten something hot to eat if you had only not been stuck so long in the long, long line.

Some things are beyond your control, and it does you no good to be angered by them.

However, you should still remember this.

If there is a sushi-to-go joint directly across from your gate where people are already boarding, and you load up on pre-packed tuna and salmon rolls because your stomach is beyond growling and now practically whimpering, do not give the woman behind the cash register that is about to close that forty dollars you have in your wallet until you do this one thing.

Open the lids to all that sushi, friend.

If you don’t, you’ll end up in your seat a few minutes later with your extra packages of soy sauce and a smug sense of satisfaction that you haven’t been beaten. Then when you finally get to pull down your tray table to get down to eating dinner, you will release a worse smell on the plane than even that one guy did when he de-shoed his sweaty feet across the aisle from you.

Everyone will turn in your direction, and there will be no telling them why you have three rolls of very spoiled fish making their air less pleasant. They have their own travel stories to tell, and you have not made them feel better.

If this happens to you–if you forget to do what you must always do when buying sushi in a airport, which is to smell it before you ever leave that to-go restaurant–please, please, please don’t get angry at anyone but the terrorists.

Even this is really their fault. Somehow.

Come to think of it, it was probably a plot to poison you.

After all, you’re almost hungry enough to still take a bite, but you don’t.

You won’t let them win.

There are 33 comments.

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  1. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    And Osama Bin-Laden’s son wants revenge.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Oh Lois, I’m so sorry. Those mean old terrorists ruined your trip! At least now you are home where you can buy fresh sushi and eat it on a real table, drink a glass of your favorite wine, put your feet up on your favorite ottoman, and breathe deeply. A-h-h-h-h…..

    • #2
  3. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Those mean old terrorists ruined your trip! At least now you are home where you can buy fresh sushi….

    They did not ruin the whole trip.  Just the tail end.  Pina coladas were good on the beach, and the fish there was tasty.  :)

    But, yeah.

    Whenever I have to endure the travel part of travel, I am reminded that there’s no place like home.

    • #3
  4. Blondie Thatcher
    Blondie
    @Blondie

    Yet another reason why if I can’t drive there, I don’t go. God Bless your heart (really).

    • #4
  5. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Blondie (View Comment):
    Yet another reason why if I can’t drive there, I don’t go.

    That’s what my parents say now.  They go amazing stretches in their car.  They’re old now, and they can’t be bothered with anything more onerous than finding a gas station.

    • #5
  6. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    Whenever I’m in an airport, I just try to go to my happy place.  “Lie back and enjoy it,” as they say, because it’s not going to stop until it’s over, no matter what you do.

    • #6
  7. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Cato Rand (View Comment):
    “Lie back and enjoy it,” as they say, because it’s not going to stop until it’s over, no matter what you do.

    Excellent advice, Cato.  It’s what I think people said during… like… the Inquisition.

    No one listens when you complain.  :)

    • #7
  8. Suspira Member
    Suspira
    @Suspira

    Blondie (View Comment):
    Yet another reason why if I can’t drive there, I don’t go. God Bless your heart (really).

    I prefer to drive, but I’m planning a trip to Scotland this summer. I don’t think I can manage that drive.

    • #8
  9. profdlp Inactive
    profdlp
    @profdlp

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    No one listens when you complain.

    Grab ’em by the lapels and push their back against the wall, then get your face about 1/4″ away from theirs and they will.

    • #9
  10. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    In general, people who fly create more wealth than those who do not.

    It is foolish and stupid that our *&^%$# government makes us wait in queues. And proof that we should change all of the gatekeeper incentives at the border. Entering the country  is really a routine process, and it should be as fast and as painless as possible.

    It does our country no good whatsoever to make people waste their lives shuffling along in these queues.

    Next week I am going to Singapore – where they keep so many people in passport control that there is no line whatsoever. The logic is simple: you do not have to go to Singapore, so the civil service does everything in their power to make it a pleasant and rewarding experience.

    • #10
  11. The Whether Man Inactive
    The Whether Man
    @TheWhetherMan

    That’s not the TSA – that’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and their job is to screen people coming into the United States to prevent terrorists (and anyone without a legal right to entry) from entering.  Totally different massive and not-well-functioning federal bureaucracy.

    • #11
  12. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    profdlp (View Comment):
    Grab ’em by the lapels and push their back against the wall, then get your face about 1/4″ away from theirs and they will.

    Right before someone with a baton hits you over the head from behind and strip searches you.

    • #12
  13. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    The Whether Man (View Comment):
    That’s not the TSA – that’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and their job is to screen people coming into the United States to prevent terrorists (and anyone without a legal right to entry) from entering.

    Ah.  Okay.  Either way… I blamed the terrorists.  :)

    • #13
  14. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    iWe (View Comment):
    Next week I am going to Singapore – where they keep so many people in passport control that there is no line whatsoever.

    It is true that there are ways around this here in the US.  My husband travels abroad all the time, so he has gone through the “Global Entry” process.  That solves the problem for a lot of hardcore business travelers.

    But I don’t travel for work, so I have never made this extra effort or paid this extra money.  It takes a few months to get an appointment for scrutiny, and I’ve never felt it was worth the effort for me.

    Also, yeah.  If they had just scheduled enough people to work, there wouldn’t have been a long, long, loonnnnnggg line for this last trip of mine either.   It just seemed… Well.  It’s not like flights can take you by surprise, so scheduling should be fairly easy and routine.

    • #14
  15. Matt White Member
    Matt White
    @

    The Whether Man (View Comment):
    That’s not the TSA – that’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and their job is to screen people coming into the United States to prevent terrorists (and anyone without a legal right to entry) from entering. Totally different massive and not-well-functioning federal bureaucracy.

    Yes, for international flights you get to wait in two lines.

    In my experience, the customs line at the airport doesn’t usually have much of a wait compared to security.  The bridge and the tunnel crossings are much worse.

    • #15
  16. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    profdlp (View Comment):

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    No one listens when you complain.

    Grab ’em by the lapels and push their back against the wall, then get your face about 1/4″ away from theirs and they will.

    You don’t fly much, do you?

    Because if you did that even once you would never fly again.

     

    • #16
  17. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Suspira (View Comment):
    I’m planning a trip to Scotland this summer. I don’t think I can manage that drive.

    I love Scotland.  It’s worth the hassle.  Just remember to smell the blood pudding if you buy it in the airport!  That’s the most important part of my own tale of woe: focus on what you can control to have a better trip.  Then have an amazing time hiking around the Highlands.

    • #17
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    But I don’t travel for work, so I have never made this extra effort or paid this extra money. It takes a few months to get an appointment for scrutiny, and I’ve never felt it was worth the effort for me.

    It’s not so hard at all, Lois. My husband and I made appts., went in, they took us in right away (Orlando), and we got the KTN (Known Traveler Number) for each of us in the mail. It takes a little time because they had to do a security check; also, it’s extremely hard to get my fingerprints, but I think they found them in the “system.” I highly recommend it!

    • #18
  19. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Matt White (View Comment):
    In my experience, the customs line at the airport doesn’t usually have much of a wait compared to security.

    Right?  I was just lucky, I guess.

    And our line was not just US passports either but a jumble of everyone with passports from everywhere.  I don’t know why they did it that way because that’s never been my experience, and I have traveled internationally a lot for a person who doesn’t travel for work.

    Either way, I went where I was told, cursed the faceless terrorists under my breath, and seriously considered eating the tic tac covered in lint that I found at the bottom of my purse while my tummy rumbled….

    • #19
  20. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    It’s not so hard at all, Lois. My husband and I made appts., went in, they took us in right away (Orlando), and we got the KTN (Known Traveler Number) for each of us in the mail.

    Well, that’s encouraging!  It took my husband 4 months to get his appointment, but the office near us might have just been clogged up at the time or something… I don’t know.

    I’ll check it out!

    • #20
  21. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Kozak (View Comment):

    profdlp (View Comment):

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    No one listens when you complain.

    Grab ’em by the lapels and push their back against the wall, then get your face about 1/4″ away from theirs and they will.

    You don’t fly much, do you?

    Because if you did that even once you would never fly again.

    Too true, @kozak.  Too true.

    • #21
  22. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    If anyone else is interested, here’s a link to Global Entry

    • #22
  23. PhilKolb Inactive
    PhilKolb
    @PhilKolb

    Lois Lane (View Comment):

    Blondie (View Comment):
    Yet another reason why if I can’t drive there, I don’t go.

    That’s what my parents say now. They go amazing stretches in their car. They’re old now, and they can’t be bothered with anything more onerous than finding a gas station.

    My wife and I are in the same demographics as your parents.  We, too, dislike the hassle of flying since TSA makes it so degrading.   It is amusing to see all the PlaneRage that goes on now-a-days for it is setup by the TSA and with the help of poor customer service by some airline employees.  A stop every 400 miles is quite refreshing.  We are in no particular hurry since we both are retired and we get to see this beautiful country out of a car window instead of looking out an airplane window.  It works for us.

    • #23
  24. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    PhilKolb (View Comment):
    We are in no particular hurry since we both are retired and we get to see this beautiful country out of a car window instead of looking out an airplane window. It works for us.

    That’s exactly what my parents say.  They get books on CD, stop in tiny towns no one has ever heard of, and basically just see more of what other people call “fly over country.”

    It works for them, and they don’t get angry.

    • #24
  25. Matt White Member
    Matt White
    @

    Lois Lane (View Comment):

    Matt White (View Comment):
    In my experience, the customs line at the airport doesn’t usually have much of a wait compared to security.

    Right? I was just lucky, I guess.

    And our line was not just US passports either but a jumble of everyone with passports from everywhere. I don’t know why they did it that way because that’s never been my experience, and I have traveled internationally a lot for a person who doesn’t travel for work.

    Either way, I went where I was told, cursed the faceless terrorists under my breath, and seriously considered eating the tic tac covered in lint that I found at the bottom of my purse while my tummy rumbled….

    The separate lines are part of why I don’t think of the customs line is as much hassle as security. Since you mention it, I do recall seeing bigger crowds waiting in the non-citizen lines when returning home.

    That’s what I would like to see at the big border crossings around Detroit. If they would split us into citizen and non-citizen lines it would probably be a lot better.

    • #25
  26. Blondie Thatcher
    Blondie
    @Blondie

    Since you wrote this OP, a friend of mine was flying back to the east coast from Seattle. Unfortunately, she had gotten the flu (not confirmed at time of flight) while out there. She was freezing on the plane, asked for a blanket and was denied one because she wasn’t in first class. She said she’d have paid good money for one if given the chance. Such non-customer service.

    • #26
  27. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Blondie (View Comment):
    She was freezing on the plane, asked for a blanket and was denied one because she wasn’t in first class.

    That’s crazy.  I hope she sneezed on the flight attendant.

    • #27
  28. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Matt White (View Comment):
    If they would split us into citizen and non-citizen lines it would probably be a lot better.

    I am now looking into Global Entry to skip the longer lines all together… Most queues are separated into citizens/permanent residents in one and then non-citizens/visitors into another in most countries and every other time I’ve ever re-entered the US.

    • #28
  29. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    But I don’t travel for work, so I have never made this extra effort or paid this extra money. It takes a few months to get an appointment for scrutiny, and I’ve never felt it was worth the effort for me.

    It’s not so hard at all, Lois. My husband and I made appts., went in, they took us in right away (Orlando), and we got the KTN (Known Traveler Number) for each of us in the mail. It takes a little time because they had to do a security check; also, it’s extremely hard to get my fingerprints, but I think they found them in the “system.” I highly recommend it!

    I agree.  I got Global Entry.  I think I’ve waited longer in Customs and Immigration lines at the airport than it took to get it.  I suppose it depends on where you live and how near an office that offers the service, etc., but here in Chicago, it was very easy.

    • #29
  30. profdlp Inactive
    profdlp
    @profdlp

    Kozak (View Comment):

    profdlp (View Comment):

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    No one listens when you complain.

    Grab ’em by the lapels and push their back against the wall, then get your face about 1/4″ away from theirs and they will.

    You don’t fly much, do you?

    Because if you did that even once you would never fly again.

    Sorry.  I forgot to put the letters J-O-K-E at the end in a large bold font.  How about I kill myself to make up for it?

    (J-O-K-E)

    • #30

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