Flying the Unfriendly TSA Skies post 9/11: A Personal Perspective

September 2, 2011

Recently, I flew to Houston for a Tea Party Conference. I avoid flying at every opportunity but this trip met my “suck it up and deal” test. Air Travel has always been an interesting challenge for me even prior to 9/11. Like most air travelers prior to 9/11, my primary concerns were flight delays, turbulence, and crashing into the ground (for me the crashing thing was a biggie). Those concerns were forever altered at 8:46 am on September 11, 2001 when American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the North face of the North Tower of the World Trade Center traveling roughly 466 mph. The attack ended in a rural field in Pennsylvania after passengers ended quest of Al Qaeda Jihadists on United Airlines Flight 93. By the end of the day, 3000 Souls were lost, The Towers Collapsed, countless lives destroyed and the soul of a nation changed. We gained a new respect for First Responders, everyday Americans, renewed our love of Nation and found ourselves a nation at war. The acts Cowardice that day have been felt around the world by every nation. The term “Fly the Friendly Skies” lost it’s meaning and air travel was forever changed. On Sept 11, 2001, if someone had told me that the attack would result in the rise of Political correctness unparallelled and a Government sanctioned TSA that targets the innocent to placate those that openly seek to destroy our nation, I would have laughed. No one is laughing now.

I am notoriously ditzy and the more nervous or tired I get, the worse the ditz factor. I am also somewhat of a control freak so the knowledge that I am 30,000+ feet in the air tends clash with all things me and sends me into a ditz crisis of massive portions. During the ditz factor my ability to think and use common sense goes out the window. Between forgetting or losing belongings, makeup or shoes, I am a walking disaster when traveling. I suspect that my friends and family secretly discuss, and I think wager, on what calamity may befall me and how much it will cost. They openly gasp at the notion of me flying alone and I have heard the statements “she needs a lease” and “Oh no not again” uttered. In 2010, I traveled to the 9/12 March in DC. While traveling to DC, my drivers license fell out of my pocket on the flight to Baltimore. In a post-9/11 world, you cannot get on a train, enter many buildings, or check into a hotel without photo ID, much less catch a return flight home. I am glad to report, that Most of those tasked with protecting commuters/travelers in DC were proficient doing their jobs, which made my experience challenging to say the least. I was able to cry my way onto the train leaving the Baltimore airport – sorry. Disturbingly, After several days of struggling to maneuver the city without “Proper ID“, I was able to get on my flight home with an expired Sam’s Club Card that was 20 years old and does not remotely resembled present day me. I know that Sam Walton is a legend in the Retail industry but does a expired and obviously OLD Sam’s Card with a very questionable picture really merit as legitimate ID? I was prepared for the worse case scenario arriving at the airport that day as The Airline informed me that without “Proper ID” that the TSA would get to know me intimately prior to allowing me on that flight. To say the least, my discomfort with flying was elevate that day. The entire flight home, the vision of my horrid Sam’s Card ID played through my mind and I could not help but wonder if others had also gotten on my flight using such inappropriate means. In the days prior to my flight home, I spoke repeatedly with the Airline, Security, and the TSA in an effort to find my license that I knew was on that plane. Despite be assured by Airport Security and the Airline that the plane had been thoroughly searched and that my license was absolutely not on board, I received my license in the mail a month later from the Airline at another airport after it was found on the plane, yes that would be the exact same plane that was “thoroughly” searched. To this day, the DC trip ranks among one of my greatest ditz moments.

It is an understatement to say that I was in ditz factor overload for my Houston trip. I am proud to report was that Southern Hospitality prevailed and that the TSA Agents in Jackson were wonderful. They were polite, friendly, nonthreatening and used common sense in their threat assessments. I had 2 prescriptions in my bag that exceeded the TSA allowable size limits on liquids. I immediately made them aware of the scripts. Agents simply did a chemical strip test to ensure that they were not bomb components, searched my bag and purse and sent me on my way to Houston with a smile. With rationale and logic, the TSA agents in MS understood that if the contents purse, bag and prescription were not a dangerous, that I did not pose a threat.

I am sorry to say that my experience in Houston with the TSA was in stark contrast to Mississippi. Tired, with information overload after 2 days of nonstop sessions, the ditz factor was in play. During a Ditz factor, I am reduced to humiliating levels of ditziness. Example, when you walk into Bush Intercontinental Airport, they have automated the ticket process. You scan your license, credit card, or passport to get you boarding pass. Sad to say, in ditz mode my brain shuts down, common sense is gone and I could not figure out how to scan anything. A nice gentleman, also traveling, finally helped me out while Numerous Profoundly “Professional” Airport Staff, tasked with supervising the process and Customer service including 2 Officers, ignored the Flying Public, Security (their job), and talked to each other about the party they attended the night before and the levels of intoxication they achieved. Between anger and disgust with the Staff and myself, I looked at the nice guy and said “thanks for your help, I am from the country”. I don’t know WHERE that came from or why I said it.. I live in a nice size town in MS and I am college educated and literate. Oh well, he probably thought I was mentally challenged and patted himself on the back for helping a special needs person. I am forever grateful for his help.

While waiting in line for my Security Screening, I walked forward and left my main bag alone about 6ft behind me until a guy said “hey lady, your bag”. I smiled and thanked him but he gave me the “look”, you know the “are you stupid” look? FYI leaving your luggage is not the smartest thing to do while headed into TSA Screening. I made it through the ID check and questions without incident. I placed my suitcase, purse, shoes, computer, Computer bag, Phone in the individual trays and immediately told the Agent about the prescriptions in my bag. I thought the veins would pop out of the woman’s neck. She took a step back, motioned for another officer and told me to take them out of the bag. No problem, I complied. She had me open the bottles, just stared at them for a couple of minutes and pulled me out of line. I was taken to the dreaded body scanner and all eyes were on me. I stood on the little footprints in the scanner, with no shoes, praying that the someone with a foot fungus or another contagious disease had not recently stood there. You would think that would be the end right? Apparently, my scripts and maybe the ditz factor, really ticked that woman off because as soon as I stepped out of the naked scan I was patted down. It was not the full invasive pat down but It was invasive enough to make me feel so violated that I ask her if this meant we were dating. The anger from being molested gave me enough brain power for that witty quip. I was not alone in my Pat-down and Nakes scan humiliation. A young woman, obviously of Middle Eastern decent was traveling with her Caucasian mother and father-in-law and all were US born citizens. She was in tears and her family irate. He father-in-law was visibly shaken and said that he never thought he would see the day that American Citizens were treated like criminals to appease would-be criminals. We all shared a moment of expressing our outrage, grief, and dismay at state of our Nation that we love. It was a sobering moment and brought into perspective exactly how our government is allowing the Terrorists to win the war on Terror as we approach the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.
President Bush told Americans after 9/11 the to continue to shop, go to the movies and live your life. A free nation defeats Terrorism by maintaining the Freedoms and Liberties that made it great in the first place. Even in the midst of the ditz factor, my heart broke for the Nation I love and the Liberties lost in the name of security. Our government is Constitutionally mandated to secure our borders and defend this country and it’s citizenry; yet our borders remain open for all who cross illegally and closed to all who seek to enter legally. Americans citizens are treated as suspected terrorists without cause or provocation in an act of appeasement, while concessions are made to the very groups that have funded or continue to have affiliations with the terrorists seeking to destroy and destabilize our nation.

If the TSA Rules are designed to instill confidence to those who are flying, they are failing miserably. Israel would is the perfect example of Air travel Security Success and it is shame that political correctness has blocked implementation of a similar system.

The only way to change the path of our country is to change it leaders. Our battle is not limited to Washington but starts at home in our communities, State Houses, districts and ultimately in DC. We can change the president, but if we do not change the lawmakers that write the laws, cater to lobbyists and pass laws that are in direct opposition to the best interest of our nation and constitution, we have failed. We have failed if we change the Governor but fail to change the Lawmakers in our statehouses that continue to pass law after law without checking to see what laws pertaining a given issue currently sits on the books, that are obstructing laws to protect us from an encroaching Federal Government and unfunded mandates. We have failed if we allow Local Officials to violate our constitutional rights through unnecessary taxation, waste, regulations, ordinances and our communities to become miniature replica of DC. The TSA is an example of everything Governmentally wrong in our nation on a grand scale. It is a symptom of the problems we face from our governments locally all the way to the National level. We cannot surrender our freedom for the false allusion of security. Common sense should trump political correctness on any given day. Do not leave your future and our legacy in the hands of a few, so Speak now or forever lose your freedom.

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