Having just returned from a little holiday which saw my wife and I hassled, inconvenienced and needlessly delayed at four separate airports, I think the time has come to complain a little more loudly about just how awful airport security has become.
And before anyone pipes and says “what about 9/11?”, let me ask you: do you actually feel safer because my shoes were x-rayed? Is US Homeland Security really doing an effective job when I have to get my boarding pass and passport past four – count them – four individual control points in Newark, NJ. I ask that, because it was the same check (yes, sir, that’s your boarding pass and passport all right) four times in a row. Really now, is that effective? What about the simultaneous loss to our economy (and sanity) from millions of travellers standing in lines tapping our feet?
Flying through commercial airports today is a lesson in hammer-handed policy, obscene misuse of public dollars and abysmal employee morale instead of good security. I’d like to single out the extra bitchy security guards at Toronto’s Pearson airport (at least one or two guards in Newark said please and thank you after they hassled us). At Pearson, my wife and I stood for several minutes alone in front of the all too familiar x-ray-slash-metal detector security checkpoint. Once we finally got to the front of the line, the line stopped moving. Dead. There was no activity. At all. There was a very bored and annoyed looking guard standing behind the x-ray doing nothing. (That’s not completely fair, because I think her shirt sleeve was polishing the steel counter where she lay her head). We stood there. No eye contact. No word of explanation as to why we were standing there. Nothing, except growing annoyance with this badge-toting lump and her irksome sighs.
When I finally asked if there was something wrong with the machine and whether we should move to another line, I was snapped at: “we’re searching someone’s bag, sir.” The “sir” pronounced with an extra sneer that I interpreted as a prelude to searching mine as well. ”I was only asking a question,” I countered. Meanwhile, we had about 12 feet of conveyor belt covered with carry on bags, laptop computer, mobile phone, shoes (will someone please give me a logical explanation why I have to take off my shoes? Why not my belt? Why not my pants?), etc. And we stood there and waited and waited and waited and waited until finally another snarky guard wordlessly, pressed a button to get that damned conveyor belt rolling through the x-ray.
Once through the x-ray, we were hurried and hassled with guards pushing our carry-on bags on further. For god’s sake, let me put on my shoes!
To me, these security guards are in the service industry. Would it hurt if they managed some simple politeness? Would it have killed that guard in Toronto to come over and apologize for the wait? Would she have lost her job if she’d suggested we may want to use another line?
But you don’t get that in airports today. All you get is accusing glares and threatening stares as if every security apparatchik is daring you to challenge them because they’d just love to send you to the back room on a whim. In certain places around the globe, you could bribe your way through, but that would just land you in a bigger pile of malodorous manure here.
Meanwhile, I have to wonder if all those airport employees have to go through anything remotely similar to get to work. It seems to me that the only major drug and weapons busts made at airports in recent years have been of employees working behind the scenes. Somebody should be fired over this state of affairs, but I suspect promotions have been handed out instead.
I don’t feel any safer with this kind of stupid and fake security. All I feel is abused.