MTL to Nwrk, oops, CLEVE to BUFF

You got to suppose this is probably a daily occurance, just that the travel karma gods catch up with everybody and this trip was apparently my turn. When the Zoo marketers conference broke up, we had a few drinks and joked about the impending 7 am shuttle to the airport. The shuttle was great, got us there safe and sound. The departure gates are arranged with all the international flights close up and the US bound flights toward the other end of the terminal. Along with two colleagues who were returning to these shores, I set off in search of the Continental desk.

Found it, no line, sweet!! I dutifully check in, check one bag to ease my load and the three of us repair to have a breakfast denied by the early departure hour of the shuttle. As we are finishing that needed 4th cup of coffee (Shaddup, the cups are small up there!), my phone rings. Given that that is no bargain, I don’t want to answer, but I do and it is Orbtiz, bearing the tidings that my flight from Montreal to Newark has been cancelled.

I weave a quick tapestry of obscenity and head back to the Continental counter after saying hurried goodbyes to my colleagues. I quickly secure a tickets to get to Cleveland and from there, to Buffalo in roughly the same amount of time. I head over to start the process of customs, except my bag that was checked is still thinking it is going to Newark. Being passed from Airport Security to Continental to Airport Baggage Claim BACK to Continental, I am sure I wore a path in the terminal floor worthy of Family Circus.

Good thing the coffee crisp bites were cheap and plentiful after clearing customs. The more airports you see in a given day, they don’t get better looking. I had to laugh when the initial Continental Clerk kept apologizing about Newark (write your own jokes there, I’ve had a long day).

Getting there wasn’t half the fun, and getting home wasn’t the other half.


Train in Vain

Flying used to be a grand adventure and the shifting gaze of paranoia is reaching epidemic proportions of imagined safety, not mention taking all the fun out of it.

One of things that rankled me during the Presidential election in 2004 was Vice President Cheney admonition that we needed to vote for the then current administration to “stay safe.” That struck me as fear mongering instead of deserving to be reelected.

Not long after, George Carlin was delivering a hilarious but true rant about the state of airport flying in a post 9/11 environment and while detailing all the steps being taken were tantamount to basically doing nothing but making the “white people feel safer.”

If you haven’t seen this, be horrified.

What is that accomplishing? I mean other than trauma. What compels an agent to be qualified to do that? I know if that was attempted on my kids, I know that both their mother and I would be vocal, probably to our detriment.

I don’t have any real concern with the scanner as we are just blobs anyway and I kind of thing the “if you touch my junk” guy was spoiling for some notoriety, but something about all of this just seems off.

With the shifting degrees of enforcement from airport to airport, it is difficult to know what to expect when you fly. TSA staff is acting as cops without being trained as them. This recent round of aggresiveness is achieving a lot of bad public face episodes, but not curtailing anything. Do we really think potential trouble will come from somebody checking in with something taped to them, with these procedures in place? Maybe that is the point.

Aside from the nightmares that child in the video is dealing with, I can’t help but wonder what is getting accomplished. The safety first folks will point to how all has been calm since 9/11. My problem with that logic is that that was seemingly a million to one shot and things in our skies were pretty calm prior as well.

My spouse and I have told our kids to be respectful of the badges and authority figures, that they are there to help. I was worried for my daughter when we flew a few years ago and I was asked to step into the chamber that shot air at you randomly. Being a very pale (almost pink)  guy for Buffalo, I’m pretty sure I was filling a quota.

I certainly empathize with the woman in Florida who wanted to avoid the full body scanner, asked a question and for her trouble, wound up handcuffed to a chair while a TSA Agent tore her ticket up (which was documented on youtube as well).

There isn’t a consistency to how things get done, which I think adds to the uncertainty and fear. Much like turning the customs spots in Buffalo and Fort Erie into fortresses of authority, while in some border areas you can just walk, it’s tough to predict which airport procedures are being done in genuine safety and others are police state preludes.

The terrorists didn’t win because we didn’t all go shopping like the administration asked us to, they’re winning because we’re doing this to each other.

Not sure what the answer actually is, but this sure doesn’t seem like it.

Big Old Jet Airliner

I get a lot of travel and tourism info sent to work because of my job.I had the following blog sent to my work email and the story about enhanced pat-downs and the full body, leave nothing to the imagination scanners made wonder.

Check it out, it made me think back to one of the buddhas of my youth, George Carlin, and a rant he delivered about the airlines in an HBO concert shortly after 9/11.

There is an awful lot of trappings with the full body scanners, and apparently, in Boston, full body gropings that has managed to strip (no pun intended) any sense of adventure to flying and make the experience as dehumanizing as is possible.

You want to be, like Louie C.K. says, in your chair on the plane thinking “I’m in a chair, in the sky!….OOHHMYGODDD!!!” Instead, you are shoeless in JFK airport because where else would you rather be barefoot?

A ever-shifting menage of regulations, inspections, and expensive malfunctioning equipment hasn’t really changed a thing. In fact, the system is worse. When you actually get to your plane, the likelihood of sitting in that comfy chair and waiting for something to happen has become the norm. Gas prices returned to non-story status, yet the airlines still are charging you for a pillow to help cover the fuel costs and their crappy business models.

I agree with the author as the TSA never explains. We don’t know. When flying home from New York two years ago, my daughter had a bottle of water that the “Guard” took and stepped to the side of the security entrance with, to do something with. I guess if my lovely daughter is properly hydrated, the terrorists win.

The fearmongering is of an invasive variety. The keeping your toiletries in a quart bag was in consistently enforced. Buffalo just needed to see it was on top of the xray of my backpack. Milwaukee made me take it out and show my shampoo to them.

A lot of time and money has gone into the upping of the “Security” and it makes you wonder why. Why are things getting so wracheted up now? What is to be gained? It’s never going to be air tight. There is no such thing as a perfectly safe “anyplace.” To pretend so is foolish. I think old George was on to something when he posited that this was all put in place “to make the white folks feel safer.”