Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Air Travel

There are a few places that I prefer to reach by flight. Manhattan springs to mind, as does San Francisco. I'd planned on flying to Seattle late next spring, rather then trekking overland through the Rockies. All in all, I planned on taking about ten flights in 2011. Really, air travel adds some non-negligible convenience to my life.

But I'm going to be staying out of airports for awhile. As you've likely heard, TSA has upped security protocol to include full body scanners or, if one opts out of the scan, a full-contact, open-handed pat-down. Adults as well as children over the age of 13 are subject to the new procedures. Deciding at the last minute to opt out of security, and your flight, entirely, can lead to the threat of a lawsuit.

So what's the big deal for me? I'm not especially put off by the idea of strangers seeing what I look like nude- it would be an understatement to say that that cat has long since gotten out of the bag. Though I don't enjoy the idea of having every area on my body subject to touch by a stranger, I don't expect that any therapy would be necessary to recover from the experience. Why not just deal with it as yet another airport annoyance?

I like civil liberties. I like being able to go about my day-to-day life without being watched over my shoulder, and without invasions of my personal privacy. Over the past decade, I've watched a gradual creep toward a more Orwellian world. Those who have been paying attention to politics longer than I have tend to have similar observations. I don't want to be another voice saying, "What's the big deal? It's just a little thing." Those little things add up, and they've been adding up for awhile.

There's no obvious, universal place to draw the line in the sand as what is "too much." It's difficult to pin down the exact time when it is appropriate to start voicing concerns, and the exact time when it is appropriate to make decisions based on those concerns. I've spent plenty of time over the past few years running my mouth about how civil liberties are slipping away. And now, I'm going to put actions behind my words.

Until TSA backs down from their new procedures- and I certainly hope that they will- I'm going to skip air travel for all but unanticipated emergencies. New York, I'll still be seeing you in January. But this time around, I'll be arriving by train.


  1. A few years ago, 2002 to be exact, I was "randomly" taken out of line at each point of departure to be searched. Every time I heard the phrase, "Would you mind undoing your belt we'd like to feel inside your waistband."

    I'm not shy. If they'd asked I'd simply pulled my pants off. But the senselessness of searching someone repeatedly in this manner even at connecting flights.

    BTW, my wife was never searched. She was simply asked to wait a moment while they had their way with me. Even when the alarm went off on her metal detector, I was wanded and hand searched.

    Maybe I'll see you on a train this year. Probably a lot of your followers will travel with us.

  2. "Probably a lot of your followers will travel with us."

    I'm certainly hoping so. I've heard plenty of outrage on this topic, but I don't know how many people are actually going to suck it up and revamp their approach to travel. I suspect that most other responses are just going to be noise that eventually fades away as this search protocol becomes the new normal.

    I'm generally not keen on how much influence industry has over public policy. I admit, though, I'm hoping that airlines will take enough of a financial blow from this that they exercise their political muscle.

  3. Hey, Kari, Dave Levingston pointed me over to your post, and although I'm coming late to the party, I agree with you 100%. I'm no longer flying. Taking the train to California for Christmas (which requires a five-hour drive south from Minneapolis).

    Moreover, I've been posting heavily on this subject for a couple weeks on my own blog. Will have a major post tomorrow.

  4. Nude is artistic, naked is defenseless. Cloak of Anarchy, Larry Niven

  5. Got pointed here by Oleg's blog.

    Personally I won't be flying except for emergencies.

    As for the general public, I'm kinda waiting to see what next year's holiday season is like actually. The average person didn't really learn about the scanners till what, mid November? By that time they've already got their reservations for the fight to Gramma's, they lack the vacation time to drive it instead, and changing plans is such a pain. Next year though...assuming security doesn't back that might be the telling point. People will have a chance to plan out their vacations to leave them time to drive instead.

    I know of a couple of authors who've stated that once they meet their current commitments they will no longer be flying till the security idiots get a clue.

  6. I also came from Oleg's place... I stopped flying in 2007, I saw my wife have to drink her own breast milk that she had expressed for our infant son at a TSA checkpoint. Since then, I won't get on an airplane that leaves out of a TSA staffed airport.

    We travel several thousand miles to visit her relatives, and it's all done by car. The airlines can kiss my butt until this foolishness stops.

  7. I'm always glad to hear of others who have made the same decision, and I hope that this issue stays in the public consciousness.

    I'm heading to the northeast next week, and the airlines will be receiving a copy of my bus ticket, as well as an explanation of why I've opted out of flying.

  8. I've heard about the breast milk thing in several different instances. WTF is with that? Pour it out, I might see, but WTF is accomplished by drinking it? Especially as the presence of a kid pretty well proves what it is.

    I can only assume they're perverts with the not uncommon nursing fetish, getting some sick thrill from it.

    BTW, you should have refused and asked for police. Demand to see the directive that mothers should be made to drink breast milk, because it doesn't exist.

  9. Wouldn't have worked. There was an article back (end of Nov-ish) about a woman who travels for business. Since she was still nursing her baby, when she traveled (with out the baby since it was for work and usually just a day or two) she pumped and stored the milk to take home. After getting hassled the first time she contacted the TSA and asked for help in solving the problem. They advised her of the regulations for breast milk and advised her to print them out for the security person's reference. Yah right. She was given even more hassle the next time and told that they "didn't have to read any paper she wanted to wave at them"

  10. Get your own flying certification and fly a sporting plane to your destination, not many TSA:goons between the fence and your cessna.

  11. @Simon- I'll do that just as soon as I find somebody willing to barter flying lessons and a plane for modeling time! In the meantime, I'm afraid that anything beyond driving, greyhound, and hitchhiking is financially impractical for me.

    That said, I would love to see the notion of flightshares, akin to rideshares, take off- no pun intended.