There are few things worse than flying home for 48 hours for a funeral.
Unless, of course, you’re required to removed your shoes three times for two flights.
“Uh, his eyes are blue, but check out the bump on his nose from the side.”
“I know these terrorist things take years to plan, but this guy booked his flight two whole days ago.”
“At six bucks an hour, I need some thrills.”
These are, I guess, the thoughts that must run through the heads of whoever is doing our profiling.
Right there on American Airlines’ reservation computer, it shows that I have a “bereavement fare.” That means that not only am I flying cheap because a relative died, but some real live employee of American made a real live phone call to a real live mortuary to find out of there was a real dead corpse.
I didn’t mind so much when I was escorted across the airport terminal to have my bag searched. Hell, the guy was so good, that when he put my garment bag back together, he folded the sleeves on my shirts better than I had. I was bugged a little when, at the gate, they pulled me aside and had me remove my shoes, and moved a wand around the contours of my body in a way I’d only seen before in low-budget porn.
And in all fairness, I don’t know if Colorado Springs security people had ever seen tasseled loafers before — they certainly treated the tassels gingerly, as though they might be some sort of detonation cords.
But the trip home undid me.
St Louis Lambert Field is a much-better-equipped airport than Colorado Springs, so they didn’t have to open my bag. They rubbed it with some magic scrap of paper, declared me safe and sent me on my way. Fair enough, I suppose. After going through the metal detector, I was taken out of the line again to, in full public view, remove my shoes. I could deal with that, because my ten toes are a helluva lot less than I wave around at 3am at really fine parties.
But at the boarding gate, they made me do it again.
Three shoe removals for two flights, with no connections. That’s not security, that’s defining compliance down.
I’m no paranoiac. I’m certainly no conspiracy theorist. But when someone such as myself, holding a bereavement ticket, is forced to endure five public indignities just to put his grandmother in the ground, then something is afoot — not pun intended.
I can think of only two reasons to subject travelers to such treatment. It is either a Tom Ridge-like attempt to show the other passengers that something, no matter how useless, is being done, or, it is to train us to accept worse encroachments in the future.
Optimist that I am, I vote for incompetent methods over sinister aims; I could, however, be completely wrong.
But no matter — with the exception of my already-booked honeymoon in August, I’ll be doing all my traveling by car for a good long time.
NOTE: My experience was on American Airlines. If you have a flight security story, please share it in the Drinks section — and be sure to mention which airline you flew.