Sunday, June 11, 2006

Fear of Flying

I have come to loathe the thought of having to travel by airplane. When I first started my legal career, I worked at a big white-shoe law firm in Pittsburgh and there was no better way to go -- especially when I was travelling first class on the dime of a client (and was also able to bill my time spent en route to that client as well). Ahh, the joy of it all. I think my worst extravagence was a flight from Philly to NYC that I took, but back then, it was the only way to go.

Today, not so much. I avoid air travel if at all possible. It has become the worst way to travel, in my opinion. There are all sorts of reasons -- such as late flights, long delays, lost luggage, cramped quarters and no food (as opposed to the old crummy food), which have all combined to make a travel by plane an unwelcome part of any trip.

But far and away, the thought of having to deal with airport security is the biggest issue. I hate the thought of our loss of privacy generally and air travel brings it home more than anything else for me. It makes me miserable from the moment I step inside the airport itself. I am an average, middle aged woman, who was raised to be polite and friendly in all social situations (I'm one of those people that wouldn't insult the restaurant by sending my meal back), so I am hardly the rabble-rouser type that would warrant suspicion. But that doesn't matter. Courtesy is not a part of the experience that you pay for with your ticket. Instead, the authoritarian personality of the person wearing a uniform is very evident in the airline and security personnel. Power and authority have combined to create the airport bully. Without any provocation, you are treated in a rude, hostile fashion by someone who obviously loves being in a position to give orders. No questions asked.

Or answered, based upon this post by the Practical Nomad blog, Unanswered questions at Dulles Airport, written by travel writer Edward Hasbrouck, who describes a situation that is worthy of the police state this country has become. Flying out of Dulles airport in DC, Hasbrouck provided his passport as ID when he checked in with United, but later declined to do so when asked by someone before he reached the TSA checkpoint. Instead, he questioned who the person was (i.e. whether he was a government employee), and what basis the person had for requiring that his ID be shown at that point in the process. For raising these questions, the police were called & he was almost arrested. Read the whole tale of woe -- woe on us, that is, for the state of our state.

See also, this Wired News story, The Great No-ID Airport Challenge, about identification requirements when flying.

1 comment:

Edward Hasbrouck said...

I've gotten a response from the TSA, although it avoids the most important issues, and raises at least as as many new questions as it answers. See my follow-up article, Dialogue with the TSA Privacy Officer.