No one said TSA screening was supposed to be fun. But these days, after a decade of being prodded, x-rayed and walking barefoot, most Americans have gotten used to all the new rules, as annoying as they may be. After all, safety is paramount.
From a personal standpoint, the most frustrating rules are those that are not consistent or that are different from those in other countries.
Flying from Mexico to the U.S., for example, laptops are not required to be removed from carry-on bags for the x-ray process. OK, some would say, “That’s Mexico.”
From the United Kingdom, where they know about security and terrorism, passengers don’t have to take their shoes off, unless they are wearing knee-high or taller boots.
Now, here at home in the United States, children don’t have to remove their shoes; soon, seniors over 75 will be exempted from the barefoot walk through the scanner. Plus, as an added bonus, anyone over 75 will also be able to keep their belts and jackets on throughout the security process.
Curiously enough, a TSA spokeswoman said, “Passengers will not be identity checked for age but staff will rely on visual judgements to decide which children and seniors qualify for the relaxed rules.”
(This last should be all sorts of fun in Los Angeles, where looking young, or at least attempting to look young, is a serious sport. I almost pity the first poor TSA agent who figures a 65-year-old woman with extensive plastic surgery is over 75.)
If seniors trip the alarm, then they will be subject to additional screening — it’s not as if they are getting a completely free pass.
TSA says they hope to make older travelers feel safer and more comfortable. This is probably a reaction to some of the stories of elderly women being patted-down, medical devices being damaged and adult diapers be examined.
So far, in the U.S. there haven’t been any women of any age implicated in airport terrorism. So if we’re loosening the rules on anyone over 75 on the grounds that they aren’t dangerous, why not loosen them for all females? Or, for that matter, for everyone under 18?
I’m of two minds on this sort of thing. It’s not that I want to make the screening process any worse than it is and certain children and seniors seem like lower risk groups.
But, why wouldn’t terrorists who are willing to kill indiscriminately use any and all Americans as potential innocent carriers?
Of course, since the British aren’t worried about shoes, maybe they aren’t that much of a risk? (Didn’t the shoe bomber come from Britain?) And, maybe most belts and jackets aren’t that much of a real worry either. But, if they’re not, why make most people go through the time and effort of taking them off?
No doubt TSA has its reasons. However, from the outside, much of this process is starting to feel like “security theater.”