No Thank You – We're Driving This Time

In December, some coworkers and myself embarked on a business trip to Cleveland, Ohio, from our home base in Huntsville, Alabama. Being very frugal (as successful companies usually are), we ticketed a flight from Nashville, Tennessee, to Cleveland. As has been documenting the stories of unhappy passengers around the country who have had the misfortune to be “frisked” by the Federal Airport “Stasi," I am going to digress from my story to expound on an experience my wife was subjected to weeks earlier.

My 14-year-old son was flying to Atlanta from Huntsville and my wife wished to accompany him to the gate because it was his first flight. As they proceeded to go through the metal detectors, my wife got “beeped." As has been reported many times before, she was asked to step over to the designated frisking area. A female federale who seemed to have more common sense than some that have been reported here asked her if she were wearing an underwire bra. The response being “yes," she informed my wife that she would have to frisk her bra. My wife took the ensuing pat-down without externally detectable protest and was allowed to proceed to the gate. She was more patient with the personal intrusion than I think I would have been.

On his return flight, I went to the gate to meet young son and not wearing an underwire jock strap, I was not molested — well almost. I came up to the extremely bored federale who checks passengers for a ticket before allowing them to go to the scanner/molestation -er “inspection” area. I was denied passage because I didn’t have the required papers (i.e., a ticket). The helpful federale was abrupt and coarse and said nothing else. When asked if there were any allowances for meeting minor children at the gate, she said “no."

After mulling it over for a minute, I went to the Southwest counter and explained my plight. Demonstrating the wide gulf in service that exists between the private sector and any armed federal agency, the Southwest employee promptly and courteously solved my problem by issuing me a gate pass. After passing the same gatekeeper, I was scanned and released to meet my son. I made it just in time to catch him disembarking from the plane. We passed back through Checkpoint Charlie and left for home. The point here is that the gatekeeper federale knew that the airline could issue me the required pass (she accepted it without question on my return so she obviously knew they existed) but she refused to provide me with the crucial piece of information despite the fact that I asked her if any other means than a ticket existed to get to the gate.

Now back to our trip to Cleveland. It was an interesting trip through the scanner in Nashville. The operator asked me to remove my boots before I went through the scanner because she believed that they would set it off. I declined and the machine didn’t detect my brass shoelace hooks on my boots and they let me pass unencumbered again. I surmised later that they really didn’t want to frisk this middle-aged Stonewall Jackson look-alike so they took extra steps to avoid it. I wonder if they do that when Shania Twain grabs a flight? I think not. I can imagine them extremely gleeful to have the machine beep for a country music starlet. Note to Shania, Faith, et. al., buy your own plane and use the general aviation terminal. The feds haven’t started molesting women there yet.

All things considered, our flight to Cleveland took eight hours from driveway to hotel check-in. Some of our compatriots drove the same trip in ten hours. The two hours saved were not worth the loss of freedom, hassle, and expense. We are going to go on another trip soon. This time we will be driving. And because our trip will pass through Lexington, Virginia, we may just stop off and visit the graves of two men who fought in the defense of liberty against federal tyranny.

January 10, 2003