Flying Internationally as a convicted terrorist: Part III
In part three of my “Globetrotting Jetsetting Terrorist TSA Follies” series, I return from Paris and find the TSA embarrasses itself in an all-new, record-setting fashion.
I spent three weeks in Europe, most of it on foot, walking around weird cities and sleeping very little. You can imagine how eager I was for a quick and seamless re-entry into the US, and a rapid plane-to-bed pipeline once I landed.
But I’m on The List. And of course none of this is possible. The TSA has their reputation as incompetent doofuses to uphold, and a convicted terrorist coming in on an international flight is too rare to not exploit for maximum embarrassment. I mean, how many terrorists do you know who fly internationally? Exactly.
My customs experience was fairly similar to the last one, which I cover in full here. Customs wasn’t the fun part. It’s what came next.
Just to set the scene: I was changing planes in Seattle, from my Paris flight to my homebound flight. This is where I would go through Customs, but I was not leaving the airport. Just changing planes.
When you’re changing planes on US soil after exiting a flight of international origin, you have to get a new boarding pass and go through a sort of mini-security checkpoint. The TSA doesn’t trust other countries to do the screening, so this is how it works.
I got my boarding pass at the mini-ticket counter just after customs, and immediately looked for the “SSSS,” denoting my terrorist status. There it was, as immutable as death and taxes.
I approached security, showed my boarding pass, which was looked up and down thoroughly. Yet I received no extra screening. It was almost like TSA knew I was road-worn, and was cutting me a break. Almost.
40 minutes later at my gate, TSA was mobilizing for their “security audit,” standard for any flight carrying anyone on The List (I cover these “security audits” in detail here). They were mobbing deep with this one, with six agents going through the line, ID-ing everyone. Unusual, but not unprecedented.
They got to me. The uniformed doofus took my ID.
“Susan. I got him.”
Every boarding passenger turns to look at me. True paragons of tact, the TSA.
The lead agent approaches me.
“Mister ____, we became aware that you did not receive the proper screening. We’re going to take you to the nearest checkpoint and re-screen you.”
It was like 15 minutes to takeoff. I also knew that until a federal court destroyed these thugs in court, I wasn’t getting on the plane if I refused.
“I’m not following you unless you guarantee I’m going to make this flight.”
“You’ll make the flight.” she said.
I didn’t believe her.
Two agents flanked me on either side and we started walking. Sea-Tac is a big airport, and I knew this wasn’t a 15 minute trip. We took two trains in silence and arrived at the nearest checkpoint. They put me through an expedited screening, and we started the return trip.
For some reason they were following me back as well. The lead agent made several feeble attempts to explain why all of this was necessary while I said nothing, and looked at her like she was insane. But I knew she wasn’t talking to bring me a little peace and understanding. I could read between the lines. She was trying to do preemptive damage control. She didn’t think I was going to make this flight.
We got off the second train and she started jogging. It was a futile protest, but there was no way I was running to make a flight I would already be on if the TSA wasn’t one giant bouillabaisse of stupid. I let them jog. I kept walking a normal pace, with a serious tilt towards “slow.”
We turned the corner and the gate was in eyeshot. The gate agent was waving like a freak and yelling “Come on come on!” I continued at a casual pace.
I wanted to miss this flight. If missing a flight meant people would get fired, I wanted to miss it.
But I made it, and I was in my bed that night.
Dear TSA: Kill yourselves.