New Era Of TSA Crazy: I’m Missing 50% Of My Flights Now. Here’s Why.

Sep 7, 2017 by

New Era Of TSA Crazy: I’m Missing 50% Of My Flights Now. Here’s Why.

Payback time: After the Jetsetting Terrorist blog gets its 15 minutes, TSA puts me on new enhanced terrorist list

Only grown ups get up early, so anytime I have a pre-10 am flight, I stay up all night as a rule. By the time I stumbled to the US Airways kiosk for my 7AM Los Angeles flight, I wasn’t processing much.

I scanned my passport, and saw something on the screen I’d only heard rumors of.

That’s when my jetsetting life flashed before my eyes.

Rewind: Jet setting terrorist gets his 15 minutes

The new version of “everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame” is “everyone gets their 5 minutes of virality.” Dorks confuse “virality” with “fame,” but you can pull off the former much more easily, and it brings none of the fringe benefits of the latter.

Such was the traffic surge received within 6 hours of launching. Jetsetting Terrorist went live with a dozen or so posts backdated to give the appearance of not being totally new, and given an artificial traffic surge by me cold-emailing a link to the blog to over 100 journalists from a burner email account. It wasn’t any more complex than that.

It was on the front page of Boing Boing in minutes. I was interviewed on Forbes soon after. And Jetsetting Terrorist made the usual internet rounds among hipster liberals (who is Whil Wheaton anyway? And what’s “Tumblr”?) before peace was restored to the GoDaddy servers.

And that’s when everything changed…

It would be obnoxiously self-aggrandizing to call Jetsetting Terrorist some kind of PR disaster for the TSA. Everyone already hates them. It would be like Bill Cosby getting caught cheating on his taxes. You can’t stain what is already covered in mud.

What Jetsetting Terrorist did do was put a face and crime on what the TSA calls a “threat to aviation security.” What had been secret until the Forbes article was the actual “crime of terrorism” the TSA had blacklisted me for: freeing animals from farms where they raise them to make coats. (Seriously).

This is what the public hates: Being lied to about The List being populated by “suspected terrorists,” and their intelligence being so openly mocked. If I spent 1,000 years walking up and down the aisle of every US Airways flight, informing everyone they were on a plane with someone who cut fences and opened cages at a fur farm, you would never encounter anyone who felt their safety was compromised by my presence.

The absurdity of it was up there with past stories of nuns and priests being placed on The List (yes I compared myself to a nun).

At one point a Forbes reporter asked:

“Are you worried this article will get you on the ‘no fly’ list?”

My response was: Placing me on the No Fly List after the media attention would be too transparently vengeful. There are reporters involved, and even an agency as reputation-retarded as the TSA wouldn’t be so PR-suicidal.

Yet it wasn’t without a small heart palpitation that I arrived at my first post-virality flight and scanned my passport. I knew the first tell is the screen that appears when you do.

I’d learned to hold my breath for The Screen

I have a friend on the legit No Fly List who told me the story: When you scan your ID, a big screen appears declaring your boarding pass cannot be printed, and directing you to the desk. There, they quietly call police to escort you out.

I didn’t get the screen. At all subsequent flights over the next two months, I held my breath for two beats after scanning my pass, and never got The Screen.

Until now.

Three months after virality, I got The Screen

tsa screen

This is what I saw.

At that moment, a real terrorist would cut to fantasy images of beheaded DHS agents and exploding government targets.

My only thought? Litigate. Make this the biggest show trial in TSA history, American history. Put the absurdity of it all on pubic display. Get hashtag #teddybearterrorist to go viral. And make myself their worst PR nightmare.

Never force a man to a place where he has nothing left to lose.

This screen could only mean “no fly list”

I approached the counter, waiting for what I knew was coming.

“Let’s see if we can get you taken care of!”

If I was going to get told I was on the No Fly List, I wanted it to be from this guy. At least he’d deliver my jetsetting death sentence with a friendly smile. You want news of someone’s passing to come from the nurse, not the cop.

He entered some keystrokes. Paused. Entered some more. The pauses between keyboard activity grew longer. His eyes grew squintier. His friendly countenance faded.

“I’m going to go into the back and… check something. I’ll be back.”

10 minutes passed. 20 minutes. 30 minutes. I was in the danger zone for missing my flight.

Eventually he emerged. He approached another computer 30 feet away. Did some casually keyboard tapping. And then literally leaned back with a coffee cup and stared off into space.

“HEY. You’ve told me nothing about what’s going on”

His was a bold move. Nevermind entitled customers or adequate customer service. He’d disappeared with my passport for 30 minutes and gave no update, then 59 minutes until my flight, I remained unacknowledged -and he’s literally in earshot, just standing around drinking coffee and whistling in the wind.

Without even looking my direction, he said-

“We’ll take care of you.”

Gone was the friendly tone of 5:30 am. Clerkbot 2.0 had a tone dripping with disdain, now offering cryptic phrases of me being “taken care of.”

This was a subtle form of blacklisting by airline employees I knew well. I was ghosted.

The Terrorist-Ghosting Phenomenon: An insider’s look

Anytime an airline employee, a computer screen, and me were in one place; this ghosting was the result. An invisible partition was erected.I was demoted to invisibility.

Despite the frequency of this phenomenon, that “learned helplessness” you
hear about never set in with me. Every ghosting incident only made me more contemptuous than the last.

Trust me, dear reader, unless you’re being booked into jail or panhandling, you will never in your long life experience this level of invisibility from anyone within arms reach.

Say you’re a teenage girl and Taylor meme-ify’s your face causing momentary Tumblr disharmony – ghosting places as few demands on your mechanical ability as it does your will: You just don’t talk to the bitch.

What the airlines do requires disdain so deep, no inner humanity is triggered by standing 10 feet away from someone and saying nothing. Absolutely nothing.

This wasn’t “unworthy of respect,” it was “beneath contempt.” Rudeness would be a form of acknowledgment, an unthinkable extravagance wasted on someone of my standing. I was unworthy of words. You would pat a whimpering dog on the head. I didn’t rise to that standard.

Until now, I’d only encountered ghosting in small, inconsequential doses at the gate, watching the tone shift from accommodating to silent contempt as soon as my name was run through the computer.

It was exactly how you’d respond to the neighbor who said hi to you the morning after you found him on the sex offender registry. He’s just a part of the scenery – and not the sidewalk foliage kind, the dumpster kind.

The big question

It raises the question: What do they see on their computer screen that elicits such disdain? What could possibly bring an airline clerk from Customer Service Soldier to King of Contempt?

We’re jumping ahead, but I have since made several crude attempts to photograph the screen when no one was looking. I’ve utilized several of my signature moves, including the “yawn and stretch” and “wrestle with stubborn button sleeve,” after which the sole photographic fruit was one shot of a screensaver. So the mystery remains.

This incident was a first in two ways

  1. My first episode of ghosting at the counter. I only do carry on, so this almost never happened.
  2. My first time being ghosted in a very unusual, inconvenient and flight-threatening circumstance that demanded someone offer me massive explanation and/or apology that never came.

Changing someone’s seat at the gate doesn’t necessitate many pleasantries or explanations. Disappearing with their boarding pass and reappearing 30 minutes later without speaking a word is something else.

All of this was secondary to what I knew was coming: A phalanx of police to escort me from the building, into my new life on the No Fly List.

If I’m on the “no fly list,” let’s just get it over with

The guy wandered in and out of the back, and about every seven minutes I’d confront whatever worker was closest:

“Will you go find out what’s going on?”

This got a response about 1/3 of the time, where they’d retreat to whatever secret room my passport was being held in, and return with some cryptic line like “It’s being worked on.”

I was at the counter for the next 2.5 hours.

No explanation. Scant acknowledgement. My flight had come and gone, and this was met with no apologies and few words.

The scene over these 2.5 hours was best described as a half dozen workers standing around, drinking coffee, making small talk amongst themselves, and laughing; all the while I am four feet away, invisible.

2.5 hours.

On one hand, no news was good news. On the other, if I don’t get a SWAT team takedown and some media out of this, it’s not worth it.

At 8 am, the creep who started all this emerges, and hands me my passport and boarding pass.

“We got you on the 11:15. You’ll be leaving out of gate A4.”

“You have to be kidding.”

“Down that way, to your left.”

“I’ve been here two and a half hours.”

“Gate A4.”

“This is where you tell me what the hell is going on.”

“Gate A4.”

“You’re horrible. You’re horrible at everything.”

(Conversation approximate)

Then again, at least I wasn’t on the No Fly List. Yet.

And so it began…

A carbon copy of what you just read repeated itself over a dozen times in the months that followed, and continues to the present.

When writing of shadowy entities, secret lists, and the New McCarthyism; it takes restraint not to veer towards the overtly conspiratorial. I really do try to avoid that in this site.

Yet consider for a moment the facts surrounding this new, enhanced List I found myself on, resulting in multi-hour waits and 50% missed flights.

  • I was convicted of two misdemeanors from 18 years ago
  • They were non-violent property crimes
  • I am 8 years removed from the prison sentence that resulted
  • I’ve had zero arrests of any sort since

As far as anything of relevance to the TSA, there was but one blip in my otherwise placid, law-abiding, jetsetting life: The Jetsetting Terrorist blog, which had earned the TSA some unwanted (negative) publicity just three months before.

Payback time.

But soon, the payback would be mine.

To be continued…

-Jetsetting Terrorist

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