html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Assholes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I despise airport security screening. I hate every demeaning moment of it. I fucking hate removing my shoes and my belt; I hate dismantling my backpack. Right now I hate two stickler personnel in particular for confiscating my Nalgene. I forgot and brought it at the last minute, pleased to be prepared for a long flight. But they took it and there was no way for me to keep it. I would have been happy to empty it. If they have this problem repeatedly they should have a fucking drain handy for me to pour out the water. I hate a system that treats us like criminals for traveling. I hate that the default assumption is that I have murderous intentions. I hate that it is so fucking pointless, that it averts risks that are vanishingly small. I hate that it means I can't arrive at the airport with three minutes before my plane leaves, which was my old record at Oakland Airport (nine minutes at SFO). I hate the poor suckers who have to enforce it. I hate them more if they believe in it, think they are doing me a favor.

I hate them. I hope the accumulated hate of thousands of passengers eats at their nervous system, raises their stress until they are slightly adrenalized all the time. I want it to make them always anxious and irritable, cost them their relationships with their families. I want them to carry weight from all that internalized stress, have constant headaches and heart attacks at fifty. I want their hands to shake from the anger they receive and the anger they have to repress. I hate those sincere smug fuckers. I hope their lives are full of frustrated errands, identity theft, expensive bureaucratic fuck-ups and soulless clerks who cheat them on their warranties and charge them extra to fix it. And mysterious broken things on their cars. And mildew in their new houses that causes respiratory diseases. Hate.


Anonymous Anonymous said...



2:19 PM  
Blogger bryn said...

I feel your pain. Your record beats mine at sfo by 6 minutes.

Your description of the TSA reminds of something I overheard once. I travelled 100,000 miles for work in one 6 month period when united pilots where doing a work slow down/sickout (tho pre 2001) and I felt the same ire towards the pilots. Two sat down next to me at a japanese steakhouse and I decided to just turn away and not talk to them (don't have anything nice to say...etc.) but they slightly redeemed themselves when I heard them explain to the person on the other side that united has a new policy "We're not happy til you're not happy" Seems to fit the security people (though really the ones to blame are the people implementing the policies and the people in this country who are willing to sacrifice a huge amount in exchange for a perceived increase in protection from terrorism)

2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would hate them more if they didn't believe in it.

And while I'm never thrilled to get security-checked either, I would urge you to direct your condemnation towards the idiots who actually invented this policy, rather than the poor schmucks who have to implement it.

2:40 PM  
Blogger bryn said...

IMO, the problem gets back to an inability for americans in their prosperity to put a price on human life.

If all the post 2001 money saved 1 life? 5? 100? when is it worth it? Sure 100 billion is worth it at some number of lives, but surely it isn't for 100 lives (I say this not because I don't value life, but if 100 billion were spent on health related research or on poverty stricken people a lot more than 100 would be saved)

Of course I'm not asking for people to be cold hearted and assign costs like long term disability insurance does (lose a leg - worth $xxx,000)
but how many lives would be saved if all the time travellers wasted in lines were added up (at the average salary) plus the cost of all the tsa security measures (we'll leave the more effective policies like new doors on planes)
and see what else that money could have bought us.

2:50 PM  
Blogger billoo said...

Come on Megan, spare a thought for the poor buggers who have muslim names or look like "a muslim".

3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The screeners don't bother me - the rules and the perceived need for the rules bother me. People who should know better but slow down the lines for others -- now they really bother me.

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I took the liberty of posting your rant on the aviation forum at (I didn't say where I got it from or give your name). You've said what countless millions of air travelers believe. And I certainly believe it too!

7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I took the liberty of posting your rant on the aviation forum at (I didn't say where I got it from or give your name). You've said what countless millions of air travelers believe. And I certainly believe it too!

Sorry, I forgot to add my sig. That was me.

Iron Rails & Iron Weights

7:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh meggie, you are so much better than this!

9:01 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Well, their karma can catch up to them faster, far as I am concerned. In person I was civil and polite and the madder I get, the more polite I get.

I loved the airport mad dash.

See, I think if they gave me a rueful grin that implied "yeah, but we gotta", that would be better. But they're annoying and sanctimonious. I hate the idiots even more.

You've got to figure they've heard better versions of that rant before.

I am really not. Do you know me, to call me Meggie, or are you using that 'cause I call myself Meggie sometimes?

9:40 PM  
Blogger Megan said...


Heh. The Wall of Shame has been looking pretty bare recently, but the responses aren't so good that it is worth copying them over. It'd be better if they got more creative.

I meant to narrow in the house comment, 'cause there is this specific mold that attacks people's houses out here, all mysterio from nowhere. But I had to board. And then I took back a wish for asbestos in their children's classrooms, because we don't visit the sins of the parents on the children.

10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I've felt your anger precisely. My crappy security incident is detailed here. Unfortunately, I happen to be one of those buggers with a Muslim name, so you can imagine how much fun this was for me.

I agree with others that anger should be generally directed at the policy-makers, rather than the policy-enforcers. But honestly, I don't blame policy for assholish behavior on the parts of security people; that's all on the individual's head.

11:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I'm finding that very little actually bothers me.

I don't like security at the airport either, but it doesn't bother me. Heavy traffic, long lines, I just don't care.

Someone actually hit me with a car when I was in Yosemite over the weekend. I just smiled and kept walking. It was an accident, I wasn't hurt, and hell, I almost ran someone over the next day.

The things that really get to me are people relentlessly trying to get a response out of me.

Oh well.


12:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear that the terrorists appear to be winning. The radicals do not have the slightest chance of overthrowing our way of life by force but by responding so out of proportion to the threat we end up destroying our freedoms and peace of mind.

Its like an autoimmune disease.


12:59 AM  
Blogger scott said...

I feel the exact same way about crossing guards at elementary schools. WILL YOU PLEASE GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE WAY!

Hello, Megan.

5:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still another reason to take the train.

5:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In 5+ years, the one guy who tried to blow up a US plane got past the security (shoe bomber). Seems to me that the cost of our freedom hasn't bought much but angst, humiliation, huge inconvenience, and occasional manhandling and improper strip searches.

This is what happens when we hand over our civil rights because we're scared.


7:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a massive line for security screening when I flew back from Las Vegas last August, probably 500 people or more, snaking around through rope barriers. What this snaking meant is that most of the people were clustered together in a relatively small area rather than spread out in a long line. Fortunately it moved quickly, though that's not my point. I started thinking, if I were some crazed suicide bomber, all I'd have to do is set off a powerful shrapnel bomb in the security line and I'd probably kill more people than if I actually brought down an airplane.

By the way, the "mold in the house" curse against the TSA screeners would mostly hurt landlords. I doubt if many of the screeners themselves can afford to buy houses. It's still a pretty clever curse.

Iron Rails & Iron Weights

7:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every time I fly, I wish the next terrorist attack would be someone who hijacks an empty plane and flies it into the TSA compound.

7:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you call a TSA screener with an I.Q. score of 90?


Iron Rails & Iron Weights

7:24 AM  
Blogger arf said...

The second-to-last time I flew I forgot my half-full waterbottle until I got into the security line and I chugged it.
On my way home, I started to chug and wound up just dumping the water in a trash can. Nobody's hassled me for an empty nalgene, although I do feel bad for the custodial staff that has to take out the garbage. I bet it's heavy.

The last time I got SSSH searched I almost cried. The TSA woman who was searching my bag at the time asked me if I was ok, to which I replied, "No", (more because I'd left my lover that morning than because I was being searched, but the searches didn't help) and she got all defensive and kept telling me that she was just doing her job. I got that. I wasn't blaming her. I just wasn't ok, and wasn't going to lie about it.

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

risks that are vanishingly small can have big consequences. You have to deal with these low probability high impact events somehow.

Immediate and Short Term Direct Impacts

The September 11 attacks inflicted casualties and material damages on a far greater scale than any other terrorist aggression in recent history. Lower Manhattan lost approximately 30 percent of its office space and a number of businesses ceased to exist. Close to 200,000 jobs were destroyed or relocated out of New York City, at least temporarily. The destruction of physical assets was estimated in the national accounts to amount to $14 billion for private businesses, $1.5 billion for state and local government enterprises and $0.7 billion for federal enterprises. Rescue, cleanup and related costs have been estimated to amount to at least $11 billion for a total direct cost of $27.2 billion.
Immediate and Short Term Indirect Impacts

Immediately after the attacks, leading forecast services sharply revised downward their projections of economic activity. The consensus forecast for U.S. real GDP growth was instantly downgraded by 0.5 percentage points for 2001 and 1.2 percentage points for 2002. The implied projected cumulative loss in national income through the end of 2003 amounted to 5 percentage points of annual GDP, or half a trillion dollars.

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We already figured out how to deal with the 9/11 problem within the hour. Remember the passengers that took down the hijackers in PA? We don't need the security hassles. The passengers jumped the shoe bomber too. And I think I read something similar in Europe a few weeks ago. The passengers and flight crew saved the day. And sure, there is some risk, but there is probably just as much risk with the security in place.

10:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with you, Megan. Everyone involved is responsible, from the directors and politicians who get paid for fostering fear and pretending to make things safer to the line workers who take away your eyedrops and make you take your shoes off. And the voters who continue to elect the weasels.

The fact that most of the people you deal with in the airport can't find a better-paying job doesn't let them off the hook for agreeing to be an asshole for money. Following orders does not exempt anyone from responsibility for their choices.

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heh. The Wall of Shame has been looking pretty bare recently, but the responses aren't so good that it is worth copying them over. It'd be better if they got more creative.

Don't let any of the nasty responses bother you. has some very good forum discussions, I've been posting there for years, but it does attract a certain number of very uptight people.

Iron Rails & Iron Weights

1:20 PM  
Blogger PG said...

Jesus, we Americans must be the whiniest people on earth.

Following orders does not exempt anyone from responsibility for their choices.

This isn't the Nuremberg Trials, so let's cut that rhetoric. Airline screeners are fulfilling a dumb but well-intended policy. Whether they agree with it or not doesn't bother me as long as they don't go beyond it. Those who don't bother to stay informed about what policy is, and enforce their own made up rules instead, are the only ones who piss me off.

The alternative that's frequently proposed to minimize inconvenience to the majority of passengers is to engage in targeted searches: i.e., search the people with Muslim names, the ones who look Middle Eastern/ North African/ South Asian, while letting everyone else through (though I'm not quite sure how this would catch people flying under names like Jose Padilla or Richard Reid). Presumably young white women like Megan could hang on to their brought-from-home water under such a policy.

1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's disappointing that you can no longer go to the gates without a boarding pass.

My favorite thing to do for killing time in an airport was to watch people be reunited at the gates. You could find which planes were coming in soon, and wander from one gate to another as people met their loved ones.

A pleasant way to spend a couple of hours, but no more.


2:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's disappointing that you can no longer go to the gates without a boarding pass.
My favorite thing to do for killing time in an airport was to watch people be reunited at the gates. You could find which planes were coming in soon, and wander from one gate to another as people met their loved ones.
A pleasant way to spend a couple of hours, but no more.

There's a way around that, as was discussed on recently. You buy a ticket on any flight leaving from the concourse you want to access, making sure that it's a fully refundable ticket. You then get your boarding pass, go through security, and wander around the gates to your heart's content. The most important part is that you must call the airline to cancel your ticket before "your" flight departs, in order to get an immediate reversal of the charge on your credit card.

This is a perfectly legal thing to do, as you're not bypassing the security checkpoint. In fact TV news crews sometimes do it in order to be the first to film a celebrity/athlete/whatever as he or she arrives in town. It may, however, be slightly questionable on moral grounds if the flight for which you buy the ticket is a crowded one, as you might displace someone who legitimately wants to fly.

Iron Rails & Iron Weights

5:15 PM  
Blogger Megan said...


Awesome. The comments about me on the airliner forums got way better. New Wall of Shame! Yay!

5:28 PM  
Blogger Dubin said...

That's very interesting that the people who commented on the anonymously penned post just assumed you were a guy. It's clearly because you dropped some F Bombs. Hmm.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Dubin said...

Most of the experiences I have with the screeners are ok, but about 10% remind me of trying to extend my visa in a Soviet Socialist country of yore. Weild what little power you have, oh TSA screeners! Hope it makes you happy.

7:08 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I do not think it is actually fun to be a baggage screener. I think it is a repetitive job requiring one to work in a loud, dirty, recirculated-air environment and interact with the public incessantly, often when they are at their worst. I think it often requires standing for entire shifts, and taking short pee breaks only when given permission, and eating fast food in a miserable break room. I think there are baggage screeners who have to work early mornings and evenings and weekends, who don't get to see their kids.

I don't think they enjoy their power. The job probably pays better than other jobs they could get, and it's stable, and they have kids to support. Yes, they make you empty your water bottles (which you can immediately refill on the other side of the checkpoint) and put your travel-size cosmetics in a ziplock and check bags if you have regular-size toiletries. These are not grievously inconvenient rules; they are minor, twenty-minute hassles. And the baggage checkers didn't design the regulations, and they didn't decide how many security line there should be. They enforce the rules because if they don't, and a supervisor sees it, they will lose their job. Some of them may even be trying to promote safety. Your hate is just like the hate they get from disgruntled passengers all day, and most of them are so civil and friendly that I think they will shrug yours off like they do all the rest.

7:58 PM  
Blogger Dubin said...

I don't think they enjoy their power.

No, I should have been less lazy and actually told my stories of how several of them have enjoyed it very much.

One played games with me and told me that if I had declared my Dannon yogurt in advance, he might have let me keep it, but seeing as I had tried to sneak it in he was going to show me that it pays to play by the rules (obviously I forgot the yogurt was even in there). Another guy essentially accused me of purposely trying to defy rules when he caught me with a compact, you know the kind with powder in it. I said, "This is a powder, I thought liquids were not allowed, but powder?" and he suggested that my powder was actually a "paste" and therefore a liquid. He then generously agreed to let me keep my "liquid."

You know, stuff like that.

8:17 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Your hate is just like the hate they get from disgruntled passengers all day, and most of them are so civil and friendly that I think they will shrug yours off like they do all the rest.

I'll say again that I was never anything but civil and increasingly polite. I hate them on the inside.

10:20 PM  
Blogger Dennis said...

Here's one for you: I made sure to put my liquids in a ziplock... including toothpaste... before getting to the airport. "Excuse me sir, will you step over here please?" "Um, ok." "You are carrying more than three ounces of liquid." "Uh, I doubt that." She opens my ziplock, and takes out the toothpaste. The tube is almost empty and is SO rolled up I swear to god there's no way you would have been able to tell the brand. There was only enough toothpaste left to brush my teeth three times, MAYBE five if I bit down on the rolled-up sides to squeeze the last little bit out. She painstakingly unrolls the thing all the way out to show me, indingnantly, that the tube is "clearly labeled as containing more than three ounces."

My inside voice:
Holy shit lady, you're a freakin' bomb-sniffing bloodhound genius! Thank GOD you're here to protect the other passengers from me. Thank god you're here to protect me from MYSELF! Good work. Job well done.

My out loud voice:

10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back in 2002, I had been out of work for months, as had my partner. We were broke and scared, and neither of us was having any luck getting any kind of a job. So I applied for a TSA screener job. I needed to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. Any job that paid enough to do those things would do.

And if you were in my shoes, I bet you'd have done the same thing.

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your rage is pointed at the wrong place. Frankly it appears that you know the rules and can't seem to follow them. Two seconds to stop at a water fountain and your indignation is averted. Assholes like yourself slow things down for the rest of us. Yes I do believe the TSA should have a place for you to dispense your liquid but you should have already known the rules if you are able to read and taken the proper steps to avoid this problem.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Megan said...


I know they assumed I'm a guy. I'm actually grateful; my guess is that the comments would have been more abusive and more scare-graphic if they'd known I'm female. If saying the F-word is all it takes to make the internets think I'm a guy, well, I got more where those came from.

8:49 anonymouse:

Yep, and I would have been grateful to have the job.

10:26 anonymouse:

Yeah. You're right. I could have averted this by remembering the liquid ban. But, the liquid ban is incredibly counter-intuitive; the stories all around vouch that people don't naturally remember it. AND - I firmly believe systems should be designed around what people actually do. If I thought there were any value in the liquids ban or the shoe removal, I would being willing to accept some trade-off in convenience. But I truly don't believe it averts any threat and it is a genuine inconvenience.

11:12 AM  
Blogger lil miss dubin said...

ooh ooh! i have a story about screeners and yogurt! when the blue-eyed guy and i were at the airport in your own fair city last month (on the way to tahoe), we bought a yogurt to share, and remembered to eat it before we got to security. then we saw this gal ahead of us in line get her yogurt confiscated, and we said something out loud like, "glad we already ate our yogurt!" and the screener goes, "what did you say about yogurt? do you have yogurt?" like all eager to make us toss our yogurt. and we're like, "no, dude. we ate the yogurt. just now." and the screener was like, "when?" and we're like, "i don't know, like five minutes ago! before we got to the escalator! it's in our bellies! dang!" and the screener didn't register anything other than disappointment for not being able to toss the yogurt we'd in fact just eaten. like maybe what if he could pump our stomachs to make us get rid of the offending lliquid/gel? alas, no.

4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe they haven't fixed the problems at Vegas airport: the crush before screening (upstairs, narrow walkway, yes?) was there back in 2003 when I flew out of there.

But I'm not sure how they can fix it without rebuilding. Atlanta had to spend millions on new screening areas.

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My experience has been that screeners sometimes use pointlessly expansive interpretations of some of the sillier rules.

For example, I remember having just gone through security when I heard a young woman attempting to keep a small (under 3 oz) bottle of perfume that wasn't in a baggie. The TSA screener on hand refused to allow me to give her my baggie on the grounds that I "still needed it."

Not stocking baggies for those who forget them strikes me as very poor judgment, but in this case, he went out of his way to maximize the hassle created by the rule (by not giving her the benefit of the doubt) without any likely security benefit.


6:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry I missed this party, cuz I, too, _hate_ the TSA toads.

One of your complaints was "nowhere to dump the liquid" - that was the kind Megan speaking, not the hate-filled Megan the rest of the internet has come to know ;^).

Well, my wife found a solution for that...when we suddenly realized we had a nalgene full of juice for the kids on a recent flight, she just walked over to the nearest trash can and _poured it in_. Simple. Not our problem. If they want to make stupid rules, and it means that sometimes they have to clean up a quart of liquid from some trashbag that may or may not have ripped, well, I'm personally OK with that.

Because I, too, can hate. Or at least make a mess.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, thank goodness for affirmative kindness! Oh yeah....

5:26 AM  

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