Tuesday, January 30, 2007

There and Back Again - Part 2

With the state of the world today, I am never wary of a little added security and scanning, if nothing else than peace of mind. It can get aggravating and for those of us who don't travel day in and day out it is a change from routine; but for those who travel often for business, it can be a trying experience. I have flown quite often in recent years to various locations and I must say that the checks we go through here are thorough and handled rather quickly. There are those occasional times when for reasons unknown to us, the general travelling public, that security measures are increased and thus lines grow much longer but at those times it pays to have a bit more patience to avoid delaying yourself even more. This trip I had the opportunity to undergo screening at several locations and each one was a completely new experience.

Obviously I was going to have to first get screened even before leaving the United States. At Dulles, they are constantly working to improve the process so that it goes as quickly yet as thoroughly as possible. After checking in my bags locked with TSA approved locks it was on to the security screening area. Prior to even entering the line I removed all metal and put it into my bag and then kept my boarding pass and passport ready for inspection. So many people put these items into the deep recesses of their bags and then forget about it until they are standing in front of the screeners. This despite the fact that there are signs and notices and announcements and hundreds of passengers around them doing this very thing. To top it off, some of these folks even get upset at the fact that they have to dig through their bags again. Oh well; what can you do? Complain or fly? I'd rather fly.

I have a patented system whereby I notice all the screeners and then take note of who I am supposed to go to and who I am supposed to provide what pieces of information. It's always good to keep a smile on your face because for one thing, these folks are working hard and secondly, they are doing it for your protection. Screening here is pretty cut and dry unless you have something suspicious tucked away in your carry on. These days cosmetics and gels and liquids are the taboo. So in addition to removing shoes, jackets, belts, hats and all else, we must also remove these things too. Now we are allowed to carry a bit of these things provided they are in a sealed bag of regulation size, but it seems that not everyone is on the same page or does things the same way.

For example, I flew into London en route to India and got out of the airport to sitesee for a few hours. Upon returning, I was put through security screening English style. A new regulation over there is that only one bag per person can be put through for scanning. Now this is contrary to all the signs and boards currently seen around the US and most of Heathrow which says one carry on and one personal item. At Heathrow, after a fairly tiresome eight hour flight and then getting ready for another it was a bit frustrating to see folks trying to cram one bag into another. This was a particular problem for ladies who usually had a large carry on and purse. For many, both were usually filled to the brim. Somehow they all managed to cram these things together and get through okay. For the gentleman traveller it was a bit more complicated. I saw many a businessmen asked to put bottles of scotch (purchased in Duty Free) into laptop bags; no easy feat let me tell you.

The Bobbies (or police in London) do a good job of frisking and scanning and re-scanning and re-scanning your items until they're sure they are safe for transport. They also do personalized screening where they'll take you to a booth and do a thorough inspection. I lucked out this time but according to my mom, dad and brother, they were photographed and posed like the Heisman Trophy while being screened. I don't pretend the understand the reasons but grin and bear it as best I can.

In Dubai it was much the same though it was a lot more rigorous. They take security very seriously over there and when you're confronted with large beefy guys in security robes, you tend not to make jokes. The procedures there were much the same and clearly explained. Of all the places I visited this trip, Dubai was probably the closest to the US in terms of their screening procedures and scanning. They made you feel safe without subjecting you to amateur art class poses or severe pat downs. That is to say, I didn't feel like James Bond being searched on the way to see the chief villain for this particular adventure.

And then we come to India. There are so many people in India that there is no shortage of people willing to work and take on jobs like screening and security. Although it would help if they bothered to read regulations. In India, despite having the appropriate size bags for my eye drops to be carried in my hand baggage, we were directed to put them all in checked luggage. This despite protestations by many that the boards and rules of all airlines said the contrary. It seemed that to make life easier for hand baggage screeners, the rules were changed. So no cosmetics or any liquids allowed. After checking in we went through security, there again the rules were posted. Only this time, the police were freely allowing passengers to carry water and liquids and cosmetics through the checkpoint. Apparently the folks upstairs had no clue what the folks downstairs were doing. It all leads you to wonder who is really in charge of it all.

Still, despite the occasional frustration, it was good to know that all over the world, security forces are doing their best to keep the skies safe. Sure, given the paltry state of the food service in the air these days it would be nice to carry your personal supply of food and beverage onto a plane, but there will come a time when we will return to those heady days of air travel. Until then remember one thing, always approach screeners in a friendly smiling, non-threatening manner, they appreciate it.



Post a Comment

<< Home