Can You Clear Security?

Seasoned traveler Nick Topitzes of PC/Nametag compares Madison to the cities he visits - and reports back on his findings.

I remember when I would go to the airport with my parents. It was a completely different experience than what it is now. You could go out on the observation deck and watch the planes, even walk out onto the apron and get close to the plane. You could eat with a knife and fork made of metal. You could even carry on your favorite baseball bat or hunting knife. The world changed with hijackings in the Middle East and in Cuba, and especially 9/11. Now, we ride with sky marshals and go through a tough screening process.

I marvel at how the screening process differs across the country and the world. I’ve been in Greece where they had an armored car parked at the edge of the airport, in Rome where the carabinieri carried automatic weapons. I flew shortly after 9/11 and saw National Guardsmen with M16s at the gates. In London, you might go through three interviews before you were allowed onto the plane. Friends have told me of “pat downs” in India that were “most thorough.”

It’s sad that we go must go through this, but we will probably have to deal with this for the foreseeable future.

In some places, the security line just creeps along — and in some instances, security wants to see everything in someone’s bag. Then at the next airport, it looks like the inspectors just can’t wait until coffee break. I haven’t had anything stolen from bags with my TSA locks — only in one airport did I suspect that the baggage handlers cut the locks and invited themselves to take a look (San Antonio).

The most frustrating time was when my wife and I had bought a silver service for our son and his wife in England. We were concerned about theft and decided to put the soup and dessert spoons in our baggage. Well, Heathrow security wouldn’t allow us to pass. I kept asking what the problem was and they said that we were carrying “cutlery.” I pointed out that these were spoons and I wouldn’t be a big threat to anyone with a spoon. Nevertheless, the supervisor agreed that they were cutlery and that they could not be allowed on the plane so I had to check my carry-on. (For the record, Webster defines cutlery as forks and knives, not spoons.)

I have always marveled at how lucky we are in Madison. Our TSA team is pretty darn good. They are friendly, thorough and firm. Moreover, it seems that they are smart. Pretty important when you are trying to protect people. That’s why I don’t mind flying out of Madison. Now if I could only pick the line where the people in front of me knew what to do. That would be cool.

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