Since mid-July, I have gone through airport security screening for a flight 12 times, and until the 12th time each experience was pretty seamless – indeed, I sometimes randomly got TSA Precheck. I signed up for Global Entry two weeks ago in anticipation of this third and final airport tour leg, from NY to Charlotte to Philadelphia to Boston with a side trip to Portland, Maine.
The only time so far that something weird happened, oddly enough, was when I went through screening at Sea-Tac just in order to do part of the airport walkthrough tour that my hosts were leading. I had only my purse and camera, not my laptop bag and duffel bag that have traveled with me throughout the world for about a decade. Yet somehow, I got pulled aside and patted down thoroughly. It’s a little disconcerting to hear the words: “I’m going to pat you down between your legs.” The only time I should ever have to hear those words from a stranger is when that stranger is the ob-gyn.
Preparing for this 12th flight, to Charlotte, I had my Global Entry membership activated and I was almost giddy with anticipation of not taking off my shoes or taking out my laptop. But lo and behold, no TSA Precheck appeared on my ticket (it turns out I hadn’t realized I have to input my Known Traveler Number into my profile).
Not only was the line extraordinarily slow-moving at American Airlines’ terminal at LaGuardia (believe it or not, I have had almost 100% no problems at LaGuardia in the past) but then they pulled my laptop bag aside and did a search so thorough that it was actually impressive, if annoying. I thanked my travel senses that I had given myself extra time to get to the airport, having read the stories about that situation in August. And of course, always in the back of my mind was the fact that I was flying on the 15th anniversary of 9/11.
When I finally got my bag back and proceeded, I found that there was a wait for a shuttle bus to take us to our gate. I’m presuming these shuttles have something to do with the P3 project to rebuild the central terminal, but I’ll find out for sure when I arrange a visit with the JV team to cap off my East Coast airport tour.
So then I realized. Even if I had breezed through security, I’d still have had to wait for the shuttle. It appeared and delivered me to my gate just 2 minutes before they began boarding. So actually, it was just as well that I’d been held up at the checkpoint; I would’ve had to wait somewhere for something anyway. The timing of the shuttle delivery reminded me of the extraordinary work that goes into running all aspects of an airport – something that impresses me ever more as my roster of airport visits piles up.
And the date of this flight to Charlotte reminded me of how all this searching and whatnot, however much people might argue that it’s probably pointless because terrorists have moved on from on-board attempts and such, came about for the most terribly necessary reasons. Airport people, including the TSA, are just doing what they are tasked with doing.
Tomorrow I look forward to hearing about Charlotte airport’s $2.5-billion capital program that will include a 4th runway, elevated roadway and revamped terminals. Now, I’m going to input my known traveler number. I’m almost relieved that I won’t be there to see the twin beams of light that will rise up from the NYC skyline, because even 15 years later, I know I would be crying.