Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer travel notes from your cranky tourist

With summer on the horizon, here are a few thoughts on the nightmare and ordeal that has become air travel.

There are these new little locks you can put on your luggage that inspectors have the keys to open. When you get your luggage back there will be an indication that your bag has been opened. But mysteriously the locks all disappear. People I know have had as many as three stolen off their bags. So who handles your bag once you check it in? Inspectors. They’re the ones stealing the locks.

And now you have to pay to check in luggage to have it opened, rifled through, broken, ripped, and have your lock stolen.

It soon may be cheaper to let UPS ship your underwear across the country than letting United Airlines do it.

We’ve had TSA checkpoints in airports for almost nine years now. And yet, half the people in line are totally bewildered. Yes, you have to take your shoes off! You see everyone else taking their shoes off? Why would you think that you’re the one person in 200,000,000 that doesn’t?

There is not even a consistent inspection procedure among airports. At LAX you don’t have to show your boarding pass a second time when you pass through the metal detector. In Oakland you do. Some airports require you take out your drivers’ license. In others that’s not necessary.

You need a separate bin for your computer. But you don’t need a separate bin for your keys, another one for your jacket, another one for your change, and two for your shoes. And yes, even though they’re flip flops you have to take off your shoes!

Under-wire bras can set off the alarm. But good news, ladies: gel-filled bras are permitted… and even encouraged.

Keep lines moving!!!!

Don't use free airport Wifi. It is a hackers delight.

For all the aggravation you have to go through, do you even feel remotely safer with all the TSA inspections?

Incoming cars are stopped at security checkpoints (in some airports, not all). And yet cab drivers, who come from every country in the world but America and speak every language but English zip right in.

If you’ve arranged for a towncar the driver should be waiting for you in the terminal with a sign. You shouldn’t have to call him when you get in, then get detailed confusing instructions so that you’re wandering around holding areas in unfamiliar airports, wondering if this is the right exit and this is the right curb and trying to pick out a specific license plate number as fifty cars that all look alike go whizzing by.

If you’re bringing an infant or toddler on board, a) you must be on my flight, and b) bring hard candy for them to suck on during take-offs and landings. It relieves the pressure in their ears when the cabin pressure changes.

Bring your own headphones.

There is more room in exit rows. When they ask if you’ll assist in case of emergency say sure. What the hell?

For the smoothest ride, pick a seat over the wing.

Drink a lot of water during a flight. Stay hydrated.

Airlines routinely add a half hour or more to the flying time so it will appear they are more on-time.

Instead of jotting your parking location on a scrap of paper that you’ll surely lose, take a picture of with you camera phone. Same with your luggage so when it arrives destroyed you’ll have some record.

Have you ever been in a taxi that didn’t have at least one warning light on the dashboard?

Have you ever been in a taxi that had more than one gallon of gasoline in it? Not that the driver will ever stop for gas.

How much do you tip cab drivers? I never know.

It will be a larger distance between the terminal and the rental car lot than the rental car lot and your destination – even if you’re driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

Book the smallest car you need and hope for a free upgrade.

Never buy gas from a station close to an airport. They jack up prices knowing people with rental cars need to get them refueled.

Not all rental car companies start you off with a full tank of gas anymore. Check before you leave.

When a shuttle says it will be by every ten minutes and you believe it you’re dumber than the guy who didn’t know he has to take off his shoes.

Become a major league ballplayer or the President of the United States so you won't have to deal with any of this crap.

Bag the trip entirely and just go to your nearby Indian casino.

Have a great summer, everybody!


John said...

Avoiding TSA entirely this year and doing the July vacation by car. Cynically expect to run into thunderstorm of biblical proportions somewhere along the line, which will negate all the money I saved by switching to Geico via hail damage/windshield repair deductibles. Also expect oil speculators to juice the gas prices to at least the $3 level about the time I'm ready for the trip, but at least the NYC hotel glut is bad enough now they're throwing in free iPhones if you'll stay four or more nights (OK, it's not that bad yet, but when the NYC hotel rates are cheaper than Syracuse during the Clinton Square Blues Festival, you know the chain/boutique hotel market in the city is severly overbuilt).

YEKIMI said...

Fuck the airlines. Even though the Queen Elizabeth II gets better gas mileage then the ancient piece of crap I motor around in I'll still drive it anywhere in the USA and still pay less then an airline ticket would cost. And if I need to go overseas.......I'll roll the windows up and outfit the damn thing with oars before I pay their outrageous fees for whatever they feel like charging you for...expect to be paying for toilet paper soon. Best eat lots of cheese befor ethe flight to bind you up till you get wherever you're going!

Anonymous said...

Actually, with United you can now arrange to have your stuff shipped by FedEx for what the Friendly Skies people call a low price.

Anonymous said...

"do you even feel remotely safer with all the TSA inspections?"

it's not about "feeling" safe, if that was their objective they'd just stop anyone wearing a turbant (I guess that doesn't work eithr). the guys who want to blow up the plane will try to blend in.

"And yet cab drivers, who come from every country in the world but America and speak every language but English zip right in."

so foreigners who don't speak english, they MUST be terrorists, right? I bet stopping them would make you "feel" really safe.

Vermonter17032 said...

Explain this:

They allow you to bring a cellphone on the plane, even though using one at take off or landing can foul up the communication and lead to bad things happening. But jello is too dangerous to permit on board.

Michael T said...

nothing brings out my misanthropy like a trip to the airport!

Rue said...

Also, peanut butter, in any quantity, spread on bread or crackers is just fine for carry-on baggage. But peanut butter in a jar more than 3.4oz large must be checked, even if it's crunchy.

The Milner Coupe said...

About six years ago, when they made my Grandmother get up out of her courtesy wheel chair so they could pass the wand over her before a flight to Kansas), I knew we were doomed. This idiotic new ritual at the airports is the single greatest victory for those clowns that blew up the buildings on 9/11.

I had hoped it was a temporary measure, but with the totally useless Homeland Security behemoth now running Everything, and the federal kiss asses who own TSA firmly entrenched, I guess it's forever.

It wasn't the deathcount the terrorists were after, it was a change in our lifestyle that they wanted. TweedleBush & CheneyDum couldn't have been bigger chumps.

Sorry to be serious when you were obviously joking, but it's still a very sore spot with this commuter. Every time I have to take my slippas and belt off before a flight to that hotspot of terrorism, Molokai, I want to bitch slap Cheney right back to his country club.


Doktor Frank Doe said...

Here in San Diego I've noticed three TSA agents that used to stand at intersections with cardboard signs. Four others I've taken note of worked in McDonalds and Taco Bell drive throughs, Six came from Mexico where they used to hawk trinkets to the people sitting in line to drive back across the border, and the supervisor on duty at San Diego Terminal One is a former Petco Dog groomer. (He probably had management experience)

These are supposed to be law-enforcement personnel? What a collection of misfit nitwits. Getting from the parking lot to the gate is now like squeezing your head through someone else's sphyncter as we navigate a whole flock of these nimnerds and they're supposed to protect us against terrorists? I once observed the line being held up while three of them argued over how best to open a friggin jar of mayonaise!

The best advice is to learn the terrorism manuals so we can carry anything onto the plane we want without these knucklenuts ever noticing. It's us rank amateurs that keep having our pocket knives and sex-lube taken away because the two-inch blade is 1/8" too long and the bottle is two-ounces too large!

Roger Owen Green said...

Gum. The 5-year-old's first flight, and her first chewing gum. You're welcome, Ken.

Nat G said...

No, don't take a photo of your parking spot. You're taking your GPS out of your car, aren't you? Not leaving it there for thieves, and it's never more useful than when you're away from home, right? Well, add a "point of interest" for where you're parked.

Of course, that doesn't work if you're on a lower level of a structure (and thus out of contact of the sattelites) instead of outside or on the roof...

SharoneRosen said...

if I can't drive there or take a round trip cruise, I ain't going!

I'm gonna miss Hawaii....

Emily Blake said...

I always wear booties and as soon as they make you take off your shoes I don't put them on again until I reach my destination. The security people have no idea what to do with that. When I go through security they're all "Hey! You have to take your shoes off!" and I wiggle my toes and say "They're socks!"

And they just look bewildered.

Jess Kiley said...

And...what does this have to do with the fact that Earl left us without a Tuesday post this morning?

Give him a jingle, would ya?

rms said...

What? No Tuesday post from Earl? Did he take a trip somewhere?

Anonymous said...

I don't want to come off as an Islamaphobe, but have you ever noticed the security people who sit by the revolving door exits from the terminal to the baggage claim and ticket areas are almost exclusively...Middle Eastern?

Jayne said...

Just made reservations to fly to New York at the end of July. The TSA people at LaGuardia are the second worst I've ever had to deal with. Milwaukee's are the worst and unfortunately, unless I fly out of O'Hare, I have to deal with Milwaukee every time I fly anywhere.

The TSA agent at LaGuardia tried to tell me that I could not even have my expensive cigar lighter in my CHECKED luggage. (I had forgotten to remove it from my jacket pocket and got stopped at security) I just looked at the dude and said to him ever so nicely....."Well, it got here! I must have packed it somewhere!" I just took it back from him and my friend who did the same thing I did took my lighter and her lighters, brought to the counter of the airline we were flying on (don't remember who it was) and asked if we could check them. Sure enough, they even packed them into a box for us and they were in Milwaukee when we got there.

In Milwaukee, a friend of mine had a pen cap confiscated. I'm not sure what damage a pen cap can do but apparently they are dangerous items!

D. McEwan said...

"YEKIMI said...
Queen Elizabeth II gets better gas mileage then the ancient piece of crap I motor around"

Well that's because she toodles around in a tiny import, accompanied by a couple Corgis, when not traveling by horse-drawn open-carriage. Howver, she doesn't care to be called an "ancient piece of crap," even though she is one.

"Anonymous said...
I don't want to come off as an Islamaphobe, but have you ever noticed the security people who sit by the revolving door exits from the terminal to the baggage claim and ticket areas are almost exclusively...Middle Eastern?"

You're going to have to find a different way to not "come off as an Islamaphobe," because if that remark had any non-Islamaphobic point, it slipped by me.

Cap'n Bob said...

Worse airline employees I've every dealt with? Alaska in San Jose, California. Second worse: Continental in Chicago. I'll spare you the grim details. As for the TSA people, I know a guy named Steve who was hassled because his airline ticket was for Steve and his driver's license said Steven. A supervisor finally allowed him to board. Probably a former Petco dog groomer.

YEKIMI said...

WHOOPS! I meant the Queen Mary ship. Guess that's what I get for typing while intoxicated. {and since I'm related to the current Queen, mumsie is going to be so pissed...even though for me to become King of the British Empire, about 3 billion of the planets population would have to die before I could ascend to the throne.}

Unknown said...

My mom is the idiot who won't take off her shoes and doesn't get it. I have TRIED, people. She claims that "not flying much" is her excuse for not getting this. She flew three times last year and screwed up the shoes AND pitched a hissy fit when I threw out the water bottle (because apparently she thinks they won't take it away from you) AND jumps into the frequent flyer line with her shoes on.

I say that if you've flown three times within 2008, YOU NO LONGER HAVE AN EXCUSE FOR STOOPID.

I'm sorry, folks. But just be glad you're not the one traveling *with* her.

A. Buck Short said...

Geez, as kids I remember how our parents used to drive us on outings to the airport, so we could vicariously enjoy how rich people travelled.

An answer, a question, and a comment.

Yes I do feel remotely safer.

What if the bra sports more than 3.4 oz. of gel?

Good ones D.

As our daughter was flying in to Dallas from Miami Saturday, Love Field was closed two hours because a bomb sniffing dog smelled something in a package. The news later reported it turned out to be nothing but there was no information as to what it actually was. Just my luck, I'll probably be packing two of them in the Valpack on my next trip to Topeka. (My own personal suspicion is it may have been Ken Levine's UPS underwear making a getaway.)

Matt said...

"How much do you tip cab drivers?"

All the way over, of course!

The Duke said...

The phoniest part: You can't bring in any liquid (including gels), because of the fear that some terrorist MacGyver will mix up a potent brew and blow up the plane. So where do these goofballs decide to dispose of this explosive chemical, just relieved from a traveler not willing to pay $6 for water in the terminal? Nothing less than a rubber-reinforced trash bin popular in junior high schools everywhere, sitting about 5 feet from where grandma is putting back on her ortho shoes.

The TSA is closer to performance art than actual security.

jbryant said...

Are they still confiscating nail clippers? When they took mine, I assumed it was because of that little nail file that's attached. I guess it could be used to jab a flight attendant's jugular. But so could a pencil or ball point pen, neither of which is prohibited.

Mary Stella said...

Instead of jotting your parking location on a scrap of paper that you’ll surely lose, take a picture of with you camera phone.

I'm so using this tip the next time I travel!

Bonus use: I can upload the pic to Facebook and ask for help if I still can't find my car.

wv: phaterap = Producer notes for 50 Cent's performance on the MTV awards.

Dana Gabbard said...

The villiains are the airlines--who used to handle security and by incompetence and being cheapskates are the root of why 911 happened. And so of course we threw millions of dollars at them, and added the security costs to the other subsidies (airports, traffic controllers) we all pay for an industry that continues to be riddled with bankruptcies and reorganizations.