Thursday, May 31, 2007

unsecure security

I'm sure most of you have heard the big news story about the guy who apparently didn't know he had a prescription resistant strain of TB and went on his scheduled marriage and honeymoon in Europe thus perhaps putting hundreds of lives at risk. He is now under a guard lock-down quarantine. I know, I know. He hadn't gotten the test results back and he swears he felt fine and best of all he wasn't even coughing while on his trip.
The new news coverage is about airport security and how a person in his (apparent) state of health could have even gotten on the plane in the first place.
Let me tell you how: security is none-existent and I'm pretty sure the security personal are under-paid, over-staffed, poorly fed, disgruntled, and simply following some sort of government protocol that no one really understands or even cares about.
I was going to do a write-up on the many airports I visited and list the best and worst in terms of security, friendliness, cleanliness, bathrooms, and what they have to offer fellow travelers in terms of food and entertainment and such. Well, why wait. I'll do it now.

Home state was the friendliest, cleanliest, and most willing to help a confused and nervous traveler. Then again I was at home state's airport at 4:30 a.m. so perhaps they were just fresh and clean from a good night sleep and hadn't been through the hell of a day yet.

Detroit: Definitely the coolest in terms of neon lights and distractions to keep a stressed person in a stoned and awe struck zone.
Friendliness: The Starbuck girl was lovely. The ticket counter person, not so much.
Security: Not sure as it was a transfer.
Bathrooms: Disgusting and small. Barely room for a person let alone for a person with luggage. I'm also guessing the last time they were cleaned, and don't let the trash can, bucket, and mop fool you, was around 1986. Ew.

JFK (I was there four times): What a joke. By far the most lax security I encountered and I was there four times both for domestic and international travel. Detroit-JFK, JFK-Frankfurt, Frankfurt-JFK, JFK-Boston. The thing they seemed most upset about on the international flight was that I had stepped over the yellow line while waiting in line. My bad.
When I stepped over the yellow line (when it was safe to do so) and showed the man my boarding pass and passport I kindly asked him how he was. His response: "I hate my job and I'm having a horrible day, but I'm glad you're having a good day." (Smell the sarcasm on the last sentence. It's pungent.)
Safely past him I then went to the carry-on security. I put my bag on the floor to get all of my oh-so-dangerous liquids that were safely under 3oz. We were chatting with each other and I then start to go through security when she asks if she has seen my boarding pass. I tell her she had and she gives me the okay to go through. Now, I had shown her my boarding pass, but really, should she take my word for it?

Customs: He didn't even look at me. He opened my passport, stamped it, and sent me on my way. It was so fast I asked if that was all. He assured me it was. Apparently I am not a threat nor do I look threatening. This is a good thing.

Domestically: I was pretty much breezed through security.
Shopping: A lot of high-end stores.
Food: Not a lot of variety and of course, expensive.
As I was 5.5 hours delayed in Frankfurt I missed my hotel and "slept" in JFK. However, I had (or wanted to) get to the terminal for my connecting flight. Luckily I had met two men who missed their flight to London so we trekked to the terminal together. The terminal was shut down due to construction and we were locked outside. That would be outside of the airport at 2 a.m. The helpful maintenance workers said we needed to walk around.
Walk around we did. I made the comment to one of the displaced travelers that I felt like I was Steve Martin in "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles."
Bathrooms: Not clean. I didn't really want to touch anything. However, after spending the night at JFK I most certainly had to. I took a "shower" in the sink and there was apparently only one stall that anyone was willing to use and it was behind me and my sink bath.

Also, on all my domestic flights there were announcements that the security alert had been raised to orange, but there wasn't any indication as to why or when. Personally I feel the whole alert system is a joke and nothing more than the government pretending to do something and to constantly remind us of 9/11, but that's just me.

Frankfurt (I was there twice): Good god whatever you do, don't mess around or smile in Frankfurt. I had 45 minutes to get from gate 12 to gate 42. There were only 44 gates in the airport and go through security. Oy.
All metal items need to be placed in the tray. Walk through the metal detector and each person is also gone over with a wand. The pat down and metal detecting wand was so thorough I needed a cigarette afterwards. I accidentally left a bottle of water in my purse. I realized my mistake as soon as I put the purse in the tray and it was going down the conveyor. I was pulled to the side. My bags were searched and when the devious and dangerous water bottle was found I was told to drink it. When I declined, I was again told to drink it. I took the bottle, but didn't drink from it. I was then, very forcibly, told to drink it. I obeyed. As I was drinking the hot and gross plane water it was ripped from my hand and thrown away. I really believe Mr. Frankfurt security guard was sad I didn't die from the hot and disgusting plane water.
Friendliness: Return flight was better than going, but don't expect smiles.
Bathrooms: Um, Yeah. There was a thorough hand washing afterwards.
Flight/plane: going, it was awesome. The flight crew was exceptional, then again it wasn't a full flight and perhaps they were able to give extra attention and care to everyone. Coming back it was horrible. The flight was nice, but there was a 5.5 hour delay and everyone pretty much had to fend for themselves in terms of water and such. Also, the delay was because the air conditioning was broken and it took several hours before they opened the doors to let some air in and then for whatever reason they were closed again. I was so parched and thirsty by the time I arrived in JFK I would have committed sins for some tasteless clear liquid.
Ease of getting to and fro: Bad. Moving sidewalks that last for only about 50 feet and too many people simply standing in the narrow walkway to try and pass one another.

Athens (I was there four times): No big deal. Check-in, check-out, put bags and liquids in a tray, walk through the metal detector.
Bathrooms: clean.
Friendliness: Eh, not overly so, not underly so.
Shops: A decent selection of places to shop and to eat.

Mykonos: I was only dropped off...the airport was pretty much empty except for my flight that had just arrived.

Santorini: For a smaller airport the security was pretty good.
Bathrooms: Funny moment: Hands are lathered up I go to wash off the soap and....where's the water? Where's the faucet? Why isn't the water coming out of the faucet? I'm moving my hands under the faucet because I think it must be a laser sensor. I'm looking all over the place. This is going on for a few minutes and a few people have walked in to the bathroom and I've asked them for help. They either don't understand me or they simply are mean, because no one helped me. I'm truly starting to panic at this point. I can't get on the plane with white foamy soapy hands. SOMEBODY HELP ME! A lady then points to the floor. Oh. There is a button on the floor that I need to step on to activate the water. Clever!
Shops: There are a variety of shops and places to eat.

Boston (I was there twice): Security was standard. Basically if a person either doesn't have any dangerous liquids 3oz or under they are pretty much safe and secure to board the plane.
Friendliness: Information desk was most helpful.
Cleanliness: Spotless and I was there both in the a.m. and the p.m.
Shops and such: A wide range and variety.
Ease of getting to and fro: No problem. Drop off and pick-up is a bit congested, but that is to be expected.

Minnesota: Security: Don't know as it was a transfer.
Friendliness: The staff was a bit stressed because of delays and such.
Cleanliness: Spotless.
Shops and such: Whether a person would want a meal, or face soap, stamps, or a hunting license, a stuffed animal, or a beer just go to the airport. The place had everything to the point of ridiculousness...everything.
Ease of getting to and fro: I had to go from Gate C to Gate G in terms of the alphabet that doesn't seem far. In terms of an airport, it's a long ass way to go. However, there wasn't a problem. Many moving sidewalks to help with luggage and tired travelers. Many massage chairs to ease tired and sore muscles.

I realize I haven't been everywhere. However, in terms of recently traveled planes, flights, persons, and airports I think this is a pretty good range of what to expect which is that unless it's Frankfurt, security isn't secure.


GirlGoyle said...

I could write a book about airports. Actually I could write a book about mishaps in airports but just remeniscing gets me all pissy. As for the security measures they have recently put in place I agree with you, they are a joke. They seem to be more of nuissance than anything else. I mean seriously who can fit a timed explosive device in a flip flop? Must I really take my shoes off and walk barefoot across a floor that is never washed or disinfected and that could probably test as a pietry dish for unnamable deseases? The unspoken domestic rule about security is that first of all you are an american carrying an american passport therefore don't pose a threat. Only foreigners are evil and capable of evil things. Second you are leaving the country so frankly speaking they don't really care what you are carrying or who you are. It's the country of arrival's problem to deal with that. I know this because apparently more than once in my very caucasian 5'6 frame, 130lbs and green eyes I have been sidelined for questioning. The stupidest question being "why do you speak english?" I have yet to figure out how to give a not so sarcastic answer to that. Anyway, glad your travels were safe and fun.

On another note relative to your previous post - flickr sucks. You may want to give a free program called PICASA (it's a google product) a try. It allows you to upload as many pics as you want all in one time. You can even create whole albums you can share with people. It's pretty cool and costs you nothing.

Bre said...

Ugh - did you hear that his FIL is a TB expert? Big time irony

puerileuwaite said...

Let's cut to the chase. Did you or did you not bring back the Turkish heroin I requested?

limpy99 said...

Gee, the Germans were the least friendly. Color me surprised.

And I am part German.

Party Girl said...

GG: Why do you speak English? Because I am an American...Yeah. I don't know how I couldn't use sarcasm either.

bre: Yep. Gee, that is a marriage off to a great start.

I'm waiting to hear about all of the lawsuits against this guy. I mean, seriously.

P: Shhh. I'll email you the code to get the stash later today.

Limpy: Yeah. It was a shocker. I just wanted to tell them my last name. (German. Very, German) I figured that might give me a pass and maybe a smile. A smirk at the very least.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Added a new value add to my blog this weekend - a news widget from I always wanted to show latest news for my keywords in my sidebar. It was very easy with this widget. Just a small copy paste and it was done. Great indeed.

Old Man Crowder said...

A guy with TB can squeak through, but he for sure would have been caught if he'd tried to board with a catapult.

Party Girl said...

OMC: Thanks. I needed that giggle today!