I’ve heard some really silly stuff from TSA employees lately, but this one about my The North Face pants really takes the top prize for being ridiculous:
"These might not be the best pants to wear to the airport since they’ve got all those zippers and a lot going on."
My pants had just set off a false positive on a $150,000 millimeter wave body scanner at John Wayne Airport (which is still an outstanding airport for reasons I’ll address in the future). It thought one of my zippers was not like the others, and alerted the staff. And then the TSA employee – not rudely, or anything – blamed my pants. He was perfectly friendly, but ultimately he still blamed my pants. I think he and the rest of the TSA staff need to think about whether their scanners actually work.
This exact pair of The North Face pants have flown from Asia to the North America to Europe and back with me a few times. They have caused security officials in Asia (Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Tokyo and even Shanghai) and Europe (London, Frankfurt, Stuttgart) exactly zero problems. But they’ve stymied TSA employees in Phoenix and now Orange County.
My friends, the problem is not the pants. It’s not the zippers. It’s an overfunded, under-moraled organization trying to expand its mission and its funding by making banking on fear and security theater.
Read this, and tell me this agency is about keeping you safe. Fly abroad and tell me TSA is about keeping you safe. (One of the most dismaying aspects of security at foreign airports is that its employees are more courteous, better trained and more articulate – in a second language! – than TSA employees in my own country.)
So what’s the point of hammering away at TSA every time its employees say or do something stupid? First off, I want people who reflexively bleat "well, if it keeps us safe --" to open their eyes. And then I want the constant stream of pressure to prompt some reform in the organization so we can also get back to the goal of improving and expanding travel – because travel is the best educational experience that a person of any age can enjoy. It sickens me that there are people so cowed by TSA that they don’t want to board a plane.
Oh, and The North Face needs to give me a ring when it’s ready to design its ultimate pair of air travel pants. In the meantime, I’ll wear the same The North Face pants for every flight because they shrug off stains, have plenty of zippable pockets and fit just right for air travel.
One more thing – I have a great story for those of you who can’t get enough of security shenanigans from TSA.