Sadly, I had to make a trip to the Charleston International Airport yesterday. Sad, because I remember (not all that long ago), when we could walk to the gate to welcome travelers to Charleston, or to kiss them good-by when they leave. I stopped flying when the full-body scanners were installed, and when it was rumored that they had been removed, I found that I was just as happy staying away. I like not having to take my shoes off to get on a train, and I don't have to pay to park my car. Oh, and nobody takes a picture of my license plate as I leave the parking lot.
The Charleston International Airport is a puffed-up name for a very sweet, small airport. But after 9/11, they may as well have named it (and all other airports in the US) the Bin Laden International. He has certainly left a legacy. After 9/11 the searches became more extensive and ridiculous. If you were dropping off a passenger at the curb, you were no longer allowed even five minutes to use the restroom much less help carry bags to the airline check-in. Only passengers are now allowed past the now ubiquitous security check-points. Which over the years have taken up more and more space.
Our security system here in the US may cover a whole lot of space, but the net has awfully big holes. Which is why there have continued to be acts of violence in and around airports, the latest being at LAX on November 1. Crazy killers can still get guns, because nobody knows they're crazy enough to kill until it happens.
But don't get me started on guns. My point is that, since the LAX shooting, the question is not, why do we still make it easy for people to carry guns, but how much more security can we cram into the airports.
Increased airport security appears to be the answer to just about any question you might ask regarding air travel. So since the idiot tried to set off a bomb in his shoes, we have all been forced to take off our shoes before we board an airplane. And when another idiot tried to detonate a bomb in his underwear, the solution was to give the TSA the right to gaze at our naked bodies. And don't forget, you're only allowed to take 3 oz. of liquids, and be sure to leave your water bottle at home.
Do you feel safer now? Because I sure don't -- even though the miniscule Charleston County Airport (please don't make me call it "International"...) is crawling with ever more security. In fact, when I got there yesterday I found that in the past year, the security checkpoint area had quadrupled. There were more security people this afternoon than passengers. People in wheelchairs were made to take off their shoes. And some old folk who could barely lift their arms had to stick them up for the scanners.
I was there to pick up my husband, who required wheelchair assistance. Except that there weren't enough porters to help with the passengers requiring assistance. So eventually the young lady wheeled him to baggage claim and then said she had to leave to go help someone else. Fortunately the two large suitcases for Stephan's three week visit came through before she got away, so we didn't have to wrestle them off the carousel and out to the sidewalk with the wheelchair. She got us out to the sidewalk and ran off for her next handicapped traveler.
When I brought my car around and hesitated, waiting for a spot to open up at the curb I was instantly approached by airport police, whose job it is to protect us from people sitting in their car in front of the airport. When I pointed to the old guy in the wheelchair, he motioned me over to a space and then quickly bicycled off in search of other parking malefactors. And, because there is more airport security than there are skycaps, my 75-year-old husband had to get out of the wheelchair and help me haul the two suitcases into the car.
You know, this is Charleston. If I had needed help on the street someone would have come up and given me a hand. But over at the Charleston County Airport, crawling with people who are employed there, they are too busy looking for trouble that doesn't exist than to actually help out.
What a way to welcome a traveler to Charleston.
Osama bin Laden is grinning in his watery grave.