I have decided to resurrect my series of How-tos because behind every how-to is a why-do. And behind every why-do is an interesting system. And examining systems helps us design better software, relate better as people and maybe even find ways to make the work a little better.
This How To involves getting through airport security. So, first we examine the Why-dos around this how-to.
Why-Do #1: Why do TSA agents seem mean?
Well, let's think about it for a minute. First off, TSA agents are human beings first, family members second, baseball fans third, and maybe somewhere down the line in the self-concept they are TSA agents. So when you treat them like an individual race, it's demeaning and upsets them.
Second, TSA agents have one job and one job only: stop people from blowing up airplanes. Understandably they take that seriously. Regardless of the statistics of how many planes have been blown up intentionally versus the number that have blown up because of faulty maintenance, they need to take that job seriously. So why does that make them mean? Because travelers seem to think their jobs are to tell you how big a quart bag is or to tell you to take your shoes off or to move plastic bins around. And travelers make them do those things 8 million times a day.
Third, TSA agents are agents. They have little control over whether they are working at 4 am or 10 PM, let alone set policy on what can and cannot be in your carry-on bag. Not only are they not interested in your theories of why taking your shoes off is pointless, they are actively tired of hearing about it.
Why-Do #2: What's My Carbon Footprint Have To Do With This?
Well, probably not very much. But I can tell you that I've been on flights that have been delayed because of delays at security. I have also been on flights where the crew has been stunned and amazed when everyone is on-board and seated with their seat-belts fastened ... early. The less delays at airports, the more efficient they operate. Air travel is nasty for personal carbon footprints. The more efficient you can help your flight become, there is a chance you'll decrease the carbon footprint of the airport. And no, I don't have any evidence whatsoever to back that up.
Why-Do #3: Because I'm standing in line behind you.
Here's the most important one. People are standing behind you. If it takes you two minutes to dig out your bag of gels, queuing theory says you will cause about 6 to 20 minutes of delay down the queue. Your dithering makes people miss flights.
Why-Do #4: If You Look Like You Know What You Are Doing, Life Goes More Smoothly
People love competence. People love the poetry of motion when someone knows what they are doing. You can gracefully go through security. TSA agents notice. The people in line with you notice. People remark about it.
How Can I Get Through The Airport Security Line Quickly?
Over the last several months, I've flown an awful lot. Here are some quick, easy, (like completely easy) rules for getting through airport security.
#1. Dress for Success
Buy slip on shoes. You want to be able to get them on and off without looking at them. I have nice leather Eccos and some athletic Merrills and even a pair of stylish Diesels - all of which require no digital intervention to put on. See "Remember Re-entry."
Bring a jacket with sealing pockets. Even if you are flying from LA to Houston in the summer, bring a light jacket with sealing pockets. If it's winter, use your coat. You want the pockets to seal with either Velcro or a zipper. And you want the pockets to be empty. Why? See "Plan ahead!"
Get a Better Belt - Your huge solid steel belt may have looked good at the rodeo, but it just isn't working working for security. Get a belt that doesn't set off the metal detector.
#2. Plan Ahead
BEFORE YOU GET TO THE LINE do the following things. Not in the line. Honestly, security lines move a lot faster than you think. It's really hard to fumble with things in line.
Put Your Crap In Your Coat - Put your wallet, phone, car keys, trombone - ANYTHING - that you have in the pockets of your clothes in the coat. When you go through the scanner, only have your ID and boarding pass with you. Why? Because you'll miss things if you don't do it completely and, more importantly, because you'll misplace you're boarding pass if your pockets have stuff in them and you'll find yourself searching for it later (trust me).
Put Your boarding pass and ID in a pocket that you have sworn you'll not put anything else in later. When you go through the line and when you get to the metal detector, you will be asked for one or both of these. You want them handy. Brain-dead handy.
Your gel bag NOW! Make sure your gel bag is never under anything and that it is in a place where you can quickly get to it and re-stow it. You wouldn't believe the number of people who seem to delight in stowing those things at the bottom of their suitcases. (See 3-1-1 page for guidelines)
Make your laptop accessible. You need to take your laptop out and put it in its own bin. If you are like me, your laptop has a bag that fits inside my briefcase. Before I go through security, I like to have that bag prepped for the line - meaning already unzipped.
#3 - Remember Re-entry
If you follow the tips above, re-entry will be a breeze. Just put on (slide into)your shoes and your jacket (it's about 68 degrees in the airport, even in summer), sheath your laptop, drop in your gels and walk away.
You won't be fumbling for your keys and everything else. You won't be trying to repack your bags. No one remembers re-entry. Often you get otherwise dignified people trying to stand on one foot and tie the other.
#4 - Don't Be an Idiot.
In the last month I've seen people try to go through security with gallon bags of gels instead of quarts TWICE. But the best was the woman who had about 8 tonnes of bling. This woman looked like she was a spokeswoman for the World Costume Jewelry Association. She was like a white female Don King. And she was SHOCKED that she had trouble with the metal detector.
Happy and Well Adjusted
Well, there you go. If you follow these easy rules, you are much more likely to get through security quickly. Then you can get inside and buy a bottle of water for $4 and relax.
Blogged at my house in Seattle with Live Writer