Thursday, August 4, 2011

On our way to Nigeria: Praise for TSA

We are officially ON OUR WAY! Up to two days ago, our countdown with Prince elicited very little excitement. 14 days until we leave for Nigeria, 10 days, 5 days, 2 days, whatever. Then it became "We're leaving for Nigeria tomorrow," and it felt different. Ominous. Momentous. Tomorrow? Wow. It's really going to happen!

It's happening! Joy and I stayed up until 4:30am re-re-packing our luggage to make sure everything was ready for today. Prince was asleep in the same room at the time, so this really was a successful undertaking. Our cousin then helped us haul all the bags to the Salt Lake City airport at 7 so we were dropped off and at the counter about 8.

It took an hour to get through the ticket counter. 1 - We were too early and she couldn't clear everything. 2 - Joy's passport and ticket are in her maiden name, but her United number is under her married name, so they had trouble there too. But the big one was...

3 - It turns out that there was some mistake on the way from Ithaca to Salt Lake and I was mistakenly awarded 1K (elite) status for our flight here. So no, I don't get 3 bags instead of 2; no, my bags are still 50 pounds, not 70; yes, we really should have picked up an extra carry-on bag. Oops. So we reorganized every bag (all but two were overweight anyway). After identifying a few papers we don't actually need at all, we managed to still carry everything away with us. The feeding of the 5000 it's not; finding extra space for 60-80 pounds of stuff will go down in family history as a minor miracle.

We sat down on a bench across from the ticket counter for a bit to catch our breaths, eat, feed and care for children, and prepare for the TSA. ... We made it through! No problems!

It is amazing, how much discretion TSA officials have and how much of a difference their disposition makes. At SLC, every person was astonishingly pleasant, one wished me a happy birthday in two weeks, they made special lanes available for slow-moving families with itty-bitties, smiled when they talked to us, no one yelled at us to hurry up, and in a dozen other ways made us feel welcome. Yes, they had to open a couple bags, check a few things, and rescan them. They did so politely, acted like they assumed we were innocent people, and helped us through the process. Best TSA experience EVER.

The TSA at Syracuse on our first attempt two weeks ago, by contrast, insisted that the cans of chicken we brought were contraband while TSA in SLC said, and I quote, "We don't care about that. Enjoy." In Syracuse they insisted on opening and testing every travel container of Prince's perishable food while SLC has the ability to scan them without ruining the food. In Syracuse they gave me a full body pat down despite passing through the scanners without a beep. In Salt Lake, they let Joy go through a second time and when she passed they let her through. Syracuse TSA made Joy, Prince, and Princess cry and we missed our flight. (By further contrast, the next day through the Syracuse TSA, they still gave us very thorough screening, but managed to do so in half the time, no mean looks, and no violations of 4th amendment rights.)

Yes, people are just doing their job. What a difference a bit of courtesy and friendliness make when just doing your job! I'm so glad I do not have to fly through Syracuse for the longest time!