Color Me Pointless and the TSA

Steve, Duane and I just got back from a trip out to California to meet with some of our sponsors, get some new ones on board and meet with some interested media outlets. We flew out to San Diego and then made our way up to the Bay Area over the next week and finally returned home via San Francisco the other day. The trip went very well and you can expect a short clip of our experiences out there soon. One of the more interesting experiences though was getting through security at both Denver and San Francisco international airports.

Steve and I were convinced that since we were bringing our camera case, which housed two digital video cameras, a plethora of power cords and sources, numerous batteries, wires, cassettes and other video production related gadgets, going through security, especially in our heightened state of level orange alertness, would be quite the experience. In addition to the video equipment, Shoppman had a laptop, a portable hard drive and all of the wires and power sources associated with that in his bag. We were surprised to find that in Denver, we breezed right through security without even a question from the TSA folks. Steve and I were obviously quite surprised as we have both, at a minimum, been questioned in the past about the electronic equipment we were bringing on board with us.

I guess flying out of Denver does not really warrant too much scrutiny of passengers, but we expected that flying out of SFO on the way back would be different. Too our complete and utter surprise, it was not. We did not get pulled aside for additional screening, we were not asked any additional questions, they did not even appear to be looking at the x-ray screen as our luggage passed through the machine. Instead, the TSA was fully focused on an elderly gentleman who mistakenly tried to pass through the security checkpoint with a bottle of Evian. Currently, FAA/TSA policy prohibits bringing any liquids through the checkpoint with you unless it is in a 3 oz. bottle or less. The TSA screeners pulled this guy… who reminded me of my grandfather, aside and basically strip searched him while Steve and I passed through with our seemingly highly suspect carry-on items with not even as much as a second glance. It was all very interesting to see how concerned the TSA folks were at following "policy" than they were at using simple common sense.

Photo Courtesy of

Our security experience at SFO got even more interesting when we arrived at our gate. Steve and I were flying standby, so we had to wait until the aircraft was fully boarded before they started to hand out the standby tickets. When they started passing out the standby tickets, the gate attendant asked that we present photo ID’s to make sure they were giving the right ticket to the right passenger. The first name was called, and a woman proceeded to the desk, showed her ID, got her ticket and boarded the plane. The Frontier Airline people proceeded to announce a few more names until a woman came up trying to claim her ticket. This woman was in fact the owner of the first ticket that was issued and had the ID to prove it. Apparently the first woman’s name was similar to the one that was called, however, the gate agent only glanced at the ID and incorrectly gave her a ticket. This caused a bit of confusion as you can imagine and they had to go onboard, find the woman who took the first ticket and bring her back out. Now why would you ask for ID’s if you are not even going to look at them – just to follow the guidelines? Again, it all goes back to following procedure with no real comprehension of what ensuring a safe travel environment really entails.

The Federal government and the TSA have enacted all of these new rules and regulations to try and ensure safe air travel, but after what went down on our last trip, it seems like a gross waste of time and money. People are getting screened that don’t need to, others that should be are not and when there is a reasonable policy like checking an ID, people can’t even follow that. No one uses their own judgement about what might constitute a security threat and as long as the checklist is followed, no matter how ambiguous it is, it is assumed that everyone will be safe. I for one would have felt a lot more comfortable about my own safety if I had been pulled aside for a more detailed screening but apparently right now, water is more of a threat than a lithium battery pack. (which BTW can explode just by heating it up)

Thanks code level orange: I feel safer already