Saturday, May 05, 2012

Member of the Club

I am VERY excited, for I have been asked to join the .1%. Well, to be accurate, I haven't actually been asked to join, but asked if I wanted to be considered. We're not talking income here: after all, that 1% you don't really get asked to join, but rather punch your own ticket. Anyway, chances of me making that particular cut are somewhere between slim and none. Besides, that's just the 1%; how exclusive is that? No, I have been singled out by a higher authority than the IRS, namely the TSA. They have flagged me as a minimal security risk, and have asked if I want to be considered to be part of TSA Pre.

According to the official release by Deputy Administrator Gale Rossides, TSA Pre is an initiative by the Transportation Safety Administration not to have "less security, but more focused security." Through it, frequent flyers are identified by their status as, well, frequent flyers. Then on the assumption that they haven't blown anything up yet (I guess), they will be asked if they'd like to be considered to be part of the program. As of this date about 640,000 passengers have opted in. When you figure that this year the total number of airline passengers is expected to be about 730 million, those trusted souls constitute the aforementioned .1%, and rounded up at that. A very exclusive club indeed.

And just what does becoming a card carrying member of the traveling elite get you? Well, while I don't want to give away the secret handshake (actually I haven't learned that yet), there are a few significant benefits. If you don't travel, these won't seem like much. But if you are a road warrior and spend any amount of time in an airport, you will recognize these for the huge bennies that they are.

For starters you get to go a special line. Now, anyone knows a special line is good. Whether it's EZ-Pass at the bridge or the less-than-10-items line at the supermarket, it's where we all want to be. Of course, the best part of being in your own line is that you get to look with a mixture of distain and pity at those in the regular line. "Don't you wish," your gaze says, "that you were special like me?" (Be honest: you do think that, don't you?)

But we know it's not about the line itself. As the TSA puts it so eloquently, those who make the cut "may experience benefits such as no longer removing the following items at the security checkpoint: shoes, 3-1-1 compliant bag from carry-on, laptop from bag, light outerwear/jacket, belt." That's right. You get to sashay up to the checkpoint, and walk right through it. No disrobing or unpacking in front of the masses. Not even the pilots get to do that.

And perhaps best of all, you don't have to do anything except show up. All of this is coded into your boarding pass, using the special number you are assigned to use when you buy your ticket. So in theory (again, I'm not in yet, just dreaming of what nirvana awaits), when you show up at the airport and the first TSA agent checks your driver's license against your boarding card and determines that you are indeed you, off you go. No more huddled masses yearning to breathe free, no more lining up like sheep, just a quick scan through the metal detector, and you're next in line at Starbucks before you can say Caramel Mochachino.

The TSA does note that being in the program is not a guarantee of always being waved through security procedures. Indeed, random and unpredictable screening will still be a part of the overall security and safety effort. So even if you are in TSA Pre, the computer could randomly decide that today is not your day to be trusted, and so into the stockade you go with the rest of the unwashed. Hopefully, that isn't the day you were counting on it, and wore your thigh-high lace-up boots to the airport.

But while I generally subscribe to Woody Allen's edict that he wouldn't belong to any club which would have him as a member, I would welcome the chance to enter this traveling elite. Should I make the cut, I might even wear my favorite socks on my next trip. You see, they have stitched-up holes in them, and so are inappropriate in instances where I know there will be a public viewing. But with TSA Pre? A man can dream, can't he?


Marc Wollin of Bedford always seems to pick the line at security that goes the slowest. His column appears 
regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at

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