By Travel columnist
updated 7/6/2005 5:32:59 PM ET 2005-07-06T21:32:59

TSA doesn’t stand for Thousands Standing Around, although sometimes it seems like it should.

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Not only are there swarms of TSA employees everywhere, but when you get to a line during rush hour, you too become one of the thousands standing around. Nobody likes waiting around after being told to take off some of your clothes, or watching as other passengers ahead of you take an agonizingly long time being searched.

When you finally make it to the magnetometer, you are either annoyed or thoroughly disgusted.

TSA is run by the government and while many of you sneer at that fact, try to remember how it was. I cringe every time I recollect the inefficient security of the old days. For me, the worst part was that most of the personnel spoke little or no English.

When TSA took over, the joke among airline crewmembers was that TSA stood for “They Seem American.”

Some say that airport security isn’t any better than before 9/11; I strongly disagree. Air travel is safer now than it has ever been. I used to be appalled that airline employees were never screened. Now, nearly everyone is. It used to scare me that bags would go on a domestic flight regardless of whether the owner was on the plane (a process called baggage-matching). Airlines now have a 100 percent bag match rule, which, although it is may cause a few delays, is being strictly enforced.

I used to think up ways of getting items past security. Those ways are now mostly gone.

Every day brings new security measures, from closer shoe inspection to high-tech machines. America and its airline industry cannot afford to have a repeat terrorist incident. So everything possible is being done to prevent such events.

Having said all of that, there are still some hassles along the way.

First and foremost, the lines at security are probably enough to turn you right off from air travel. In my case, I know that the shortest distance between two points is not the line that I seem to choose. Just as I get close to the front something gets clogged up, while all the other lines are moving. Then, as I switch lines, the new one gets jammed and the one I left starts moving. I believe there are certain tricks of the trade that can get you through a bit more quickly and comfortably.

Here are 10 tips to help you through the new airport security procedures:

  1. Put any sharp objects or any electrical devices you don’t need on the flight into your checked luggage. As checked luggage is not accessible during the flight, such items are permitted in your bags.
  2. Remove anything from your person that is remotely metallic, such as jewelry, watches, coins, etc., and put them in your carry-on bag that goes through the x-ray machine. This way, you won’t set off the metal detector or risk forgetting items you put in the plastic tray.
  3. Pick a line and stick to it. Bring a book — better yet, bring my book — to pass the time.
  4. Walk through the metal detector in one brisk stride. Stopping halfway, or walking through slowly, often causes false alarms. If the alarm goes off on your first time through, you only get one more try before the full search, so double check everything in your pockets and on your person.
  5. If you are a frequent traveler and keep setting off the metal detector, listen and pay attention as the screener wands you. If your buttons trigger the alarm, next time wear different attire. Ladies, try to avoid bras with under-wire support. The next time you fly you will know what to avoid wearing.
  6. Watch your carry-on items when you are being waved with the security wand. Even with the added officials and video surveillance technology, opportunities for theft abound.
  7. Don’t cause a scene. I know it’s frustrating to be singled out, but that tantrum you are about to throw could delay your journey over 30 minutes. You will be sent through every level of security checks they have, just on principle.
  8. Please don’t get mad at the airline crews when we go to the front of the line. How would you like to discover the reason for your flight delay was that the crew was held up at security?
  9. Put on your MP3 player with your favorite music and watch with amusement the show taking place before you. People are naturally amusing, and the music adds a special touch to this comedy of life. It’s like an ad-lib performance of synchronized swimmers. Of course, everyone will look at you oddly as you laugh, but who cares?
  10. Speak up! I have said it before and I will say it again: If you witness a breach of security, tell someone immediately. Apparently, one day in August prior to the tragedy, a well-known actor had witnessed a breach of security involving a man at Boston’s Logan Airport. He spoke up, but nothing was done. Later, authorities determined that the man was one of the 9/11 hijackers doing a practice run. They will listen to you now, I guarantee it. The life you save may be yours, but it may be mine as well.

Who knows what the future in security technology will bring? Full body x-rays, fingerprint scanners, goggles where screeners can see through clothing, are just a few items that are in the works. I read a security update that stated “rectal scanners” were being considered for major airports. I nearly choked until I realized that it was a typo intended to read “retinal scanners.”

Even though it was a typo, it created a mind-blowing image.

James Wysong has worked as a flight attendant with two major international carriers during the past fifteen years. He is the author of the "The Plane Truth: Shift Happens at 35,000 Feet" and "The Air Traveler's Survival Guide." For more information about James or his books, please visit his website or e-mail him. Want to sound off about one of his columns? Try visiting Wysong's forum.


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