The puzzling state of airport security

Flying between LAX, JFK and San Francisco International this month, I found myself baffled by the various levels, standards and attitudes at airport security lines. I don’t understand why there are such vast differences depending on which airport you go through.

At LAX, Los Angeles International, I sailed through with no problems – although I had to go through one of those body scanners. I had a couple of items in my carry-on that were about 5 fl. oz. in size. You’re not allowed anything above 3.4. (The whole 3.4 limit seems strangely specific and arbitrary. But you hope that there’s a very good reason for it.) The security people didn’t say anything about my slightly over-sized items.

But when I went through JFK (New York) security with the exact same carry-on bag, security stopped me and took out the two over-sized items. They were over the limit and they wouldn’t let me keep them, they said.

But I went through LAX without any problems?, I said. Why would it be an issue now?

This is JFK not LAX, was their response.

That seems completely nonsensical. Aren’t they all part of the same Transportation Security Administration? And shouldn’t the standards which the security personnel follow be uniform across all airports?

But the standards aren’t uniform.

While the JFK people were more stringent about the size of my carry-on containers, they were also far more lackadaisical about their jobs. They were laughing and conversing with each other, instead of paying attention to the passengers in the security line. At LAX, the security personnel were far more professional and alert.

And at San Francisco Airport, there were no body scanners to be seen. We all went through typical x-ray detectors. So while you get body scanned at LAX and JFK, you don’t get body scanned at SFO. If the same equipment is not used everywhere, does it matter that it is used anywhere? It’s like a bad light bulb in an old-fashioned Christmas light set. When one bulb goes out, the whole set won’t light, even if the other bulbs are working just fine.

Considering the indignities and inconveniences that we have all resigned ourselves to every time we fly, for the sake of our collective security, I would hope that the TSA agents looking after our safety would be a little more careful about their jobs. If we’re not all going through the same hassles at every airport, it’s harder to justify going through those hassles at any airport.

Because if a 5 fl. oz. jar of hair jell is perfectly fine at LAX security, then why should I be forced to part with it at JFK?


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