They say that when evil people die, they are presented with the choice of going to hell or being condemned to perpetuity in an American airport. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Lucifer, the tricky bastard he is, cleverly omits that fact that your time in the airport will consist of constantly interacting with immigration officials who naturally assume your non-American passport qualifies you as an al Qaeda sympathizer, security guards who see your 99-cent nail clippers as the a potential weapon of mass destruction and airline operators who have scaled down their operating costs so far that no longer is it just an in-flight meal you are missing, but also a seatbelt and a wing.

So I may be exaggerating, but I can only describe my recent experiences in American airports (as a non-American, no less) as a slight bit more pleasant than driving burning needles into my eyes. Lines are longer, security is tighter, people are, frankly, more unpleasant. In a day and age still reeling from a surprise attack that shattered what little sense of security Americans had left, I sympathize for the need to make sure 19 other fanatics don’t commandeer four planes with little more than box-cutters. But, in a country as developed as this, God only imagines it could be done a little more efficiently!

We may as well start with security – whose newfound professionalism is refreshing – but whose arbitrary choices determining which passengers get the third degree pat-down leave most of us wondering how the profile of terrorists these days went from “Arab male, age 18-35” to “Anyone and everyone, especially if they have a cane.” I’m as liberal as the next man, am a firm opponent of racial profiling as state troopers in Maryland and New Jersey chose to practice it, but have to admit that what I think is common sense: 19 men hijacked planes, all of them of Arab descent. Logic would have it that they would be more carefully monitored than, let’s say, pregnant mothers, 86-year-old men and single 23-year olds traveling on a Dutch passport to Costa Rica (that would be me).

Instead, the Transportation Security Administration, revamped and out to get `em, decided that equal opportunity searches make more sense (and might be more palatable to liberal groups) than applying simple investigative techniques. I fail to understand how searching those who obviously fit no threatening profile achieves anything other than making lines significantly longer, and in reality, I don’t feel safer knowing that the 13-year-old in front of me had his orthopedic shoes closely examined. I know this may not be a popular idea, and one that will win me no brownie points with Arab males, but if a 6-foot-2 redheaded rapist was on the loose in Lauinger Library, I would understand the police’s intention to stop me and ask me if I had any information (because I fit the physical description).

When you enter a situation where you expect that your right to privacy and personal dignity to be set aside, if only for a few minutes, for the greater good (like in an airport), well, you shouldn’t be surprised when your hair color, ethnicity, or the fuse coming out of your shoe makes you a target for attention from security guards.

That’s my main airport related grudge, but I can’t say enough bad things about immigration officials. These individuals see themselves as the frontline between war and peace, and they act like it (especially in Miami). I’ve heard many a story in which a routine technicality in a person’s visa or passport has landed them in airport lockdown, and even more in which the immigration official hadn’t kept up on their own government’s immigration policies, much to the chagrin of the passenger trying to explain why a stamp is missing (it’s not longer used) or why they don’t have their I-94 handy (a women at the airport took it from me when I left, duh). Needless to say, some airports are better than others (Miami, I have to stress, is the bottom of the barrel), but generally, immigration is still a mess because immigration officials now feel that they can act with virtual impunity, provided they mention national security was at stake. There are no uniform standards that immigration officials have to work by, and if there are, they never made it down to Florida (oh how I hate Miami!).

I could go on, but I think attracting the wrath of two distinct groups of individuals is enough for one column. Well, I do have a complaint about that new policy in which they encourage travelers to not put locks on their bags (Huh? While traveling to Latin America? Are you crazy?), and can’t stand that most flights offer little else than tasteless pretzels and a shot of your drink of choice. Ahh, that feels better. More off my chest.

In conclusion, I think Hell is looking mighty fine.

Martin Austermuhle is a first year student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

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