Thursday, November 18, 2010

Indy Tax Dollars

I can't imagine why the great Indy Tax Dollars hasn't been on my blog roll and "Hot Off The Press" feature. Fred McCarthy's writings have been excellent, and I've followed them for at least five years.

Big oversight on my part, corrected today.

TSA & My Market Response

The "Don't Touch My Junk" event has interestingly had both left and right speaking out against the TSA's invasive searches. Hopefully something will come of it. I used to love to fly. Not anymore. It's a real drag anymore.

My favorite experiences flying came about 10-12 years ago, back when I lived in Cleveland and a close friend moved to New York City. Cleveland and Newark, New Jersey are hubs for Continental Airlines, so I signed up for their frequent flyer program and their email sale alerts. On Tuesdays, Continental sent emails with weekend deals. Depart this Saturday, return on Monday. Gave you no time to plan, but they had planes to fill, and I could jump on it, taking the 6am flights in both directions. I would roll in to the airport with a small carryon bag around 5:15, and would have plenty of sitting around time. I would show up for work Monday at 8:10, and sheepishly say, "Sorry I'm late."

I wouldn't try that anymore, even if I were still single. Now you need to be in the airport at least two hours before the flight. Coming home from Manhattan, I took the Grey Line bus that picked up at the Javits Center near Madison Square Garden. I'd wake up at 4 and get on the bus at 4:30am, 12 years ago. It was hellish, but then I could function on 4 hours sleep. Now I'd have to get up at 3am, shower and pack, and probably get a cab around 3:20 in order to get to Newark at 4am. Forget that! That extra hour makes a huge difference, especially to someone who can now only barely function on 8 hours sleep.

When I travel today, I have a load of things I bring in one backpack, necessitating the use of six bins. They want the shoes in one bin, then the belt, wallet, coins, and lip balm in another. The jacket in another. The laptop in another. The cameras and associated gear in another. The podcast gear in another. A total pain to repack it all.

I had one goofy experience with a money belt. I was going to Ecuador for a month and was bringing $1,000. That's not the kind of money I want in my wallet, so I had the lion's share in a money belt inside the pants. This was 2008, so the scourge of TSA was upon us, and I had to request a private screening. TSA wanted to know why. This was getting stupid. I didn't want to say, "BECAUSE I HAVE A HIDDEN MONEY BELT THAT I DON'T WANT MY FELLOW PASSENGERS TO SEE", so I told him I couldn't say. That raised his suspicions, and brought out two supervisors. Once behind a closed door, I told him about the belt, and my reluctance to announce it. Heaven only knows what they were thinking I had as we went to the private room.

It's all a nuisance to me. I used to happily jump on a plane in favor of a four-hour drive, even if I had to rent a car. Not anymore. The line is now 10 hours. The airfares are expensive, the hassle is irritating, and I'm not interested in some TSA peon groping my kids. They actually travel pretty well by car, so if I didn't get the tickets for our upcoming flight to Costa Rica via frequent flyer miles, I would be vastly more interested in driving there- and that's taking into account the need to rent a 4-wheel drive to deal with Costa Rica's horrible roads. That's about what it takes for me to want to fly- free airfare.

There are substitutes. I love road trips and I love trains (not that the latter go anywhere I want to go out of Indy), so there are alternatives. As usual, the market provides choices, and I have to believe this latest episode is going to hurt the airlines some more.

So, may both sides of the political spectrum continue to complain about TSA. In the scheme of things, I'd like to see TSA abolished before the repeal of Obamacare.