If you’re not traveling by air this holiday season, or ever, this post is not for you.
But if you do find yourself squashing all your earthly belongings into one tiny carry-on, that you have to gate check anyway, all the while wondering if it’s worth it; standing behind a passenger in the security lane who “forgot” to pack her liquids separately; waiting while a person goes through the metal detector yet another time until he finds that nickel in his pocket. Line after line of irate elders and squabbling children, like a Disneyland line to the outer limits of your sanity. Fear not. The airline industry is offering its fine, upstanding citizens a way around this mess.
It’s called Global Entry along with its caveat TSA Pre-Check! http://petergreenberg.com/2013/08/20/global-entry-vs-tsa-pre-check-which-is-worth-it/
Here’s the deal. If you manage to apply for this program online, which amounts to a criminal background check, you will be called in to your nearest international airport for a mini-inquisition with a TSA/Police?Immigration and Border Control-type guy. This week Bob and I made the cut. We drove two hours to Dulles and waited around a corridor along with other people awaiting their future – wary travelers like us mixed in with some who may or may not be allowed to enter the US. Tension was running high, then they called my name – Bob said he’d see me later.
The young man in uniform asked me to take a seat and look into the camera. There was no, “How was your drive?” “Nice day today isn’t it” I tried to smile at the round lens while handing him my passport and driver’s license. He got right to the point,
“Did you ever use a different last name?” I was ready for this, “Yes,” I replied, “I was married before for 4 years in 1969 and had a different last name.” I had to place my fingertips on a digital pad because I was being fingerprinted. “Not like the old days,” I said, then instantly regretted. “You know I had to be fingerprinted with ink back in the day…when I was teaching…” I was already starting to blush, feeling guilty for no reason.
“What’s this name?” he said, rather adamantly, ignoring my whole soliloquy. He was pointing out my maiden name, the one I was born with. Curses, I forgot about that one. And then, looking down at his computer, the ballistic questioning began:
“Have you ever been charged with a crime?” “No” Have you ever been arrested?” “No” But isn’t that the same thing I wondered.
“Have you ever had a DUI?” “NO”
“Ever got a speeding ticket?” “No” Finally he looks up, right into my eyes and says “Are you sure, you never got a speeding ticket?” Now I’m not so sure, have I? I must have gotten a speeding ticket at some time. “Well maybe I might have gotten a speeding ticket a long time ago, a very long time ago…”
I’m beginning to understand why people confess to crimes they never committed. As Bob and I were walking out of the airport I apologized for spoiling our chances at seamlessly going through security lines in the future. There will be no fancy fast lane for us; never having to take off our shoes, keeping our coats and scarves on forever more. Oh no, we were destined to line up like chattel. I was sure I’d flunked my test, ruined our chances at Global Entry.
Then Bob called me and said we’re in. Guess I’m not such a criminal after all?