Charlotte and I aren't million-mile fliers like many of our friends. We take to the not-so-friendly-skies a half-dozen times a year or less. Trips to New York to see our son, Cole. Vacation. You know, stuff like that.
But, we do travel a fair amount. Before we took off last summer for our 35th Anniversary Cruise, one of our friends suggested enrolling in the new TSA Precheck program (also called Global Entry).
If you've traveled by air in the past year or so, you've seen the signs at the airports. It's a big program, getting bigger. It's about to be rolled out to an additional 60 airports across the U.S.
The siren song of the TSA program is that it will speed your way through airport security. No more taking out your laptop. Taking off your shoes. Shorter lines...blah, blah, blah.
All of this could be yours for a $100 fee and your willingness to fill out a multi-page online form, submit to a background check and a sit-down interview with a Federal Agent.
It's a pain. But, the promise is that if you clear all these hurdles and they accept you, you'll be rewarded with a new government-issued photo ID and shorter security lines **angels singing**.
Charlotte and I heard that pitch and said SIGN ME UP! We jumped through hoops. Got approved. We've used it on every flight we've taken.
IT'S. NEVER. WORKED.
NO expedited security lines. NO explanation WHY it didn't work. Just a terse, "You're not pre-approved. Move to the other line." from every TSA agent at every airport.
Like a boyfriend in a difficult relationship I figured "It's not you" (aka Government,) it's ME. I must be doing something wrong for you to reject me...you know, I SCREWED UP.
Not so fast there 50 Shades of Gray Hair.
Instead of just giving up. I dug in. I wanted to find out WHY I was being rejected. So, I made a pot of coffee and some sandwiches. Made sure my cell phone was 100% charged and started making calls and digging online.
Here's what I found out from your friends at American Airlines.
The TSA program - much like the universe its own self - is TOTALLY RANDOM.
I'm not bullshitting you. Even after jumping through ALL the hoops, the people allowed to use the expedited checkpoints are randomly selected from the thousands of other suckers people who've paid their $100, submitted to background checks, had sit-down interviews...
"So, what you're telling me is that my chances of this program actually working for me are kinda like grabbing the brass ring on a merry-go-round," I said to an American Airlines employee trying to help me putting up with my questions.
"Sir, if that's the way you want to put it, yes. It's out of our hands," the American employee said.
"So, just to be clear there's nothing I can do to make sure I'll be able to use this on my next trip?"
"No. It's random. We disclose this information on our website."
"It's in the fine print."
"Ummmmm, I see."
"Is there anything else I can help you with?" she asked.
"One more question," I said. "Do YOU have a Global Entry Card?"
"No," she said.
"May I ask why?"
"I DON'T Fly."
Welcome to the WTF skies.