Saturday, March 29, 2008

TSA Teaching TSOs to Identify MacBook Airs

11I find the whole MBA at TSA checkpoints flap very strange. I have flown with weird devices, and the issues others have encountered have not presented themselves to me. Of course, I have mostly avoided dealing with airport security, only flying twice since 2000. There were a couple of times in recent years that flying was the only way to go (and I'm not counting the time in 2006 we drove 20 hours to Miami to catch a cruise ship).

In July of 2006, I flew to Boston and back. It was the first time I'd flown since 2000, and of course the airline decided to encourage my continuing patronage by marking me for the special treatment going and coming. At this time, the additional security screening was too much of a novelty for me to get upset*, and the screeners were polite and professional. I was traveling with my ViewSonic Tablet PC V1250, a convertible tablet. I guess it's not hugely different from other laptops, with the difference that it has a digitizer, a pen and no optical drive, but it's not your average device. Other than asking me how to get it open, the screener wasn't overly concerned. I made sure to keep my hands behind the "drop it or you're dead" point as I answered.

In 2007, I took a trip to Orlando, Florida, thankfully with no special treatment this time। I don't recall anything particularly traumatic about traveling with my Tablet and my Asus R2H. I seriously doubt the UMPC looked like anything every screener had seen before, since it was of unusual size and lacked a keyboard or optical drive. Surely the GPS flap would have been a bit curious. But no, all I remember that was out of the ordinary was one Orlando TSO telling another, "For future reference, that shouldn't have gotten through," and I don't know if the officer was talking about my stuff or someone else's.

So what happened with me? Did I just luck up and get highly intelligent TSOs? I mean, I didn't fly through Lubbock, Texas, so...could be? Could the uber-securityfolks have been too busy, tired and harassed to see danger in those little packages? Or -- cue sinister music -- was my memory erased after my strip-searches and tortures? Scratch that, I'm pretty sure I made my flights; there just wasn't time.

But seriously, folks, does a MacBook Air's X-ray look less strange than an Asus R2H's? If not, what made the security folks more freaked out this year than they were in 2006 and 2007? I really would like to know what the TSOs see when they look at our technology, as long as I don't have to actually take that thankless job.

* Do you think that raised a flag? I certainly questioned my behavior, and my mother remarked on it as well!