Well, I knew it had to come to an end, and Sunday was the last day of our 9 day-long, 20th anniversary vacation. I’d have called it a second honeymoon, but as far as I’m concerned we’re still on our honeymoon!
Once again we were presented with some beautiful weather for our final morning in Key West. It’s amazing how therapeutic our brief stay in Key West had been! We’d beaten the odds given to us by the weather-guessers on all four days of our visit, soaked up lots of sun without getting burned and probably walked 10 – 12 miles as we explored Old Town Key West. We successfully enjoyed ourselves by “maintaining the buzz” throughout each afternoon and evening, never over-indulging and always waking up feeling refreshed and invigorated. Having been saddled with the crud since May 23rd, it felt wonderful to be 100% for the entire time we were in Key West.
After having a light breakfast out by the pool just after 8:00am, we returned to our room to pack as we’d need to take a cab to the airport around 10:00am so we’d beat the crowd through the security check point. It was such a beautiful morning and the drive along Smather’s Beach did nothing to help make leaving all that much easier.
There were only about 30 people at the airport when we arrived and collected our boarding passes from the Delta kiosk. Our next stop was the TSA checkpoint, where I counted seven TSA personnel just at the departure terminal screening area loitering at their stations with very little to do.
Fair Warning: Feel free to skip past the grey italicized text below if you’d like to be spared from my rant about TSA and current airport security effectiveness.
Begin Rant… Being the only ones queued up for the screening, it seemed painfully obvious how inefficient everything had become at airports based on our four trips through TSA screening in three different airports since March after taking a nearly seven-year hiatus from commercial air travel. Case in point, in addition to having to put our two suitcases on the belt feeding the X-Ray machine it took six trays to process the rest of our personal items: 1-each for our boots (2), one for my laptop (3), one for my backpack (4) one for Debbie’s purse (5), and another for our plastic baggies with 3oz fluids and gels plus my belt (6).
Debbie made it to the full-body scan machine before I did. Apparently the studs and other reflective decorations on her Miss Me Jeans are a problem for the scanners which then require a pat-down search. During the pat down they also did a “swab” of her hands which set-off another red flag as the hand lotion she used caused a false positive indication for explosives or some such non-sense. So, as I came through the machine I saw her being moved into a small screening room next to the security check point along with all of her bags where a TSA agent spent the next 15 minutes going through every piece of her luggage and purse, swabbing for traces of explosives. Debbie was certainly a lot more patient and understanding that I was, as I did my best to bite my tongue throughout the entire process.
You’ll have bear in mind that in a previous life I worked in law enforcement and industrial security. IMHO, spending any time doing a “special search” of my wife without any indication that she was on any type of watch list or had ever had any brush with law enforcement was a waste of time, noting that at one point in her life she even held a high-level, US government-granted security clearance.
Of course, when you consider that it takes the average TSA screener about 10-15 seconds to review a boarding pass against a picture ID – something that really takes about 3 seconds tops – you can imagine how long it would take to access a data base to see if someone was on a BOLO or other type of watch list! In short, it’s now SOP to treat every US citizen as a suspect and then prove them innocent by way of screening instead of screen by exception using proven techniques for catching bad guys.
I guess my problem is that in addition to having a fondness for our Constitutional rights, I always used a risk-management approach to security, recognizing that low-cost/no-cost/common sense measures coupled with strong human intelligence & counter intelligence programs were always the most effective. Conversely, many of my contemporaries used the cost is no object (i.e., cost measured in dollars or any other thing of value including intangibles like personal liberties) and risk-avoidance approach, i.e., building vaults inside vaults inside vaults to secure things based on the absurd notion someone might actually attempt to physically break-in to such an area when, in fact, it was invariably authorized insiders who pose the greatest risks (e.g., Pollard, Boyce, Bell, etc.). Apparently a lot of these risk-avoidance types helped to design the TSA screening processes in much the same way as their predecessors came up with ideas like Fort Jefferson, the Maginot Line, the Greenbrier doomsday bunkers, or the Mutually Assured Destruction strategy.
Remember, we’re talking about an agency with an annual budget of $8,000,000,000, some 60,000 employees, where 47,000 are “screeners” making between $25,000 – $40,000 a year and the failure rate on inspection effectiveness is pegged at around 70%. Moreover, don’t forget airline patrons are also paying a $5.00 – $10.00 per flight “September 11th Security Fee” when they travel which goes to help defray the cost of this impressive security deterrent… noting theft by TSA personnel remains a serious problem and passenger claims are rarely settled or reported as criminal thefts by TSA to local law enforcement. Leave it to the government to come up with a jobs program that fails to achieve its primary mission while increasing crime. Your tax dollars at work here!
As I’ve note in the past, I’ve just about given up on flying because I simply can’t enter and airport without being reminded of how much our liberties and freedoms have been diminished and the extent of ineptitude that hides within the massive bureaucracy of the U.S. Government. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good and smart people doing good and noble things in government. But, there are simply too many people who occupy government positions that aren’t good stewards of our national trust and whose actions or inactions undermine our faith in government.
End of Rant.
In hindsight we should have probably checked our bags! In fact, if 15 of the 30 people in the terminal hadn’t been lined up at the Delta ticketing and bag check counter I probably would have done so since my platinum American Express / Delta Sky Miles card entitles me to at least one free checked bag per ticket. Without those two carry on suitcases we could have left the terminal, crossed South Roosevelt Blvd (A1A) and taken a final stroll along the sidewalk that parallels the Atlantic Ocean before saying goodbye to Key West as we flew north to rain-soaked Atlanta. Yes, Debbie would have still be busted because of her Miss Me Jeans as she went through security, but only her pocket-book would have been subjected to search, not the entire contents of her suitcase.
For the flight home, Debbie and I ended up being seated in the aisle seats two rows apart, as there weren’t any two seats together when I booked our flights back in early June. It was hard not being able to sit next to Debbie for the 2 hour flight, as that was the first time we were truly apart since the night before we left on our flight to Key West! Yes, we still enjoy being that close after 20 years of marriage. In fact, I suspect our frequent, public displays of affection are probably frowned upon by folks who just don’t have that kind of a relationship. Me, I try not to take life for granted and simply relish every moment that I get to spend with my sweet Debbie since time is truly the most precious of all our resources. After all, we have no idea how much time we have and there’s really no way to save it or to buy more no matter how much money you have at your disposal!
As we approached Hartsfield Int’l Airport we could see it was raining. Fortunately, I assumed that might be the case and parked in the daily use lot adjacent to the South Terminal building. That allowed us to land, exit the terminal at the lower level and walk to our truck under cover of the parking deck. After that, it was an easy but wet drive up to Cobb County.
We stopped and had a pretty unspectacular lunch at On the Border. The company was great, but the food was pretty mediocre at best. Not sure what’s happened but the food at OTB just doesn’t seem as tasty or well-prepared as it once did, similar to what we’ve found at Olde Towne Grille & Tavern. In some respects, I think it’s because we’ve both been eating “healthier” and many of the “tasty” dishes we used to enjoy are no longer things that we order and their healthier offerings simply aren’t all that tasty. It’s a dilemma to be sure, but we may find ourselves dining “in” at home more often or searching out some new places.
Once we arrived back at home reality set-in as we unpacked, started laundry and I headed out to cut the lawn while it was moderately dry, and just ahead of the next rainfall. Perhaps the biggest surprise of our return was an almost immediate return of the same symptoms we’d left in Atlanta, i.e., watery eyes, a slight cough and sneezing! Perhaps we can get a doctor’s note that says our relocation to the Florida Keys is a medical necessity so that the costs can be covered as a medical expense?!
Anyway, this pretty much concludes the 20th anniversary vacation week updates. Life has begun to return to normal as bills get sorted out from the junk mail, receipts get entered into Quicken, grocery shopping refills the fridge and I pull out my honey-do list of projects that still need to get done at some point.
That’s not to say that our anniversary-related moments have come to a close, as there are at least three events still ahead of us: the arrival of Debbie’s butterflies from Key West, our actual 20th Anniversary on July 16th (flowers for my sweetie are a must) and of course the return of Debbie’s wedding set with the addition of her anniversary band.
Thanks for reading….