TSA PreCheck and Global Entry — that’s what she said

I don’t believe in lines. I believe in them for other people, like Christianity and diet soda. Just not for me. Don’t get me wrong; I think lines are one of the hallmarks of civil society, so we’re all not just clubbing each other trying to get in front. I just don’t want to be in one. If I see a line, my job is to figure out how to not be in it. I don’t know how many vendors or events or whatever it is I’ve walked away from because I didn’t want to be in a line.

The security line at the airport is the worst line of all, because it requires that you stand there with your thumb up your ass with your stupid heavy bags surrounded by hundreds (thousands?) of miserable people who also have their thumbs up their asses with their stupid heavy bags, waiting for the privilege of taking off their shoes, unsheathing their laptops, and assuming the position in the rape machine.

I call the millimeter wave scanner the “rape machine,” in homage to a lyric in Gary Numan’s 1979 song “Down In the Park,” which narrates a science fiction version of “The Most Dangerous Game.” You have to remove all items from your body, assume the position, and get your junk scanned. And if you look at the equipment, it’s actually called a Rapiscan. Life imitates art.

Thankfully, there are ways of avoiding this, and returning to the heady days when lines were shorter, and you could just be inconvenienced in the metal detection machine.

If you fly a lot and earn the right status on the airline you’re flying, or you have a pricey card like the MileagePlus Club, you can use the VIP line for the first class passengers. It won’t get you into a lounge with a bunch of douchebags drinking Cristal, and it won’t even spare you the indignity of the rape machine, but at least you can get it over with quickly.

Or, if you don’t have status or a pricey card, or you don’t want to take off your shoes and remove your laptop and do the perp stance, you can get TSA PreCheck, or Global Entry. Then you get to use the TSA Pre line. This is shorter than the regular line (though sometimes not as short as the VIP line), and it moves faster because people aren’t having to scatter their worldly possessions to the four bins.

Like much of what our fine government does, signing up is less than straightforward, and furthermore you’d never know that the smarter thing to do is get Global Entry. For $100 (rather than $85), you don’t just get TSA PreCheck, but also a expedited process for coming back into the country through customs. (You need to have to not have done anything iffy like having gone to Cuba. That’s what we did in 2001, and we were shot down during our Global Entry interview, $200 poorer. Live and learn, but it was still a great trip.) To get Global Entry, go here and wade through the application process, and schedule an interview. While it’s possible to get an interview in Manhattan, it’s usually months out. Either just get it on your calendar, or plan a time to go out to one of the airports, which don’t have long waits for interviews. Or try to coordinate the interview when you’re going to be at the airport anyway.

If you’d rather do PreCheck so you don’t have a uniformed hardass asking you if you’re a patrotic American, or you just don’t care about international travel, then go here and fill out the (much simpler) form. Note that you don’t actually have to schedule an appointment, and if you want to get it done in Manhattan, you won’t be able to anyway, because all the appointment slots are filled. And unlike Global Entry, the interview centers aren’t actually on airport premises, so doing it there isn’t that convienient. So just bring your Kindle or iPad or the Times and plan on a lost morning. Show up at one of the several TSA PreCheck locations before or when they open. We went to the one on 35th at 6th ave right at 9 AM. It was a crowded hovel, but at least we got chairs, in which we had to park our asses for a full two hours before they called us. There was a queue 20 deep outside the door before we even arrived. Weirdly, I was approved in two days, but Caroline is still waiting. Government inaction.

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