March 31, 2007

Here's What Happened When I Went To LAX With No ID: Nothing



This has nothing to do with psychiatry, except that it's about my jet-setiing ways, and that's what psychiatry is really all about, after all.

A while ago I read an article in Wired called "The Great No-ID Airport Challenge," and I finally mustered the courage to try it.

There are two checks at security.  At the first, they simply look to see if your ticket matches your ID.  If it does, they send you off into one of the several metal detector lines, where you wait to place your belongings on the belt, take off your shoes, etc.

I hid my ID in a magazine, and talked myself out of my main worry: what's the worst that could happen?  I mean, I can't be the first guy in LAX to not have an ID, right?  Surely, there must be some system to handle these occurrences? 

So I wasn't worried about being turned away so much as being extremely delayed; my fantasy was that they'd take me to the "back room" and I'd have to "con" my way through, i.e., verbally convince them I was not a terrorist.

Well, none of that happened.  What did happen paralleled the Wired story: the security lady said, "no ID?" and I said, "I lost it and--" and she cut me off.  And sent me over to a closed security lane, which was promptly opened and staffed.  They gave me the SSS treatment-- they x-rayed and manually went through my bag, waved the wand over me, patted me down-- and that was it.  I walked to my gate.

Here's the important part, in case you missed it: by not having ID, I totally bypassed the long lines in the regular security lanes.  I saved myself-- what,  30 minutes?

It then occurred to me that I could have bypassed the line going to the first security lady-- another 10 or so minutes-- by walking directly up to her and telling her I was panicked because I had lost my ID, what should I do?  My money says that instead of telling me to get back in line, she would have simply sent me to the empty security lane. 

For those who don't know: SSSS on your ticket means you have been "randomly" selected for additional screening.   It can appear on your printed ticket, or a screener can write if if they don't like the looks of you.