Fun with the Police State


Thanks to winter weather closing half the airports in the America, we headed out of South Station for Baltimore by Amtrak a few weekends ago. Train travel, in case you’d forgotten, is wonderful. Slower than planes sure, but from your total travel time you get to subtract the treks to and from airports, the hour (minimum) sitting in a waiting room at your gate listening to CNN blaring unwelcomely at your back with no representative of your carrier in sight, and the seeming eternities sitting on the stuffy plane on runways. Plus delays. Airlines measure their delays in increments of two hours; trains generally get where they’re supposed to be within 15 minutes.

Add to that the fact than no other service industry in the world abuses its customers with as much verve as the airlines do (need we enumerate the lies, inconvenience, stonewalling, disrespect, crap food, artificial class system, and discomforts?), and you’ve got a strong case for going by rail.

Plus the train is comparatively comfortable. You can bring your own food and water. You can use your phone or laptop even when the train is stopping or starting. You can keep your luggage — loaded down with as much toothpaste and aftershave as you like — with you. And there’s easily four times a much legroom in the meanest seat than on any airplane. Train cars can be noisy, but they aren’t pressurized. When you arrive at your destination (usually located inside a city), you don’t feel as if you’ve been beaten up.

Of course time and comfort isn’t everything. Taking the train also allows you to discount the aggravation of standing in the security line being bossed around by a bunch of tin gods in cub-scout costumes who, but for the post-911 political environment would be stocking shelves at Wal-Mart.

How comforting to know that the War on Terror requires paying customers to be treated like criminals.

“Papers, please. . . . You may pass,” were words never meant to be spoken in America.

They can search you luggage when you get on a train, but they usually don’t. This is not because a well-place explosive device detonated under, say, Grand Central Station, wouldn’t be horribly destructive, but because the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has been ordered to make a show of things at airports, leaving the comparatively low-profile train and bus stations to the equally effective application of common sense — not to mention common decency. It’s all propaganda, of course. They don’t really expect an elderly woman in a wheelchair to smuggle a pipe bomb onto an airplane tucked under her stash of Depends. They just want to scare everybody, so they give her a hard time.

And with that, we offer this video — a thoroughly fitting tribute to the guys and gals in the TSA. Your government’s thugs and the only proof we need that the terrorists have won.

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