“And my concern, David, is several.”
-George W. Bush, to NBC’s David Gregory, Washington, D.C., April 3, 2007
Good ‘ol GW was kind enough, prior to starting WWIII, to grant me express service at airports nationwide. That’ll be helpful when the time comes to escape.
Five weeks ago, I applied for the controversial CLEAR registered traveler program. In a nutshell, I am now able to use exclusive check-in and security lines at select airports nationwide, which should cut my time to gate by at least 80%. This is particularly valuable at San Jose International, where the single-file lines of 300-400 people can wrap in up through three floors of parking levels. I kid you not. The dedicated CLEAR lane allows me to laugh like a smug jerk, side-step the line, and walk through security (with shoes on, I might add) in five minutes or less.
So what’s the catch?
To join this little club, you need to submit to a “Security Threat Assessment” — an extensive background check through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), including registering biometric information such as iris scans and multiple finger prints…
Evil politicians, would you like to track me worldwide so I can never escape your malevolent grasp? Here you go!
That’s been the universal fear, and it took me a while to overcome it. I decided to take the plunge for a few reasons:
1) They’re technically not legally permitted to track you (I know, I know. I don’t believe that stops them either)
2) I’ve already had my finger prints and irises scanned dozens of times in other countries and upon returning to the US.
3) If… ahem… WHEN the Federales really want your biometric data, they’ll simply make it mandatory when you renew your car registration or check in for your next flight. It’ll sound something like this: “Security threat levels have been raised to SUPER RAINBOW FLOURESCENT PURPLE, so we’ll need to ask you for an iris scan and finger print.” There will be no vetoing this, as our president has no need for things like voting.
I’m happy to be a member of Gattica. Why? Because I already am, and I would suggest that — if you use normal health insurance and travel via airplane even the least bit — you are as well. If I’m going to be a under the watchful eye of the Patriot Act, I’m damn well going to accept it and use it to skip airport lines.
I’ll close this little rant with an illustration of what I hope to avoid in the future. Not more than six months ago, I returned from celebrating the completion of my book and the World Cup in Buenos Aires. Here’s the image: I have blue hair (Argentina celeste), a white collared shirt with wife beater undershirt from tango, black slacks, and a passport that looks like something out of “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” This qualifies me immediately for “drug dealer of the airport” nomination. To make matters worse, a package of yerba mate tea leaves had burst while packing, so I had put it in a ziploc bag and forgot the identifying label.
“Oh… this? Nothing really. Just an enormous bag of marijuana…”
Upon arrival in Houston International Airport, I was swiftly carted off to an interrogation section, where “Sayid” held a lovely conversation with me something like this:
“So, Mr. Ferriss, what were you doing in Argentina?”
“A two-month vacation?”
“And what do you do?”
“I’m a writer.”
“What have you written?”
“Well, I actually just finished my first book, and it’s coming out in April.”
“So, you haven’t made any income from it?”
“So, what do you do for income, then?”
“I also own a pharmaceutical design firm and a sports nutrition company, but they’re virtual, so I don’t need to be in the US for them.”
“Mr. Ferriss, you just gave me two completely different answers. I’m going to ask you again: what do you do?”
This continued for more than an hour, with Sayid trying to Jedi mind trick me into contradicting myself by asking the same questions over and over and over again. The lessons here? One: Don’t dye your hair blue, carry a huge bag of look-a-like marijuana, and tell them you’re in a virtual pharma company that allows you to travel to South America. Two: Consider getting a CLEAR card so you can bounce it off Sayid’s forehead the second time he asks you what you do.
More to come as I test this card out and see how far I can push it.
Posted on: April 22, 2007.