Now that I've finished my 26 hour trip home from Tel Aviv (that's door-to-door), I thought I'd take a moment to jot down some thoughts I had while I was traveling. Maybe I'm becoming a grumpy old man or maybe I'm just getting noticing more of the stupidity involved with world travel.
Why I hate Lufthansa:
- No Economy Plus. This is becoming a bigger and bigger deal to business travelers that are becoming accustomed to the extra leg room offered by United, because the Lufthansa seats are so cramped that my knees literally touch the seat in front of me. I wish United would open more direct flights from Denver to Europe.
- Have to fly through Frankfurt, where people smoke everywhere inside the airport
- Have to fly through Frankfurt, where you almost always have to take a bus to and from your plane because they don't have enough terminal space.
- No personal TVs in the steerage chairbacks. Hell, even United has these now, and they're the biggest cheapskate international airline on the planet. They have only small monitors above the center section, so if you're in a window (like I was) you literally have to look at a 45 degree angle to see the screen. Couldn't they at least put screens over the side sections?
On the plus side, Lufthansa does give you real metal knifeware, so you don't feel like you're at some cheap carnie food booth when dining with your single-serving friends (bonus points if you catch the movie reference).
How I know for sure the TSA is suffering from a Rectal-Cranial Inversion
When you drive to the Tel Aviv airport, you are stopped at a toll-booth like plaza, many lanes across. 30 feet in front of you, in each lane, is a man with a machine gun in case you try to drive through the plaza. Someone looks in your car to make sure it isn't full of bombs, and looks at your passport. Americans get it relatively easy... I can only imagine what happens if your name is Mohammed (yes, the great irony of the world is that Israeli Jews are extremely racist). When you get out of your taxi, you pass another security guard who does a cursory inspection of your things and looks at your passport. Then it gets interesting.
Before you can check in to get your boarding pass, you have to pass the ultimate layer of security, which is serious questioning from airport authorities. In my case, I was grilled by 2 men, who clearly took their job very seriously. Below are some examples from the exchange:
Q. Why were you in Israel?
A. Business Trip. (I present a letter from the customer I was working with, addressed to Airport Security Group explaining the company, and my situation).
Q. What kind of business are you in?
A. I work for HP. We make systems to sell to telephone companies.
Q. What kind of business are your customers in? Who are their customers?
Q. Why did HP have to send you instead of sending a local person?
Q. Who are your local contacts?
Q. What is the details of your job?
A. (How do you explain Linux kernel programming to security guards holding weapons?)
Q. Do you have any technical documents explaining the project you were working on?
Q. Tell us again about the business your customer is in?
Q. Can we see your HP badge?
A. I didn't bring it, as I was not going to an HP office. They did walk away with my business card for a while though, presumably verifying address information.
Q. Where is your customer's office?
A. Azrieli Towers.
Q. Which building?
A. The Triangle One.
Q. What is this "Saba" place in your passport?
A. A caribbean island. Although if you ask my friend Rhett, it's "really just a giant rock that shot up out of the sea floor with a few brave souls clinging to the ledges"
Q. Did you send any sort of status update to your boss?
Q. May we read it?
A. (Boots Laptop and shows status message)
Q. Who are all these people on the CC list?
And on and on and on. The whole process took 1 full hour. Then I got my ticket and headed to the lounge to rest because even though my trip was just starting I was already exhausted. Going on 2 hours of sleep didn't help.
Now, what does any of this have to do with the TSA in America? After all the security and machine guns and questioning, the guards at the x-ray machine didn't even blink an eye when I took a full 1.5L bottle of water in my backpack through there. Believe me. If there was any chance that 4 ounces of water (much less shampoo) would blow up a plane like the American authorities would have you believe, there is NO CHANCE that Israel's would let me take 1.5L of water through security.
So that's it. I'm too tired to post pictures from my day at sea and my day in Jerusalem, so I will try to do that this week.