Milton Friedman at the Airport
While virtually everyone complains about air travels these days, I have always been at the forefront. My wife, colleagues and friends sufficiently exasperated with my constant complaining that they ordered me to get off my duff and apply for Global Entry or stop griping. Global Entry is the process by which you can effectively apply for TSA pre-check on an international basis. So, with trepidation based on my past experience with the DMV, the IRS and the Franchise Tax Board, among others, I decided to start the process rather than further aggravating my wife and friends.
At first, I was pleasantly surprised. The online form took no more than ½ hour to complete. At the end, I was told that after the form was submitted, it would be reviewed and if the review was successful I would be contacted by email for an in-person interview lasting about 15 minutes. Fortunately, my wife who had applied earlier, warned me about the email contact. It would come from email@example.com which she suspected I would interpret to be a Russian hacker and delete the message without opening it. Boy was she right about that. Despite the warning, I still almost deleted it.
When I opened the email it told me to log into my account to schedule my interview. On doing so, I was informed there are two interview sites in the greater Los Angeles area where I live, the Long Beach cruise terminal and the Los Angeles airport, LAX. This seemed a bit thin for a metropolitan area of 15 million, but I forged ahead. Given all my bad experiences with LAX, I chose Long Beach, despite the fact that it is further from my home, and clicked for an appointment. The computer responded that there were no available appointments in Long Beach. I thought that meant today, or tomorrow, but further investigation revealed I was wrong. The computer meant ever. There were no appointments available in Long Beach period.
The situation was a little better at LAX. There was one (only one that day) three months hence at 10 am. But I was going to be in trial then so that date would not work. It turned out if I was willing to travel to San Diego, about 120 miles from my house, there were several appointments available starting six weeks from now. I decided to take one on the grounds that maybe I would take a San Diego vacation and spend my 15 minutes with the Global Entry folks. Of course, this assumes that even if I make the trip my appointment will be honored. Given my experience with the DMV, I have grave doubts about that. Currently, therefore, my future with air travel status remains fraught with uncertainty
As I write this, I cannot help think of the inspiring speeches by Barack Obama calling for new government programs to deal with health care, education, and poverty. Of course, as I write this I am sitting in an airport waiting for a delayed flight after witnessing a fight over line cutting in a security line that was about an hour long. In comparison, I imagine what would happen if after clicking to buy a product from Amazon I was told that they could never deliver it to my house but if I drove 120 miles I could pick it up in six weeks. But with Amazon, unlike Global Entry, I have a choice to go elsewhere. Having a choice brings to mind Milton Friedman, so I get online and order a new copy of this old book, Free to Choose. It will be delivered tomorrow.