Friday, May 16, 2008

Queue Tips

There are six security checkpoints at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport. Beginning today, one of them will test a new program designed to move those lines along smartly. Passengers will be able to self select a security lane: expert travelers, casual travelers and families. Hmmm. Since they're leaving it up to us, I'm thinking I'd just pick the lane with the fewest people. But would I get kicked out of the family lane if I'm traveling solo? Is a couple a family? Just what constitutes a family? Knotty questions.

Moving along ambiguously (but still smartly) what exactly is an expert traveler? Webster defines an expert as one who is "very skillful; having much training and knowledge in some special field." A spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says the expert lane is for frequent fliers. At first blush that may seem to clarify the matter. But hold on. What about the retiree who builds frequent flier miles by charging everything from groceries to gasoline on their airline credit card, not by flying frequently? See? The concept is fraught with peril.

Lastly, and alas, not any easier, is defining the casual traveler. Maybe apparel is a clue. Is the young man in the flip flops, T-shirt and shorts heading off to Bimini for vacation? Or could he just as easily be a hedge fund manager on a business trip? How about demeanor? Does acting cool and unflappable fit one for the casual lane? Or does it scream EXPERT?

I applaud the TSA's stated goals of speed and efficiency, but I fear the burden of having to identify which security lane we belong in may require a degree of introspection we're not equipped to handle in a split second in a busy airport terminal. Maybe Traveler's Aid will rush to fill the void by staffing their counters with lane lexicon advisors.


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