When I first returned from Hawaii, I mentioned I had a "shocking" travel story to share with you.
The airport on Maui is small, as airports go.
When our departure day had arrived (*sob*), we began the long drive from our remote little beach to the airport.
My entire family was in the car, but my daughter had plans to travel to Kauai for a few additional days. The rest of us were flying home via the San Diego airport. My daughter's flight was departing about 40 minutes prior to ours so we dropped her off first, and then went to return our rental car.
As we drove to the car rental return, we noticed a line of hundreds upon hundreds of people winding out of the airport building.
A minute later, I got a text message from my daughter informing me at least one of the TSA screening machines was "down" resulting in an extremely long security line.
We returned our rental car, checked our bags, and made our way to the end of the long, long, long line for security.
How long was it?
(That's what she asked!)
(Sorry, I couldn't help myself ….!)
The security line was so long, it went the entire length of the airport, OUT of the airport and then into some weird type of never-ending spiral circle.
Also, there was only one line for everyone regardless of their airline, their flight, etc.
I've traveled a lot and I've never seen anything like it.
In addition to being spectacularly long, the line also wasn't moving.
People continued to get in line behind us and we continued to stand there, and stand there, and stand there.
Someone near me went to check with "authorities" at the airport, and returned informing everyone (loudly) flights would not be delayed. No, not even if all the passengers remained stranded in The Longest Security Line Ever In The History Of Mankind.
And that was when things got ugly.
People started pushing, cutting in line, and being as rude as possible.
There were no airport or security personnel monitoring the situation near us, whatsoever.
An almost-mob mentality set in with people complaining loudly, panicking about their flights, and deciding this was the perfect excuse to let the worst of their inner asshole personality shine through.
One woman, who had asked me where the end of the line was upon her arrival, suddenly tried to push her way in front of me.
I informed her, quite matter of factly, I had no intention of letting her get in line in front of me.
"Just keep walking," her asshole husband said.
"I'm not cutting in line," she said looking me straight in the eye. "I've been here the entire time."
[And no, she really didn't realize I was the same person she had asked (thirty minutes prior) where the end of the line was.]
Another woman told me, panicked, she was going to miss her flight.
"We all are," I answered as I gestured to the hundreds (thousands?) of people in line with us.
All of this, adds up to a travel nightmare but not much more.
Things got a lot worse though.
The airport porters (or baggage guys, as you might refer to them) began taking bribes to move people ahead in line.
How do I know this?
I saw it happening.
One porter even asked the woman behind me if she wanted to participate. She thought about it for a minute because she was so worried about missing her flight, but then turned him down.
This is how it worked –
A panicked and/or totally irresponsible passenger would pay $20 to the porter. The porter would then get a wheelchair and escort the completely able-bodied person to the front of the line.
Things were in such a state of chaos at the front of the line, the wheelchaired passengers only got a slight, cursory, glance as they were wheeled past security.
Holy HELL folks!
Is that an opportunity for a terrorist or what?
Because totally irresponsible airport porters wanted to earn a few extra twenties!
One family had such a large group, I watched as they decided to put two members of their family in wheelchairs. (I suppose they didn't want to take a chance some of them might be told to go back and get in line.)
The mom of the family got into one wheelchair. Her adult-sized teen son pulled off his shoe as he got into the second wheelchair. He stuck his sock-only foot out and pretended his foot was hurt. Their entire large group (with the help of porters) went to the front of the security line and whisked right by.
I was so disturbed by what was going on, I put out the following four messages on Twitter:
Porters at Maui airport are taking cash bribes to sneak people thru security line in wheelchairs
Hawaii? Maui? You should be ashamed of yourself. Terrorist threat made easy?
@GovernorAbercrombie. Are you aware of what's going on with bribes at the Maui airport?
I doubt if my tweets were read by anyone of importance but, not long after I sent them, airport security began monitoring the line.
(Eventually they even succeeded in creating order out of chaos.)
I'm still horrified ten days later.
How could this possibly happen post 9/11?
How can we keep it from happening again?
© Twenty Four At Heart