October 12, 2005

Making The World Safe (Again)

Like John in Death By PowerPoint (sounds like an exciting movie, no?!), I need to renew my Oakland (KOAK) ramp pass / badge sometime October (unlike John, though, I don't need driving privileges, so I miss the fun of the driving class). So I drive to the airport this morning to sort it out.

In contrast to the initial badge applications -- which involve full background and employment checks, fingerprinting, a three hour security class (whose contents you're not supposed to divulge, but which had some really hokey videos and a lot of Powerpoint presentations when I did it six years ago), a huge amount of paperwork, etc. -- unlike all this, a renewal is relatively easy (they even do all the paperwork for you themselves). As long as your old badge is still current, you just wander up to the badge place, hand your old one in, get a new photo taken, and wait. And wait... and wait... and wait. It took 90 minutes to get my new badge. Ninety minutes of watching the TSA staff taking breaks in the little break area next to us, using the microwave to reheat coffee (urgh) or melt frozen burritos; ninety minutes of watching the TSA people do their thing downstairs in the security check line (why they let us stand there upstairs looking down at the process and machines is beyond me, but never mind). Ninety minutes of wondering just what it is that takes so long.

And ninety minutes of fitful conversations among the two dozen or so people also waiting around for badges. In line, the woman in front of me -- "E." -- turns around and asks me a few questions about the process. I say it's easy, last time it only took fifteen minutes, but she's still there when I leave (E. turns out to be a Berkeley grad student moonlighting with one of the catering firms, a crappy way to get through grad school if ever I've heard one). The baggage handler next to me standing around watching the security check line below keeps talking to someone I presume is his (United) supervisor on his cell phone, getting more and more frustrated by the minute. A bunch of construction workers stand around talking among themselves, periodically sending one their number off to get some snacks from downstairs.

Finally my name's called, and the woman behind the counter apologises profusely for taking so long (I have to say the badging staff were always friendly, helpful, and fairly obviously competent -- it's just the process that seems a little glacial). And I'm surprised that nowadays the fact that I'm a foreigner makes no difference at all to the process. I guess what really counts is that I'm a certified (certifiable?) Oaklander....

So now I have a shiny new badge again (with an awful smug smirk on the photo), and the world -- or at least Oakland International Airport -- is a safer place because of it, I'm sure. Hayward -- my other home airport now -- has no such badging at all. I just have to remember the various lock combos...

No comments: