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Checkpoint Evolution: Streamlining or Stormy Days Ahead?

Transportation Security Administration has released a pretty cool interactive multimedia explanation on their site. Checkpoint Evolution is an attempt to help us passengers wean ourselves off the old hurry-up-and-wait queue system and get us not only to move more easily, but also calmly, through security to help us help ourselves and also to help TSOs screen us more efficiently. The interactive map and related videos are a slow, steady barrage of euphemisms by a variety of personae including the chipper officer, suited administrator, and psychologist-type with whom you’re on a first name basis. It’s Catherine, by the way.

In defense of TSA, their blog is personal and surprisingly funny and honest. However, the brief timeline of airborne terrorism is unusually alarmist, even for them. Meanwhile, the “innovation” section of the site provides a cool little map with not-so-soothing red alarms that you can scroll over to learn about how TSA will use cool blues and greens in the queue to soothe passengers. Is it as psychologically effective if everyone is conscious of it? Don’t ask me, ask someone on the Checkpoint Evaluation Team (or ‘Chevo’ as I call them); click on the light box video and listen to the melodic stylings of Catherine and her English-ish voiceover voice. It’s as mellow as the light panels behind her, but as serious as a full body-cavity search.

The videos are all on YouTube and show everything from the cool new acronym-ready Automated Conveyor System which, along with the new Diamond Self-Select system will help seasoned travelers leapfrog past families with small children, people with lace ups shoes, and traveling numismatists.

My favorite video is about what’s described as a Whole Body Imager. The whole thing kind of reminds me of Total Recall. Though they claim they are “sensitive to privacy,” I’m still a bit unsure of how some guy alone in a room in front of a screen depicting a millimeter-waved image of my body is better than if he or she is on-site, but I guess it’ll make people more comfortable that the screener can’t slip a telephone number to passengers who clearly work out a lot.

The videos seem a bit thrown together, with a few natural stutters and a very Kubrickian approach to title screens, but are otherwise very reassuring. My main issue with the process is the idea that it is a further infantilization of the passenger. From being told when to eat and use the bathrooms in the air, we are now subjected to a selection of “images to prompt behavior.” I suppose I don’t mind as long as everything moves quickly and the music isn’t too irritating. TSA has done great things by setting up recycling stations for bottles and cans that you can’t take through security as well as supplying plastic zip-top bags for toiletries. Certain terms like “recomposure benches” suggest that Post-security Traumatic Stress Disorder will be prevalent, but really, I’m just excited to do an End Zone dance.

What are your thoughts and have you been through one or any of these processes yet?


My name: Charlie Davidson

How I earn my keep: Writing and editing for

First thing I do in a new place: Lace up the shoes, go for a run or a long walk, and find out what the best local beer is.

Best meal I've had while traveling: I was in Basel, Switzerland, with my family and we drove to Germany one night for their famous white asparagus. It cut like meat, but was tender and sweet. Accompanied by homemade condiments and some German lager, it's an easy way to eat your veggies.

Greatest travel lesson learned: Keep your eyes and mind open, avoid the beaten path, and when in doubt, smile.

When I'm not traveling, I'm: Playing any sport I can.

Travel ambitions: To visit all 7 continents in one continuous trip.

Who I am: An obsessed athlete. I'll try any sport there is. I picked up hockey at age 8, lacrosse at 13, squash at 18, Aussie Rules Football at 20, and marathon running at 23. Now, I do them all. I've also played cricket and rugby, football and baseball, and even some sport called soccer. No sport is too obscure. However, I don't think I'd cut it as a jockey.

Favorite way to get around: Either walking or running is the best way to see the sights, especially the ones you weren't necessarily looking for.

Fondest travel memory: All of them!

Favorite place on earth: Home is a big town on a small island. No matter what ends of the Earth I reach, I always come back to New York.


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