I recently took a trip down to Atlanta for a wedding. It was a joyous occasion. Since my wife and I were coming in from Dallas (more on this ordeal on a future talk show), we had to make our way through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, or more commonly known as Hartsfield, or simply, Atlanta Airport (ATL). Of course, flying into Atlanta is much different than having to fly out because to originate in ATL means you have to go through the security checkpoint lines in ATL, which anybody in Atlanta can and will tell you can either be non-existent or feel like the whole city of Atlanta is attempting to leave.
Monday morning? The entire city of Atlanta was getting flewed out. Or at least everybody who came to Atlanta for July Fourth weekend. Our flight was at 9 a.m., so we got to the airport at about 7:30 a.m. When we walked into the terminal, I saw the North Terminal TSA non-PreCheck line snaking into the ticketing counter area and that there were yellow ropes roping off parts of the airport to accommodate the lines of folks just trying to get to their gates. If you’ve never been to Atlanta’s airport, you know that seeing this is not a good thing. One might even call it a bad thing.
The number of travelers wasn’t quite at Super Bowl or NBA All-Star break levels but it was close. Both the North and South terminal security entrances were STACKED full of people. As an example, when we GOT to the airport, I saw the couple who’d gotten married already standing in the security line, and after we’d checked our bags, maybe 15 minutes later, they were in roughly the same place. We saw them almost an hour later as we waited to board our flight and they’d finally made it to their gate, which was close to ours.
And it wasn’t just the regular security lines, either. Oh, heavens no. TSA PreCheck was doing its own version of The Snake. Because I’m a baller, and like to ball like I got a block, I thought I’d totally beat the system with both my TSA PreCheck and CLEAR. And do you know what was waiting for my black ass in the TSA PreCheck + CLEAR section? If you guessed “a line” pat yourself on the back and buy yourself a shot on you. Granted, our line was much, much shorter than all of the other lines (we got through in probably 15 minutes total), but I’ve gotten to an airport and made it through security in under five minutes before. Hell, I’ve even done that in the Atlanta airport. But not Monday. Had I tried to show up right before my flight, I would have missed that thang by a country mile.
It was while walking halfway around the airport in search of the CLEAR lines (on Monday, CLEAR was only accessible from the South Terminal/Delta Airlines side of the building), I had an epiphany: Atlanta’s airport will humble the shit out of you.
What makes me say that you might ask? Well, I’m glad that you did.
I saw a bunch of citizens standing in line; ya know, ordinary people just trying to make it to their gates to get wherever they paid to go. Do you know what I also saw? Celebrities and otherwise culturally famous folks attempting to finagle their ways through lines because they neither had PreCheck nor CLEAR.
True story (as an explicit example): I saw a quite famous black pastor of a megachurch in a black-ass city look confused as fuck as he attempted to convince the employees shepherding folks through lines that he really needed to get through security quickly. I also saw said employees point him right to the security lines appropriate for his airport-security life choices. He was not plussed at all. In fact, one might call him nonplussed. I saw NBA players standing in line with the rest of us because, well, you HAVE to get through security and there really isn’t a first-class line for airport security (that I know of). Folks of means who don’t want to stand in airport security lines probably use private jets. All of us at the Atlanta airport yesterday? We do not use private jets.
Which is interesting if you think about it. When you board a plane, and if you have stunt money (or your company does), you get first-class tickets, which gets you on and off the planes first so you don’t have to mingle with us ordinary folks. You can essentially wall yourself off from commoners, if you’re famous and that’s your shit. But airport security though? Naw, fam. TSA might as well be the IRS. You are going to have to wait your turn and stand in line like everybody else and wait for TSA to tell you to push your bin onto the conveyor belt.
Whether you’re a millionaire or a hundredaire, TSA is the great airport equalizer. If you go to the airport, you’re going through security. Sure, you can separate yourself out with PreCheck and, additionally, CLEAR, but even that only gets you so far. In Atlanta yesterday, everybody was going to stand in line no matter how much was paid to avoid it. Lines were inevitable; how long you stood in line depended on what you did before you got to the airport to reduce that time. And if you didn’t get on that PreCheck or CLEAR bandwagon before you got there, a rude awakening was sitting there stretching its arms and getting you woke.
You may be the man in these streets once you hit first class, but until then, TSA made sure all of us remembered what standing in line felt like. And I saw a few folks get humbled because that’s what Hartsfield will do to you.