Photo: Shutterstock/Olena Yakobchuk

22 Things We Miss About Travel Before 9/11

by David Miller Sep 12, 2011
It’s not just convenience in an airport, 9/11 changed our relationships to place and other people.

THOSE OF US BORN BEFORE 1990 or so know that travel didn’t always feel like it does now. It’s not as evident with ground transportation, but if you fly from any major airport in the US, or anytime you fly internationally, it’s as if everything has become charged. There’s this matrix of fear and blame and guilt that didn’t exist before. Some people read about what’s happened with the TSA, people getting their shit groped, and think “that’s it, I’m not flying anymore.” Others look at what’s happened and say, “We have [insert race / nationality / foreign policy here] to blame for this.”

It seems like travel has become almost a political act in itself.

The point of recounting then, isn’t about nostalgia or romanticism or hope that things will ever return the way they were. It’s about memory. The US has a short national memory. This is about fighting a little bit against forgetting.

Things we miss about travel before 9/11*

1. Not needing a passport just to go to visit Canada from the US, and vice versa.

2. Not having to remove your laptop.

3. Leaving your shoes on when going through security.

4. Not having to worry about your stuff getting stolen while it’s all spread out during security.

5. Not having notes left by TSA in your luggage advising you that they’d done a hand-inspection because they saw something suspicious.

6. Not having to get to the airport three hours before an international flight whenever it touches the United States, even if it’s a layover.

7. Not having TSA agents yelling directions as if you were a schoolkid or inmate.

8. Being able to use the airplane bathroom on flights between NY and Washington, DC.

9. Not being prompted to think “nothing could go wrong on this flight, right?”

10. Not having to worry about being pulled off a flight for having a “suspicious conversation” in a boarding queue.

11. Not having to use TSA-approved locks (which are unavailable in many places outside of the US).

12. Not having to balance a kid on your hip while trying to put your shoes / your child’s shoes on, then stuffing your laptop and stuff back into your carry-on, so you can then uncap all your kid’s bottles so the TSA agent can wave a piece of paper over them to test for illicit substances.

13. Not having to worry if the body scanner is giving you brain cancer.

14. Not having to watch as some elderly person in a wheelchair, probably a WWII veteran, has footwear removed for him, then his ass rolled through the scanners by TSA inspectors who don’t fall over and die from shame.

15. Not having my family sit with your at the gate and wave you off as you board.

16. Not having to stand by helplessly while your darker-skinned travel companion gets “randomly selected” to have her belongings searched.

17. Not having to hear her calmly say “it’s okay, it’s okay” when her best friend, who has seen this happen to her multiple times over the last 3 months, starts to loudly question the randomness of their selection.

18. Not hearing endless loops of security warnings about terror threat levels, unattended bags being destroyed, etc.

19. Having your partner’s family members from Argentina, Uruguay “allowed” to visit you in the US without a (now nearly impossible to get) travel visa.

20. Not having immigrations officials question you exhaustively upon reentry to the US about the whereabouts and “purposes” of your travels abroad.

21. Not having to sit in a host family’s living room and attempt to explain US foreign policy.

22. Not feeling an urge to conceal your identity as an American traveler.


*compiled by Matador editors.

What do you miss about travel before 9/11? Please share in the comments below.

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