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Eight Ways to Survive the TSA at DIA

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Ever since the Transportation Security Administration was developed in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, travelers have been frustrated by some of the policies and practices that the TSA has put in place.

From longer and slower lines to an increased level of physically invasive inspection, the TSA experience has only gotten more burdensome as questions about its effectiveness have also grown.

This combination — more hassle for less reason — has made the American public understandably impatient with the process. And with travelers across the country now being told to show up three hours before a flight — and sometimes still missing that flight — tempers are high.

And the situation is no different here in Denver, where the rise in air traffic has made DIA the sixth-busiest airport in America. After experiencing some of the worst delays in the country this spring, the TSA reportedly operated fairly smoothly at DIA over Memorial Day weekend. But with a long, hot summer ahead, here are eight things to remember when trying to get through the damn security lines — which the TSA would like to remind you are totally your fault.

8. Go Ahead and Check Your Bags
The days of the carry-on are pretty much over...or should be. Sure, carrying on made sense for a while, since checked-bag fees were one of the first nickel-and-dime expenses to come at us. But now the reverse is often true: If you're flying Southwest, checked bags are still miraculously free; if you're flying Frontier, you may be paying a penalty fee if you've forgotten to pay for your carry-on. And then there's the pain of getting all that stuff through security in the first place. While no one likes waiting at the baggage claim, checking your bags also absolves you from the anxiety of getting on the plane first in order to grab some of that rare space in overhead compartments. Less to carry, less to worry about, less stress overall — it's a win-win. Check it and forget it.

7. Just Get in Line
Forget about TSA Pre-Check — the service isn't always open, and the last couple of times I've flown, the pre-check line was longer than the regular line. So don’t bother trying to beat the system. When we're going down the escalator from ticketing with the rest of the hordes, we all know we're heading to the same place. You power-walking ahead of everyone to get a better place in the TSA line is saving you a couple of minutes but racking up huge amounts of bad karma. (There’s a special circle of hell reserved for these people, and it looks like the opening scene from Office Space.) And why power-walk, anyway? It’s not like you’re fooling anyone into thinking, “Wow, that guy is one fast walker. He deserves to be ahead of me in line.” You don’t look less like a selfish asshat; you just look like a selfish asshat with mobility issues. (And remember, just because you get to the line first doesn't mean you're not going to get screwed.)

6. Wear Things Conducive to Travel
Nobody cares if you just bought that pair of Timberlines and they’re the most comfy footwear you’ve ever had and they make you feel like you belong in Colorado (even though everyone can still totally tell that you grew up in Nebraska). This isn’t about being a “savvy” traveler — it’s about not making everyone behind you wait as you unlace your boots while balancing on one foot while leaning on a stainless-steel table. Pack your complicated shoes and get some loafers. (And while you’re at it, be honest as to whether or not you need Odor Eaters before you subject everyone to your stank.)

5. Do Not Try to Teach Your Children Things
Going through security at an international airport is just not the time for you as a parent to show off the (usually underwhelming) ability of your child to accomplish something on his own. Remember that not everyone loves your child. Yes, we will be patient, or try to be. No, we probably won’t even ask you to help little Timmy as he struggles to remember how to take off his own shoes (even though it’s no longer required) and put them in the plastic bins like you taught him. It takes a village to raise a child, but please remember that the village does not care about raising your child when that village needs to get to its gate so the village can line up in time to get its carry-on in the overhead compartment.

Continue for four more ways to survive the TSA at DIA.

4. Get Ready for the Bins
It’s not a mystery. If you’ve flown in the last fifteen years, you know what’s coming. You take your laptop out of your bag and put it in its own container. You empty your pockets and take off your belt. You can do these things before you actually get up to the tables themselves — dump your pocket change into your carry-on pocket, stow your cell phone in there, too, and be ready.  Some travelers seem to think that the rules have changed or that they don’t apply to them; by presuming that you know what’s coming (and if you listen to the low drone of the TSA workers or read signs posted all around the area, you will), you can save everyone some time and (bonus) look competent to the grateful crowd behind you in line.

3. Fill the Bins Correctly
When it comes your turn, grab two. That’s all you should need. One for your laptop (why it has to be all by its lonesome in there, who knows?), and one for the rest of your loose items: shoes, belt, pocket contents, cell phone, jacket, etc. Take out your little bag of liquids (under four ounces means you have to know what an ounce is). Your carry-on bag does not require a bin; a bag is already a container. Send it all through. This is no time to get persnickety about how it’s done; it just needs to be done. Make sure to stand with your stuff until it’s on the conveyor belt, and not just the static rollers — if you leave your stuff to be pushed through by the person behind you while you get in line for the X-ray, you’re doing it wrong, and everyone around you is going to shake their head and wonder if you’re an idiot or an ass.

2. Move Along
Once you’re through the X-ray machine (which can be an unforgettable experience in and of itself), and you’ve been patted down and asked if you have any metal implants (no, that’s a wristwatch), you’ll be ushered back to reunite with your stuff. Please, don’t try to get redressed right where you pick it all up. You might think you have time, but you don’t, and you’re holding up the line again. There’s a reason DIA has created a nice lounge-ish space between the security checkpoint and the escalators down to the trains — so you can sit, put your shoes back on, stow your laptop, hitch up your pants, and generally do so out of everyone’s way.

1. Remember That It Could Be Worse
DIA seems to be faring better than other international airports like O’Hare and Atlanta, which boast immense lines almost all the time. So don’t freak out, and don’t over-prepare — give yourself a little extra time if you’re worried (or flying at absolutely peak times, like Friday evenings or anytime Sunday), but take it easy. Remember: You’ll be on that train to your gate and squeezing into your fun-sized airplane seat all too soon.

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