Holiday travelers who expected to breeze through airport security checks under new screening procedures that went into effect three days before Christmas were disappointed that many airports still required them to take off their shoes and have them X-rayed.
Though they were now allowed to take eyelash curlers, toy robots, nail clipper, razors, tweezers and certain scissors aboard flights, they took little comfort in being forced to expose unmanicured toes, meaty bunions and socks with unsightly holes in the name of national security.
The shoe removal policy, more than any other onerous post-9/11 security measure, has become the symbol of inconvenience for air travelers. Indeed, we wish it had been banished along with those inane questions about who packed our luggage, a procedure that seems quaint in retrospect.
Though the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recommends wearing footwear that requires no screening (beach flip-flops, thin-soled sandals without metal parts), most people wear shoes that do, prompting considerable eye rolling and grumbling. The long lines at many airports resembled assembly lines of robots consecutively removing shoes, boots and sneakers deemed security risks because of thick soles or heels or metal parts.
The TSA doesn't technically require that shoes be removed; it merely encourages it and leaves it up to individual airports to implement their own shoe policy. As a result, screeners at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport routinely ask travelers to remove their shoes or face additional screening and delay.
Darn that shoe-bomber Richard Reid for attempting to turn his feet into weapons of inflight destruction. Now, it seems, the nation's collective toes must forever be held hostage.