Friday, December 28, 2012

Flying Artists

Today in the Los Angeles Times there is an article on the travails of airplane travel with a Chelo. It seems that guest musicians travel to various local orchestras to ply their trade and obviously their oversized instrument is part of that trip. 
Violins are a perfect size to fit in the over head compartment, a Viloa is a little more of a problem, but a Chelo or a Bass is like traveling with another person. 
If there is anyone who can have less respect than I do for the concern and efficiency of the TSA it is probably a Chelo player. If it is not the Airlines refusing to board a Chelo in the passenger compartment even when a ticket for the instrument has been purchased, it is the TSA who can damage or dismantle a multi-million dollar Chelo with a security check that is less than respectful.
I share their dislike of TSA Monkeys. Fortunately I manage to travel with the fragile, irreplaceable parts of my ventriloquist puppets padded into a specially designed case which fits in the over head, but I only get to the plane after running the gauntlet of the TSA.  To the TSA size does not matter, it is only the paranoia of some unfamiliar object coming through an x-ray. 
I don't know how the Chelo players do it but I have tried every approach to try and make the TSA job easier and my trip less stressful. I have tried being uber-nice. They don't care... they are used to being abused and are too thick skinned to understand.  I have tried to ask for special consideration due to the delicate nature of my carry on.  They don't care... you are a criminal until you can prove that a puppet is not a weapon.  I have asked if I could remove the puppet from the case for them to inspect.  They don't care... the rules are:  no one touches your stuff but them, and if you try to "help" them it is probable cause that you're a terrorist.    
Of course the Airlines don't get a perfect score on helping us traveling performers.  It is just as likely that once you have successfully gotten through the TSA inspection with a delicate carry on... Airlines Gate agents will want you to check it because all the "bin space" is taken.  The two major reasons why the "bin space" is at a premium are: 1)They charge from $25 to $50 to check a bag and 2) Just because they have charged you a fee to check the bag, there is no guarantee it will arrive with you at the same time or on the same plane.  
The only perfect solution open to the artist who travels with special instruments, bigger than a carry on size, is to Fly or at least own his own plane.  Of course how many symphony Chelo players own an airplane? I'm not sure that I can think of one. So what is the answer?
The answer is really a universal one but it involves a change in human behavior.  No one trusts anyone, anymore. No one values service or courtesy in the work place, especially airports. Everyone is guilty and or stupid until proven other wise by an incompetent, unintelligent TSA agent.  It is not totally their fault. They are trained to catch bad people, not look for the good ones. To a carpenter everything looks like a nail, to a TSA agent everyone looks like a terrorist. 
With all the talk about arming a security force for schools after the Sandy Hook tragedy,  who do we think these "guards" will be? Harvard behavioral science graduates or minimum wage cowboys who like guns. Even if that was a good idea, think armed TSA agents at the doorway to every school.  Think power hungry wannabe cops, think a bunch of George Zimmerman's who see threats with every hoody-shirted teen ager. 
I deal with such an "element" every time I fly to work, but fortunately the TSA monkey's are not packing heat. I would hate to have the same personalities who would be carrying guns "dealing" with our kids who are trying just to go to school.  
As you were,


P. Grecian said...

It is a problem. Once, many years ago, when a rep theatre I was a part of as an actor decided to do an end-of-season variety show, I had Louie mailed to me, special delivery. I was young and didn't know any better. I'd never do that again. I've done the train a couple of times. You've generally got better control of your luggage. Takes a long time, though. I think twice these days before taking a plane anywhere. I don't mind the flying at's running the gauntlet of late flights, flight connections, dead-eyed gropers with sausage fingers and the fear that my aftershave could get me prison time that wears me out. I don't envy you the necessity of facing this on a constant basis, Jay.

Meanwhile, though, if I don't have a chance before all the sand runs out on 2012...Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

I love ya, Jay, but it's cello!